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`Kiki’s Delivery Service’ a fitting debut for animator

SHARE `Kiki’s Delivery Service’ a fitting debut for animator

Reclusive Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has been called the Walt Disney of Japan. It's fitting, then, that the folks at Disney have been trying for half a decade to bring the acclaimed artist's works here. The first to arrive, via videotape, is "Kiki's Delivery Service" (Buena Vista, 1998; rated G; 1 hour, 43 minutes; Dolby SurroundSound; $19.99). The Disney people couldn't have picked a better film to start with.

"Kiki's Delivery Service" is a stunningly drawn and extremely charming tale of a 13-year-old witch (a good witch, naturally; there are no bad ones in this tale) who follows tradition when she turns 13 by setting out on her own to learn and perfect her craft. Accompanied only by her talkative black cat, Gigi, Kiki heads for a big city where she learns valuable lessons about life and friendship.Instead of picking unknowns to voice Miyazaki's charming characters, Disney enlisted teenage actress Kirsten Dunst to give voice to Kiki. Phil Hartman, in one of his last performances, is perfect as the acerbic Gigi. Also lending their voices to the film are Janeane Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence and Debbie Reynolds. All of this comes together beautifully and helps make "Kiki's Delivery Service" a wonderful film that adults as well as children can enjoy.

Other Miyazaki works are being adapted by Disney for U.S. audiences. I can't wait.