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Japanese fantasy 'Spirited Away' wins animated-feature Oscar

LOS ANGELES — The Japanese fantasy "Spirited Away" won the Academy Award for animated feature film Sunday at an Oscar show whose party atmosphere was muted by the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

"Spirited Away," which had a limited U.S. release last fall and grossed a modest $5.5 million, was a surprise winner against a field of nominees that included $100 million Hollywood hits "Ice Age" and "Lilo & Stitch."

Written and directed by animation master Hayao Miyazaki, "Spirited Away" is Japan's top-grossing movie ever at $234 million. Disney imported the film for U.S. release, creating an English-language adaptation.

Miyazaki did not attend the Oscars.

It was the second year for the newest Oscar category and the first win for Disney, the studio that pioneered feature-length cartoons with 1937's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Last year, the Disney-Pixar production "Monsters, Inc." lost to DreamWorks' "Shrek."

Ironically, Disney won for a foreign-produced film, instead of one of its home-grown nominees, "Lilo & Stitch" and "Treasure Planet."