Toy Story 4 Bested at Chinese Box Office by...Spirited Away?

Gorgeous new poster art made for Spirited Away’s China release.
Image: Huang Hai (Studio Ghibli)

Sorry, Woody. Not even one of the most delightful existential crises of the year (so far) can compare with the might of a Miyazaki classic.

Variety reports that Toy Story 4 opened to box office record success this past weekend across the world. It took top nods for the largest three-day opening for an animated feature in the U.S. (where it pulled in $118 million, below Disney’s estimates), UK, Argentina, Mexico, and more. But one surprising area it didn’t reach for the sky, as its heroic cowboy would demand, was in China, where it opened in second place, pulling in what would otherwise seem like a peculiarly low $13.2 million.

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But it’s not like Toy Story 4 wasn’t received well in China, as it has been elsewhere. It wasn’t even because of the debut of a home-grown movie dominating China’s movie screenings. Instead, Forky and Friends lost out because of the first theatrical Chinese screenings of Spirited Away, the iconic Studio Ghibli film.

After they were never officially released in the country when first debuted, Ghibli films have slowly started making their way to China in the last year. At Christmas, a remastered My Neighbor Totoro made $25 million with its debut, and now Spirited Away has pulled in a hefty $28 million, besting Toy Story 4 by almost double.

Another of Huang Hai’s spectacular posters made for the Chinese release of Spirited Away.
Image: Huang Hai (Studio Ghibli)
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There’s no real reason for why the beloved 2001 movie triumphed over Pixar’s endcap (at least for now) on one of its most famous franchises, beyond the fact that Chinese Exhibitors decided to give Spirited Away more screens to run on than Toy Story 4—it accounted for 30 percent of all screenings in China this past weekend, while Toy Story 4 accounted for 18 percent, with Variety speculating that simmering trade war tensions between China and Donald Trump’s administration as a potential factor in the decision.

Whatever the reason, it’s still a peculiar thing to see. But at least people got to enjoy two killer animated movies in the process?

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James Whitbrook

James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!