A distribution deal with Disney made this charming feature-length animation (1989) the first big U.S. success for Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli. The title character, a 13-year-old witch, must spend a year on her own to find herself, and her pilgrimage to a beautifully detailed northern European town brings new friends and challenges. The characters are gently and warmly rendered, and a climactic action sequence involving an unmoored dirigible hints at the stately grandiosity of Miyazaki's masterpiece Howl's Moving Castle (2004). The English-dubbed version released by Disney features Kirsten Dunst as the young witch and Phil Hartman, in his last voice performance, as her wiseacre black cat, Jiji.
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