Headed up by Hayao Miyazaki, ‘Aya to Majo’ is based on a story by the author of ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’.
Remember that time a few years back, when Hayao Miyazaki announced that he was going into retirement and the world of cinema collectively mourned a golden era of animated movies? Well, it turns out we didn’t need to worry too much. Not only did he quickly cancel his retirement plans, starting work on a number of new projects including a hand-drawn swansong feature titled How Do You Live? (honestly, don’t look up his reason for making this, you will WEEP), but he’s still helping other filmmakers, including his animator son Goro Miyazaki, achieve their dreams.
And so, we have a new Studio Ghibli film to look forward to this year. Ayo to Majo (or Aya and the Witch in English) is set to be the next project from the studio to get its release. Directed by Goro Miyazaki — with planning reported to be overseen by Miyazaki senior — it’s based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, who wrote the book that inspired Howl’s Moving Castle, and tells the story of Aya, an orphan who’s adopted by a witch and arrives at her new house to find it filled with magic. Though most kids might be terrified of that abnormal situation, Aya thrives within it and becomes at one with her spiritual home. For fans of Ghibli’s lighter films — Arrietty, Kiki’s Delivery Service and When Marnie Was There — this should be something special to look forward to.
The film was set to premiere at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, alongside Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, but was paused when the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Instead, it’s set to be released in Japan later this year, before arriving in cinemas around the world a few months later. The film’s producer, Toshio Suzuki, was asked about the idea of releasing this film in a post-pandemic world: “I thought that a number of times while watching the rushes,” he said. “Then I realised that one stand-out feature of the film is Aya’s cleverness. And if you are clever, you can survive in any period of history. Thinking that, I felt relieved.”