Studio Ponoc and Madman Entertainment have unveiled the first trailer for the English-language release of Mary and the Witch’s Flower. As you would expect from an animation studio staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni, the art direction and animation looks wonderful. Colors just pop out of the screen with verve and gusto. Shots are skillfully composed, complex yet still easily understood. There is a great amount of creativity in these scenes. I’m really looking forward to seeing this movie in theaters.
I really enjoy this new dub. The actors are all sporting English accents, which fits the story much better than the typically bland Southern California accents you get most of the time. I am reminded of the brilliant UK-exclusive soundtrack for Arrietty the Borrower, which I greatly preferred to the US Disney version.
To longtime Ghibli fans, this movie looks like a mashup of Miyazaki movies. If you’re used to playing the “Ghibli Riffs” game, then you will have a field day with this picture. I spotted a good number in this trailer, which I will detail in a future post. For me, I always enjoy spotting these unique easter eggs, and I’m glad to see the tradition continue into the next generation.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower pulled in respectable numbers at Japan’s box office, certainly nowhere near the level of Hayao Miyazaki blockbusters, but even the master himself wasn’t able to sustain that stratospheric level of success forever. Studio Ponoc and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi should be proud of their accomplishments. He has really progressed as a director. I was one who felt that The Secret World of Arrietty spoke more to his future potential than his actual skills (the movie is entertaining but slight). When Marnie Was There showed great improvement in his filmmaking skills; still not quite to the level of Miyazaki, Takahata, Yoshifumi Kondo or Yoshiyuki Momose, but better than the other lesser known directors. Now he is ready to conquer the world.
If this trailer appears a touch too derivative of Ghibli, it’s clearly a gesture of affection as much as a desire to carry the flame forward. Given the enormous costs of producing hand-drawn animation of this quality, all concessions to the mass market must be taken. Ponoc needs Ghibli fans to show up in force, especially in the home country. These folks need a big success so they can continue making movies. We don’t want the spirit of Ghibli to truly die out.
Next time, however, I expect to see something truly original, something that breaks in a new direction. Perhaps we will even see another feature director emerge to lighten the burden on Yonebayashi’s shoulders? I always thought Katsuya Kondo had great potential in the director’s chair. I still cannot understand why Momose was never given a feature film at Ghibli; his Capsule music video trilogy is the best thing Ghibli created in ages. Just imagine if Toshio Suzuki tapped his shoulder to sit on the captain’s chair…instead of Goro Miyazaki, the reluctant prince.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower opens on January 18, 2018 in the United States. Get your tickets early.