There’s been a lot of trepidation heading into Studio Ghibli’s Earwig and the Witch. It is the studio’s first foray into CG animation, a technology it had used sparingly for high-octane action sequences in Spirited Away and Princess Miyazaki or for the clattering steampunk castle of Howl’s Moving Castle, but never to this extent and never for a feature film. And that trepidation only grew with subsequent trailers for Earwig and the Witch showing the film’s oddly stiff character animation and flat, untextured surfaces. It looked like an unfinished 3D-animated imitation of Ghibli’s classic warm, genial art style — a style that has mostly been instructed by the animation style of Hayao Miyazaki — but missing the soulfulness that typically characterizes the studio’s films.
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When Goro Miyazaki returned to Studio Ghibli in 2015, he found the offices to be completely empty.
“Nobody was here and it was like storage, very empty,” Miyazaki recalled in an interview with /Film over Zoom ahead of the release of his upcoming movie Earwig and the Witch. “And I thought, ‘Okay, so I won’t be making films anymore.'”
But it would be just three years later that Miyazaki would get back in the director’s chair once again, for a kind of film that had never been done at Studio Ghibli before: a CG-animated movie. Earwig and the Witch was always conceived as a computer-animated film, but the Japanese anime industry more often uses that tech as a tool to imitate a cel-shaded/ hand-drawn look, as Miyazaki had recently done in the CG-animated TV series Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter. But something about doing a fully CG-animated film appealed to Miyazaki because “here at Studio Ghibli, doing a cel look, emulating hand-drawn animation at a studio that specializes in hand-drawn animation didn’t really make sense.”
And it was Miyazaki’s father, the legendary Ghibli filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, who actually encouraged him to pursue the film with this approach.
“It was actually recommended, or suggested, by Hayao Miyazaki and [longtime Studio Ghibli producer] Toshio Suzuki that I would do a film adaptation of this story,” Miyazaki said.
Read our full interview with Goro Miyazaki on Earwig and the Witch below.
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Studio Ghibli‘s first CG-animated film has a new U.S. distributor, a release date, and a title for American audiences. Earwig and the Witch, titled in Japan as Aya and the Witch, has been acquired by U.S. anime distributor GKIDS, which has set the film’s U.S. release date for 2021.
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Studio Ghibli has built a reputation as being the last bastion for 2D animation, one of the final holdouts of that warm, whimsical, hand-drawn style before the entire animation industry succumbs to to the ease of CG animation. But the venerated Japanese animation studio, which has long stood in the shadow of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, even closing its doors when the animation legend “retired” in 2013, needs to innovate too.
Ghibli has dabbled with 3D animation over the years, with Miyazaki using CG to animate the more intense sequences in Princess Mononoke and even creating a CG short film in 2018, Boro the Caterpillar. So a fully CG-animated feature film was only the next step for Studio Ghibli. But it wasn’t Hayao Miyazaki who would direct Ghibli’s first CG feature, but his son Goro Miyazaki, with the upcoming Aya and the Witch, based on the novel by Howl’s Moving Castle author Diana Wynne Jones. So what could Ghibli’s first fully CG-animated film look like? See for yourself with the first Aya and the Witch images below.
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In January of 2019, we learned that legendary Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki and his filmmaker son, Goro Miyazaki, were working on new movies. The elder Miyazaki’s film still has years of work left before it will be completed, and the younger’s movie was previously shrouded in mystery. All we knew about it was that it would be a rare all-CG movie for the venerated Studio Ghibli, and that it was based on an English book about “a very wise girl.”
Today, more details came to light. Goro Miyazaki’s mysterious movie was announced as part of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival’s virtual lineup, and the title has been revealed: it’s called Aya to Majo, or Aya and the Witch, and it’s based on a book by the author of Howl’s Moving Castle, which Studio Ghibli adapted into a movie in 2004. Read More »
Hayao Miyazaki is returning to Studio Ghibli after the animation studio closed down following his 2013 retirement. Most of his former employees and coworkers ended up migrating to the newly established Studio Ponoc, but that doesn’t mean Miyazaki will be the only one occupying the dusty offices at Ghibli. The elder Miyazaki is bringing his son and filmmaker Goro Miyazaki with him, and the pair are reportedly working on two new Studio Ghibli movies.
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Briefly: The output of Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli has been aimed primarily at movie theaters, but the company is aiming at television for its next project. In August, a television series based on Astrid Lindgren‘s novel Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, will air in Japan. The book has been turned into a film in Sweden, as well as a stage play and musical.
The series was created as a coproduction with Polygon Pictures, and Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro Miyazaki is directing. The book is about Ronia, daughter of robber chieftain, and in the novel she develops a relationship with the son of a rival chieftain. They spend time together in secret until a chain of events exposes their friendship. [via NHK]
In March, Studio Ghibli’s latest film, From Up on Poppy Hill, comes to the US. Directed by Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki, the film is a coming-of-age story set in Japan’s transformative post-war days. The animation is characteristically gorgeous, while the real-world setting sets it apart from most of Ghibli’s output.
This first US trailer, which comes from new-ish Ghibli distributor GKids, features the English-language voice cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Aubrey Plaza). Some of the previous trailers have been subtitled, but this will give you an idea of how the film will play in the States, should you happen to catch a showing with the English track. Read More »
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From Up On Poppy Hill, co-written by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Gor? Miyazaki, was Studio Ghibli’s big 2011 release. It tells the story of two high school students hoping to clean up their hometown who run up against the corporate mindset of a local businessman. When the film came out in Japan last summer, it was a success for the legendary company and soon after, producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy decided to bring it to North America via GKids. The film will be released in November for an Oscar qualifying run followed by a wider release in March 2013. Its impressive English language voice cast has now been revealed. Read the full list after the jump. Read More »
From Up on Poppy Hill is a rare realistic film from renowned Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, and we’ve got the first English-subtitled trailer. (We featured a Japanese-only look at the film last year, around when the movie opened in Japan.)
Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away) conceived and scripted the film, which was directed by his son, Goro Miyazaki. This looks like a fresh start for Goro, whose debut Tales From Earthsea was often criticized at the time of its release. And it doesn’t hurt that this film resembles another realistic Studio Ghibli project, Whisper of the Heart. Check out the trailer below. Read More »