Friday, July 14, 2017

'Mary and The Witch's Flower' Opens in Japan to Great Acclaim & Thumbs Up by Miyazaki

You may not have heard of this new film that has a serious Studio Ghibli vibe, but take a look at why you want this one on your radar!
We've included the three trailers so you can see a range of the goodies awaiting - all three are worth watching for a different perspective on the film:
'Mary and The Witch's Flower' is based on the 1971 English children's novel by Mary Stewart (yes, that Mary Stewart!), 'The Little Broomstick' and is considered a simple 'proto-Harry Potter' type of story. The movie itself shows a lot of Ghibli-like magic, style and Miyazaki-ish imagination, even as it pays close attention to it's source material.
The story is based off a very short novel. The greatest strength of the original story was its vivid and lyrical descriptions, making the world it takes place in feel very tangible despite the brevity of its plot. This same quality is on display in the film, too, which succeeds more because of its attention to detail than anything else. Even brief asides in the novel like “The little broomstick gave a leap, a violent twist, a kick like the kick of a pony” are faithfully recreated in visual form. (Animenewsnetwork)
Here's a brief introduction to the novel, taken from a non-spoilery review:
‘Nothing, thought Mary, nothing could ever happen here’ ‘Everywhere was damp, and decay, and the end of summer’; but then a small black green-eyed cat appears, and adventure and magic begin.
The cat leads Mary to a clump of unusual purple flowers that she shows to Zebedee the gardener at Red Manor, who names both the cat (Tib) and the blooms (fly-by-night). Zebedee also tells Mary of the folklore surrounding the flower , including: ‘And ’tis said that in the olden days the witches sought her [the flower] from the corners of the Black Mountains, and from the place where the old city was and there’s now naught but a pool o’ water’.
...While sweeping up leaves with a small broom, Mary accidentally smears the broom in the juice of a fly-by-night flower. Immediately, ‘the little broomstick gave a leap, a violent twist, a kick like the kick of a pony’ and Mary and Tib are transported by flying broomstick to Endor College, school of witchcraft. Endor is no Hogwarts: Madam Mumblechook believes that Mary has come to enrol at the school to learn skills such as ‘Turning milk sour, blighting turnips, making the cows go dry’. The ill-wishing of the spells is underlined by the sourness of the rhymes used in the spells: nursery-rhymes that ‘slipped somehow, so that the result was not ordinary, or even nice at all.’ But then Mary makes a sinister discovery about animals that have been ‘transformed’ and begins to wonder if she will be allowed to leave Endor. She does manage to return to Red Manor, only to find that the cat Tib has been kept captive at the College. 
True to the spirit of a Mary Stewart heroine, Mary decides to go back to rescue Tib, which leads to further adventure and dangers as Mary releases all of the animals, breaks the transformation spell and flees Endor College. (extracted from a review at MaryStewartReading)

We recommend reading the whole review for a good overview of the book and it's themes in context of today. What Studio Ponoc does with those themes and ideas, we've yet to see, of course, but it's intriguing to have this as background.

The new studio producing 'Mary and The Witch's Flower', Studio Ponoc, is being considered "the new Studio Ghibli" - or, more accurately "Studio Ghibli 2.0". 

As Miyazaki slips out of retirement (for the sixth?? time) to finish another short film, 'Boro the Caterpillar' for the exclusive Ghibli Museum theater presentations, it's clear that even with blessed longevity, he can't keep un-retiring forever, and speculation mounts as to 'who will be the new Miyazaki?'. (Answer: no one!)

Director of 'Mary and The Witch's Flower'Hiromasa Yonebayashi (director of 'Arriety' and 'When Marnie Was There') is considered a protegé of Miyazaki with this being his third feature film (and his first since leaving Studio Ghibli). Miyazaki - a notoriously critical director - has officially given it his thumbs-up, which is a huge deal. While no one will ever 'do Miyazaki like Miyazaki', Yonebayashi is certain to do his legacy proud at the very least and we can look forward to more of this unique type of storytelling and animation magic in the future.

Distribution update from Crunchyroll on July 13, 2017:
After a modest opening in theaters in Japan on July 08, 2017, Mary and the Witch's Flower will be casting its spell with an expanded theatrical release that will include some 155 territories worldwide, including the United States, England, France, Australia, China, and South Korea. The film will also see distribution in South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
Yes! We are doubly-excited now!

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