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Studio Ghibli's First CG Movie Debuts This Winter In Japan

Following the release of When Marnie Was There back in 2014, with no new film planned and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi departing for newly established Studio Ponoc, it really seemed that Studio Ghibli might be done.  Luckily, it turned out that reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated and Hayao Miyazaki got the itch to come out of retirement, first for a short and then for one more full-blown feature. Some time ago Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki confirmed that not only was Miyazaki-San's feature in production but that Goro Miyazaki (From Up On Poppy Hill) was also working on a new project for the studio. Details of Miyazaki junior's film have now emerged.

Earwig and The Witch- aka Aya And The Witch- is going to be an 82-minute TV movie adapted from the children's book by the late Welsh author Dianna Wynn Jones, who also wrote the original novel of Howl's Moving Castle. The film will be Ghibli's first completely CG animated feature. As well as Poppy Hill and Tales Of Earthsea, Goro also helmed the CG TV series Ronja The Robber's Daughter. The series was co-produced by Ghibli, but was animated by Polygon Pictures, so don't necessarily think that it would be a good indicator of this film's quality.

The film has been selected as part of this year's (postponed) Cannes festival, as part of its 4 Animated films section, alongside Pixar's Soul and European features Flee and Josep. This marks the first time that Cannes has a dedicated animation selection.

The original novel features a spirited young orphan who is adopted by a witch- which sounds like prime territory for some Ghibli shenanigans. Will it have the same charm in CG that it might have in 2D? Presumably, Ghibli would have learnt the ropes working on their first CG short, Boro The Caterpillar.  Miyazaki senior is on board as planning on development- and it is hard to imagine that perfectionist signing off anything that doesn't live up to his standards.

The most surprising part of the news is how soon it's coming. The film is scheduled to air on Japanese public network NHK this winter (COVID related delays notwithstanding). French outfit and The Red Turtle's co-producer Wild Bunch is handling international sales. Due to the fact that it was made for TV (and with many cinemas worldwide still closed), we might expect to see it debut on streaming outside of Japan. Wild Bunch negotiated the Netflix deal for the Ghibli collection's streaming rights outside of the US, Canada and Japan, so there is a precedent there.

We'll be sure to keep you posted.

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