Studio Ghibli lives! While co-founder Hayao Miyazaki toils away on his mysterious new film, the studio has unveiled the first images for their first fully computer-generated feature, Aya and the Witch. And while the images maintain some of the hallmarks of the beloved animation studio, including a black cat that looks a lot like Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service, for the most part this is a wild stylistic departure from their usual style. And that could be very cool.
Aya and the Witch, which was recently named a title for this year’s Cannes Film Festival (one of a record four animated titles in the festival), is directed by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son and Studio Ghibli filmmaker. Goro studied as an architect and helped design and build the Ghibli Museum and served as its director for many years before transitioning into filmmaking. He’s helmed two other movies for the studio – Tales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill. He also directed the studio’s cel-shaded computer animated series Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter.
As the report on Cartoon Brew notes, it’s unclear what studio is producing the animation for Aya and the Witch. Studio Ghibli itself doesn’t have the resources for a fully computer-animated project (Ronja’s animation was done by Polygon Pictures) but none of the official material names a co-producer.
Aya and the Witch is based on Earwig and the Witch, a novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones, whose Howl’s Moving Castle was also adapted by the studio. According to the Cartoon Brew report, the film “follows Aya, a young girl who has grown up an orphan, unaware that she’s the daughter of a witch — and ends up being adopted by a witch, no less.” Sounds like perfect Ghibli material, no matter the method it is being brought to life.
Goro’s dad, Hayao, is credited as “planning” the movie, a credit he’s had a couple of times before – on the criminally underrated Arrietty (released stateside as The Secret World of Arrietty) and on Goro’s own From Up on Poppy Hill. This suggests he had a fair amount of involvement in Aya and the Witch, which is heartening. Toshio Suzuki is, once again, producing.
And, sure, the animation doesn’t look totally there, especially by lush Studio Ghibli standards, but we reserve judgement until we see it in action. Because, let’s be honest, if Studio Ghibli had made Gotti, we probably would have been there opening day. See more images below. As for a release date, that also remains a tantalizing question mark. The movie is supposed to debut on Japanese television this winter but not international or theatrical plans have been set. Hopefully GKids will swoop in for North American distribution. Please?