The first official English-dubbed trailer for Mary and the Witch’s Flower is finally here, and it’s brimming with Ghibli magic. The full-length trailer features an impressive voice-cast, including Kate Winslet and Harry Potter‘s Jim Broadbent, and it really takes us back to Studio Ghibli’s early days.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Meari to majo no hana, original title) is a fantasy anime and the first feature movie of Studio Ponoc, a fresh Japanese animation house based in Musashino, Tokyo, which brings together many artists schooled at Studio Ghibli.
Studio Ponoc was founded in April 2015, when director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and producer Yoshiaki Nishimura left Studio Ghibli, along with several animators, to strike out on their own and rekindle the Ghibli spirit in Japanese animation.
The new English-language trailer, released by U.K. distributor Altitude Films, introduces the charming characters that inhabit the magical universe of Mary and the Witch’s Flower, giving us a sneak peek at the beautiful artwork that continues the Ghibli legacy.
Studio Ponoc’s debut animation is based on the 1971 English children’s novel, The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart. Drawing on Harry Potter, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is also set in a school of witchcraft and wizardry, the Endor College; a fantastical, mesmerizing place that harbors a dark secret. The story follows young Mary as she discovers a rare flower, whose mysterious power propels her on a magical journey of discovery and self-discovery.
“I wanted to make a film that would make children’s hearts race,” said Yonebayashi in a statement for the Telegraph.
“I have strong memories of watching Ghibli’s early films as a child and feeling my own heart beating faster,” added Yonebayashi, who is now keen on offering the same experience to “all children,” including his own.
Among the actors who lend their voices to bring the characters to life are Ruby Barnhill (13-year-old star of Steven Spielberg’s The BFG) as Mary and Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of the famous Andy Serkis, who portrayed Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy) as Mary’s friend, Peter. Kate Winslet voices Madame Mumblechook, Endor College’s headmistress, while Jim Broadbent plays Doctor Dee.
The dub cast also includes Ewen Bremner as Flanagan, Lynda Baron as Great-Aunt Charlotte, Morwenna Banks as Miss Banks, Teresa Gallagher as The Red-Haired Witch, Rasmus Hardiker as Zebedee, and Rebecca Kidd as the Light Fairy.
The anime is directed by Yonebayashi, who also penned the script for Mary and the Witch’s Flower together with Riko Sakaguchi, notes Animation Magazine. Yonebayashi is famed for his prior work as Studio Ghibli director and animator, which includes award-winning masterpieces such as Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away.
Yonebayashi is joined at the helm of Mary and the Witch’s Flower by Nishimura, the founder of Studio Ponoc. The last time the pair joined efforts on a project led to Ghibli’s Oscar-nominated anime When Marnie Was There, for which they worked alongside writer David Freedman. The trio is now reunited for Studio Ponoc’s debut animation, for which Freedman wrote the English adaptation.
According to i-D Vice, Studio Ponoc’s first project, which will arrive at U.S. cinemas at the beginning of next year, on January 18, brings back many of the hallmark features that made Ghibli one of the most acclaimed animation studios in the world. Mary and the Witch’s Flower boasts stunning colors, anthropomorphic animals, magical beasts, as well as a strong female lead.
“I wanted Mary and the Witch’s Flower to be a feature with an energetic, acts-before-she-thinks kind of heroine,” Yonebayashi told Deadline earlier this year after the anime was released in Japan on July 8.
“Transformation of animals was one theme; the other one is the transformation of Mary, herself. At first, she dislikes and lacks confidence in aspects of herself, but she faces her own, internal self and transforms into a stronger girl,” he explained.
Studio Ghibli legend Hayao Miyazaki, who is also working on a new project, reportedly said his former students did a “good job” on their debut animation. Anime News Network disclosed that although Miyazaki confessed he wouldn’t watch the new movie, he was however happy the two finished Mary and the Witch’s Flower on time, according to Yonebayashi.
Yonebayashi talked with Miyazaki about the new anime when he visited Studio Ghibli after Mary and the Witch’s Flower was completed.
At the same time, Nishimura said Ghibli’s producer, Toshio Suzuki, praised their new enterprise after the anime was first released in Japan.
“You worked hard. You were released from the spell of Studio Ghibli, and made a work like this. It’s a good film made honestly and at ease,” said Suzuki, according to Nishimura.