Studio Ghibli's CG-animated film revealed: Aya and the Witch
While Hayao Miyazaki continues tinkering away at his next hand-drawn animation masterpiece over the next (checks notes) three years, Studio Ghibli finally revealed the other project they've been secretly working on.
Production company NHK Enterprises announced Wednesday it will premiere the film in winter of this year on Japan's NHK general TV and, in doing so, revealed the title and source material for the work. It's called Aya to Majo, or Aya and the Witch. Miyazaki's son Gorō Miyazaki directs the movie, which is based on author Diana Wynne Jones' 2011 book Earwig and the Witch.
The film was also announced as one of four animated film selections for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, which canceled its in-person events this year due to the spread of coronavirus.
Ghibli co-founder and producer Toshio Suzuki previously teased in an interview with EW that Gorō has been developing a film "all done by computer-generated animation," a rarity for the famed Japanese animation house. "Gorō's film is based on a book or story from England, and it's a story about a very wise girl," he said at the time. "We've only announced it's going to be a new film, we haven't announced anything yet. So, that's as far as I can tell you now."
Jones' book tells the story of Earwig, an orphan girl living in St. Morwald's Home for Children. She's adopted by a woman named Bella Yaga, who turns out to be a terrible witch and brings Earwig to live in her home of supernatural trinkets. With help from a talking cat, the girl must use her wits to survive.
Ghibli previously adapted Jones' 1986 book Howl's Moving Castle into the 2004 animated fantasy film, helmed by Miyazaki. Gorō's past directing credits include 2006's Tales from Earthsea and 2011's From Up on Poppy Hill for Ghibli.
"After corona, how the world changes? That’s the biggest concern for many types of people now. Even the movie and television industry can’t avoid that," Suzuki said in a statement, which was translated. "Can Aya and the Witch do well after corona? I thought about that many times when I was watching the early footage. Then I realized the big characteristic of the movie is Aya’s wisdom. If only we have wisdom, we can overcome anything in any era. When I thought about that, I was relieved."
"If Pippi Longstocking is the story of the world’s strongest girl," he continued, "Aya is the story of the world’s smartest girl." (Funny enough, Miyazaki once drew storyboards for a now-canceled Pippi Longstocking movie.) "Aya is cheeky but somehow cute. I hope she is loved by many types of people. By the way, I thought Aya reminded me of someone, then it turned out it was Goro himself, who was the director of the movie. When I told that to him he looked bashful."
In the meantime, the Studio Ghibli collection made their debut on streaming for the first time ever via HBO Max. GKIDS, being the U.S. distributor of Ghibli films since 2011, will likely release Aya and the Witch in North America in the future. GKIDS did not have a comment at this time.
This article has been updated with news from the Cannes Film Festival.