Netflix has closed an agreement with Japan’s Studio Ponoc to become the exclusive streaming home for the studio’s full animated feature slate.
Ponoc’s upcoming film The Imaginary, announced in 2021, will be the first new title included under the deal. The film is set to debut on Netflix globally later this year, following an exclusive theatrical run in Japan.
Ponoc’s earlier titles Mary and the Witch’s Flower and Modest Heroes will premiere on Netflix in the U.S. on February 1.
When The Imaginary was announced, Studio Ponoc released a brief teaser, linked below.
Studio Ponoc was established in 2015 by former Studio Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, a two-time Oscar-nominated producer for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There.
In a release accompanying today’s announcement, Nishimura said:
Studio Ponoc is thrilled to bring our storytelling and innovative hand-drawn, hand-painted animated films to all audiences, and in particular to children and their families to enjoy together, around the world on Netflix. Netflix’s genuine commitment to supporting animation as a vital and valuable storytelling medium and to growing high-quality and trailblazing animation makes Netflix a truly excellent partner.
As Cartoon Brew has written previously about Ponoc:
With Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Ponoc pitched itself as a kind of successor to Ghibli, which was on hiatus when Ponoc was founded. Several artists moved from the venerable studio to work on Mary, which channeled many visual and narrative elements from Ghibli films. But Ponoc then shook things up with Modest Heroes, an unconventional package of three stylistically disparate shorts.
Here what we know about The Imaginary, which is set to debut on Netflix later this year:
- Netflix’s logline for the film reads: “Studio Ponoc’s The Imaginary portrays the depths of humanity and creativity through the eyes of young Amanda and her imaginary companion, Rudger. Their fantastical adventures launched from her attic lead them to discover a magical world of creatures and places never before seen until a sinister force threatens to destroy their imaginary world and the friendship within it… The Imaginary is an unforgettable adventure of love, loss, and the healing power of imagination.”
- The Imaginary is the second feature directed by Yoshiyuki Momose, who previously helmed 2019’s NiNoKuni and the “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose” segment in Ponoc’s anthology film Modest Heroes, as well as the studio’s official Olympics short Tomorrow’s Leaves. A veteran of Studio Ghibli, Momose storyboarded, animated, and served other roles on films such as Grave of the Fireflies, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.
- The film is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by A.F. Harrold and illustrated by Emily Gravett.
- While the film is hand-drawn, Netflix says that the visuals are “heightened by first-of-their-kind techniques of light and shadow,” which suggests special attention should be paid to the film’s compositing and post-production.