Earwig and the Witch Earwig and the Witch

The first trailer (or “promotional video”) for Studio Ghibli’s forthcoming feature Earwig and the Witch has been uploaded by NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, which is co-producing the film. Watch it on NHK’s website.

The trailer, which is in Japanese with no subtitles, introduces Earwig (Aya in Japanese), a young orphan who is comfortably settled in her orphanage — until the day when a shady duo, the witch Bella Yaga and her associate the Mandrake, adopt her and put her to work as their domestic assistant. Cue a rebellion from the feisty girl, who learns some magic of her own with the help of a talking cat.

All of this suggests a faithful adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s eponymous novel, on which Earwig and the Witch is based. The film is directed by Goro Miyazaki, who has previously helmed two features (Tales from Earthsea, From Up on Poppy Hill) and one series (Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter) for the studio.

Goro’s father Hayao (Spirited Away) is credited with “planning” (which suggests input at the development stage); the script is by veteran Ghibli writer Keiko Niwa, whose credits include Goro’s two previous features, and Emi Gunji, an assistant director on From Up on Poppy Hill. Toshio Suzuki is producing for Ghibli, with NHK and NEP (NHK Enterprises) co-producing.

Earwig and the Witch

Visually, the film marks a radical departure from the venerable anime studio’s previous work. Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, which Ghibli co-produced, was cg-animated by Polygon Pictures, but it was cel-shaded. Earwig and the Witch takes a more three-dimensional approach to volume and shading, while retaining a cartoonish sensibility in the character design and animation.

Miho Satake, who illustrated the Japanese edition of Jones’s novel, is credited with original character and setting designs, with Katsuya Kondo (My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, From Up on Poppy Hill) designing the characters for animation. The cg supervisor is Yukinori Nakamura, who worked as an animator on the short film Boro the Caterpillar (Hayao Miyazaki’s first — and to date only — entirely cg production). Kentaro Morishita is credited as animation producer, Tan Seri as animation director. Yuhki Takeuchi is doing backgrounds.

Earwig and the Witch

Earwig and the Witch will air on Japanese tv on December 30, with no word as yet of a theatrical release in the country. Gkids will release it theatrically in North America early next year. French distributor Wild Bunch International, a long-time partner of Studio Ghibli, is handling international sales. The film was one of four animated features selected as part of Cannes’s official line-up this year.

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