Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Studio Ponoc’s animated feature Mary and The Witch’s Flower, which debuted last month in Japan and will be released in North America by GKIDS, is the first feature to incorporate the free, open source animation software OpenToonz into its production pipeline.

Japanese publisher Dwango acquired the Toonz software last year from Italian tech company Digital Video, which has been producing the animation package since 1993, and has begun distributing it as free, modifiable software that can be further developed by individual users and studios.

Even though Mary is the first film to use the open source version, earlier versions of Toonz have been used extensively in professional productions, most notably by Studio Ghibli to produce films like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises. Yonebayashi himself directed two films at Ghibli – The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There – which used Toonz software, so it’s logical that he would continue working with the open source version in his post-Ghibli work.

Studio Ponoc employed OpenzToonz for scanning the paper animation (with the scanning tool GTS that is distributed with OpenToonz), and also used the software for designing color models. It’s not clear if the software was used for the film’s final ink-and-paint.

Another instance of OpenToonz usage was to create a special effect that generates rainbow patterns on the bubbles. In fact, Dwango has created an effects SDK that allows all users to more easily develop effects for the package.

Below is a screenshot of OpenToonz that shows Studio Ponoc’s bubble effect in the process of being made:


And here is a screenshot of the result in the finished film:


The soap bubble is further explained below by OpenToonz developer Shun Iwasawa:

To download the free and open source version of OpenToonz, go here.