Welcome the unexpected in Studio Ghibli’s new film, “Earwig and the Witch”
Ghibli’s latest animated feature film, Earwig and the witch released in theaters in Japan on August 27.
Unlike his several previous blockbuster animated films, such as My neighbor Totoro (1988) and Abducted as if by magic (2001), with this new film production company, Studio Ghibli is embarking on a whole new way of telling the story.
Earwig and the witch is created using 3D computer graphics for the first time. The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Before spoke to the film’s director, Goro Miyazaki (54), to find out more.
In the story, Aya (Earwig in the English version), a 10-year-old girl, is adopted by a witch and forced to do housework. At first, she isn’t keen on the idea because she had been promised that she would be taught magic, and she sees no sign of it. At this point, Aya rebels and defends herself.
“Aya is a good child,” Goro Miyazaki laughs. “But she’s not a typical Ghibli-style heroine.”
The story is loosely based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, an English writer who also wrote the story of Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), another Ghibli film.
But unlike the previous anime, this story begins and ends with a burlesque scene in the witch’s house.
As Goro Miyazaki explained, “I thought it would be more interesting to create something focusing on the characters rather than relying on the storyline, like in previous animated films.”
Noting that this work is reminiscent of some original animated films, except that it uses the latest 3D animation technology, Miyazaki added, “I thought we might have a chance to be successful there.”
Enter the world of his father
Goro is the eldest son of Hayao Miyazaki, 80, who has directed and created many Studio Ghibli masterpieces. Goro had stayed away from his father’s cinematic world, instead designing parks and other facilities as a landscape architect, until he was asked to build the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. Once it is finished, he becomes its director.
Then Studio Ghibli was faced with a problem: Hayao Miyazaki expressed his willingness to retire, but the Studio wanted to see more animated films in order to make the museum a success.
Goro, who was producing the film Tales of Earthsea (2006), gave Studio Ghibli food for thought, and recommended it as a successor.
But the father was furious. “I will not defend a director with amateur tastes,” he said. The father and son did not speak to each other for three years thereafter.
A workaholic, Hayao Miyazaki rarely came home at night when Goro was a child, so the two rarely had an argument during the son’s formative years. Yet when Goro entered Studio Ghibli, the master director was ruthlessly strict.
In the end, however, the father relented. Tales of Earthsea (2006), he nods and lets Goro make this third film, Earwig and the witch, handing over the original script and telling his son, “Do whatever you want.”
What is earwig’s message?
Aya (Earwig) isn’t a typical Studio Ghibli character, so what was Goro Miyazaki trying to convey through her?
“With declining birth rates, I think children today must feel suffocated to live in an environment where they are surrounded by adults. I wanted to explore how they see their world, what they want to be and how they can get there, ”the director said.
The typical Studio Ghibli character is clean, decent and beautiful. Aya isn’t one of them, but that’s what makes her interesting, suggests young Miyazaki.
Earwig and the witch released in Japan from August 27. The film lasts one hour and 22 minutes.
Goro Miyazaki was born in Tokyo in 1967. Choosing not to follow in his father’s footsteps, he worked as a landscaper after graduating from Shinshu University. He was director of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, from 2001 to 2005, before joining Studio Ghibli as an animated film director.
His Studio Ghibli films include Tales of Earthsea (2006), From up there on Poppy Hill (2011) and the television series Ronja, the thief’s daughter (NHK BS Premium, 2014).
He is also designing a new Ghibli Park, scheduled to open in Aichi Prefecture in 2022.
(Click on here read the article in Japanese)
Author: Ken Ishii