When beloved Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement in 2013 (an announcement that was ultimately premature), Yoshiaki Nishimura and Hiromasa Yonebayashi realized it would soon be time to move on from Miyazaki's landmark animation house Studio Ghibli.
During their years at Ghibli, the pair accrued some impressive credentials: Yonebayashi directed, among other credits, the Academy Award-nominated When Marnie Was There, and Nishimura produced When Marnie Was There and another Academy Award nominee, The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
Judging from this first look at the debut feature from their new venture Studio Ponoc, it's clear that Yonebayashi and Nishimura have brought the same magic to their latest movie as they did to their lauded work at Ghibli. Below, check out a sneak peek at the first scene from Mary and The Witch's Flower, which opens in American theaters later this week.
Mary and The Witch's Flower is based on Mary Stewart's 1971 book The Little Broomstick. The plot centers around Mary, a young girl spending a lonely summer in a small British town. Searching for any distraction, Mary follows a mysterious cat into the woods, where she stumbles on a Fly-by-Night, or Witch's Flower, which only blooms once every seven years. The flower imbues Mary with supernatural powers, launching her on an unimaginable journey into a mysterious land. To see more of Mary's journey, you can check out the trailer below.
Fans of Studio Ghibli may see some surface-level similarities between Mary and The Witch's Flower and the Ghibli movie Kiki's Delivery Service, which also follows the adventures of a young witch.
In 2017, Yonebayashi told The Verge that the inevitable comparisons between the two stories did give him pause when choosing to adapt Mary and The Witch's Flower. But he also felt that the transformative journey Mary takes was apropos for him and Nishimura: “This felt similar to what we were facing in leaving the magical world of Studio Ghibli, and starting out as individuals to make a new film at Studio Ponoc. I thought this was very meaningful as the first film we would make."
Mary and The Witch's Flower opens in the U.S. on Friday, January 19th with a special Fathom Events premiere screening on Thursday, January 18th.
Featured still from "Mary and the Witch's Flower" via Studio Ponoc