Studio Ghibli has revealed first images from its much-anticipated upcoming film, Aya and the Witch, its first fully CGI feature. Directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, the film is based Diana Wynne Jones’ Earwig and the Witch – the same author of Howl’s Moving Castle, the basis for one of Ghibli’s best known other films. The story sees an orphan named Aya, who is unknowingly the daughter of a witch, adopted by another witch and enlisting the help of a talking cat to escape her evil clutches.
The film marks a hotly debated move away from its renowned hand-drawn style, exploring how its unique worlds and characters come to life in 3D. While Goro Miyazaki is director, his father Hayao is given a planning credit on the film, while he is currently working on his next film, How Do You Live? Goro previously directedTales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill, as well as the series Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, a computer-animated series which closely retains Ghibli’s traditional aesthetic. Ronja was animated by Polygon Pictures and co-produced by Studio Ghibli, which has prompted many reports that Polygon may be involved on Aya, as Ghibli does not have capacity to produce a fully CG film in-house.
Goro commented on the film's premise (translated from Japanese) that in Japan, “there are many adults and few children. It must be tough on our children to face all these adults in small numbers. When I was thinking about that, I met Aya. How does Aya deal with these annoying adults? Please watch Aya and the Witch to find out.”
Aya has been selected as one of four animations in the Cannes Film Festival 2021 line-up, alongside Pixar’s Soul, directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers and starring Jamie Foxx; Flee by Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen; and Josep, a film about drawing by French cartoonist Aurel.
Aya and the Witch will be broadcast on Japanese TV in winter 2020, with details on the worldwide release still to be confirmed.