From My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli has always been at the forefront of animation. However, last year the studio released a collection of stills from the upcoming film Earwig And The Witch, a project that announced a major departure from the studio’s usual stylings.
The trailer, released on the studio’s social media platforms, sees American singer-songwriter Kacey Musgrave take on the voice of Earwig’s mother and confirmed the CGI aesthetic. It is the studio’s first fully produced outing in six years since When Marnie Was There, a film which remained very true to the studio’s usual take on animation, making this sudden transition an aesthetic choice that is proving controversial amongst diehard fans of the famed Japanese studio.
Aside from the CGI, the forthcoming February 5th release treads very closely to typical Studio Ghibli traditions. The movie is based on a book of the same name written by the late Diana Wynne Jones, who also provided the material for one of Studio Ghibli’s biggest hits Howl’s Moving Castle. It is also directed by Gorō Miyazaki, the son of legendary Ghibli filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.
A touching statement released last year by the movie’s producer and studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki explains that the movie’s production was heavily affected by the coronavirus, whilst hinting at the nature of the characters: “Can the film do well after corona? I thought about that many times when I was watching the early footage,” he said. “Then I realised the big characteristic of the movie is Aya’s wisdom. If only we have wisdom, we can overcome anything in any era. When I thought about that, I was relieved.”
It is a timely sentiment that Suzuki added to revealing further details regarding lead character: “If Pippi Longstocking is the story of the world’s strongest girl, then Aya is the story of the world’s smartest girl. Aya is cheeky but somehow cute. I hope she is loved by many types of people. By the way, I thought Aya reminded me of someone, then it turned out it was Gorō himself, who was the director of the movie.”
Although the trademark hard drawn style may have departed, clearly the wholesome heart of the stories remains which will hopefully overcome any hang-ups for fans regarding the new look. The film will be available to stream on HBO Max from the 5th of February.