North American fans flocked to theaters on January 18th to watch Studio Ponoc’s debut film “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” on its premiere night.

Based off of the 1971 children’s book “The Little Broomstick” by Mary Stewart, audiences enter young Mary Smith’s home in a quaint country village in England. Her great aunt Charlotte watches her since the girl’s parents are out of town. The energetic girl is always willing to help but her lack of finesse leaves her tasks into clumsy messes. Still, she tries to keep her spirits up though she is self conscious of her loneliness and her unique red hair. The mundane days end when Mary meets a black cat while having lunch. It leads her into the forest to first a shockingly blue flower, the rare “Fly-by-Night” which blooms every seven years exclusively in the area. A strange mist rolls in the next day and she doesn’t heed great aunt Charlotte’s warning and goes into the forest. The black cat Tib once again takes her to another part of the forest when she finds an old broomstick and the combination of the two suddenly gives life into the stick. It whisks away the duo above the clouds towards a floating piece of land. It drops her off to Endor College, a magical school for witches and wizards. Mary takes a tour and learns that her red hair is a sign of great power. Caught up with the commotion and grandeur, the girl accepts an offer to study but she will soon understand the consequences of her facade.

“Mary and the Witch’s Flower” is truly an amalgamation of Studio Ghibli’s fantasy works. Fans will be able to catch hints from other works from the beloved “Spirited Away” to lesser known “The Cat Returns” and enjoy the heavy amount of nostalgia. It helps when the creative team uses the iconic Ghibli art style. Studio Ponoc furnishes with the fantastical school with detailed portions, making the college look like if Willy Wonka designed Hogwarts. The story surprisingly has a short timeline compared to others, but it still has a lot of action that is easy to follow. The English dub has stars like Ruby Barnhill (“The BFG”) along with actors Kate Winslet (Titanic), Jim Broadbent (“Moulin Rouge!”) and they all give a performance matching to their original Japanese counterparts.

Those that watched during the premiere night stayed for a post-film interview with some of the filmmakers including Director/Script co-writer Hiromasa Yonebayashi. They looked back on both the creation of Studio Ponoc after the 2014 end of Studio Ghibli’s main production and also the making of “Mary and the Witch’s Flower.” They spoke how they traveled to England to understand the location which was a practice they learned from Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata when they went to Switzerland while making the 1974 anime “Heidi.” Artist did not use photos as direct references, but made impressionistic illustrations based off of their memories and experiences. Yonebayashi also talked about one of the messages of the film on how anxiety can come up when thinking of the future. He said to take things step by step and have determination and courage like Mary. Overcoming failure and obstacles will always be a lesson for people of all ages.

For more information on “Mary and the Witch’s Flower”, visit GKIDS’s site.

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