Mary and the Witch’s Flower
This summer, Mary will find… surprises and joy… mistakes and destiny… and a bit of courage. Mary has moved to Redmanor Village.
In a nearby forest she finds a mysterious flower called the “Fly-by-Night” that only blooms once in seven years. It is also called the forbidden “Witch’s Flower”.
Acquiring magical powers that last only for one night, Mary is permitted entry into Endor College, the magical world’s finest educational institution, towering above a sea of clouds.
However, one lie by Mary causes a serious incident to fall on somebody she cares about.
The headmistress of Endor College, Madam Mumblechook, seeks the Witch’s Flower.
Endor College’s scientist of magic, Doctor Dee, conducts strange experiments.
Mary encounters a mysterious red-headed witch and a boy called Peter.
Mary finds a way to escape the land of witches, and that is precisely when Mary loses all her magical powers… The truth about the “Witch’s Flower” is gradually revealed.
Mary is left with just one simple broom and a single promise she has made.
In a world surging with magic, what is the glimmer of hope that Mary, a powerless human girl, finds beyond the darkness?
This summer, Mary finds…
surprises and joy…mistakes and destiny… and a bit of courage.
An entirely new witch’s movie that will move the hearts of every generation.
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The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Japanese animation. Several new animated feature releases made major headlines the previous year. Reaching its 100th anniversary, Japanese animation now stands at the beginning of a new century. The studio’s name Ponoc derives from the Croatian word ponoć that means “midnight”, signifying the start of a new day.
When Nishimura attended the Academy Awards as producer of The Tale of The Princess Kaguya directed by Isao Takahata, the attendees from around the world praised how beautiful Ghibli films were. This experience prompted the founding of the background art studio Dehogallery. For Mary and The Witch’s Flower, the background art’s look was designed not to be overly detailed, but rather maintaining balance and harmony with the film’s animated characters.
Noticing some resemblance between the characters and the voice cast, one might imagine that the characters Mary and others were drawn with the voice actors already in mind. However, this was not so.
Director Yonebayashi’s forte is in animating dynamic action, but as can be seen in his films, he is also very attentive to fine details. Examples of this are the Director Yonebayashi’s forte is in animating dynamic action, but as can be seen in his films, he is also very attentive to fine details. Examples of this are the doll house in Arrietty, as well as the background artwork and prop design for When Marnie Was There, in which he successfully expressed the inner emotions of the main heroine Anna visually through the background artwork.
Mary and The Witch’s Flower is not set in a specific country or region, but background artists were sent to Shropshire, England on a location hunting trip, which inspired the multiple-layered clouds overlooking the local landscape, the vegetation, the decorations for the brick-built Redmanor and the local townscape for this film.
We see many, appetizing food and eating scenes in this film, such as the sandwich Miss Banks makes for Mary, the dinner at Redmanor with Great-Aunt Charlotte and Miss Banks, and the roasted pork being prepared by a pig in Endor College’s cafeteria
During the voice-over session for Flanagan, the actor asked, “my character is the only non-human in the film… what kind of animal is he?” This question brought much speculation, such as “mouse” or “raccoon” or “raccoon dog”. Director Yonebayashi responded that it may be close to a mouse, but it is none of the animals. Perhaps this was because the character Flanagan was modeled after the landlord and owner of the building that houses the new Studio Ponoc.
The previous workplace of director Yonebayashi and producer Nishimura. After leaving Studio Ghibli, where they found their first jobs, the two took a bold new step in their careers and founded Studio Ponoc. They are not the only individuals at Studio Ponoc who continue Ghibli’s animation knowhow and spirit. Many of the production crew and people taking part in the making of Mary and The Witch’s Flower have been part of past Ghibli films.
The Redmanor, Mary’s new residence, and several houses and architectural structures appear in Mary and The Witch’s Flower. In director Yonebayashi’s previous two films, the audience was treated to a semi-European-style Japanese house, a doll house, and The Marsh House with its distinctive blue windows. Each were drawn with enough detail for the audience to imagine the houses’ layout. The same level of detail has also been given in the Redmanor’s living room and dining room, the headmistress’s office at Endor College, and the thatched-roof houses of Mary and The Witch’s Flower – details that draw viewers to watch the film again and again.
Mary draws a picture of her “new family” in the end of the film. Production manager Chihiro Okada drew this happy family crayon sketch. She also did the illustrations for producer Nishimura’s blog about producing, written during the production of director Isao Takahata’s The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.
For approximately three years since film project’s initial conception in 2014, director Yonebayashi tirelessly worked morning to night. It may be a kind of luxury to immerse oneself totally, working on one film for three years, but Yonebayashi’s job of directing and hand-animating a feature-length film was a long battle requiring Olympian physical strength and willpower.
The aim from the start of the Mary and The Witch’s Flower project. “I get very nervous when I see kids sitting in the front row when I’m on stage at cinemas to greet the audience and promote my films. I can’t help wondering if the kids are really enjoying the movie,” says director Yonebayashi. Mary and The Witch’s Flower is a fantasy adventure with a spunky girl heroine. The film is both a fun and sometimes scary experience with the emotionally rich Mary. “I wanted this film to be a great adventure in the skies, where kids can enjoy the voyage together with Mary.”
The film’s story takes place within the short timeframe of a day and a half, with the passage of time expressed using light. Keep an eye on various depictions of light and how it changes scene-to-scene, such as the western sun shining on the evening garden and shed, moonlight illuminating a sea of clouds, the lighting of Redmanor, and the glow of a morning sky welcoming the start of a new day.
Magic lettering is seen in parts of the film, such as in the Master Spells book, and the entrance to the strong room of Endor College. If you take a close look, you will find some familiar letters hidden in 13 them. The film’s assistant art director, Satoko Nakamura, designed, painted and drew these magic letters.
In the early script stage, the nickname Peter gave to Mary was “little red-headed raccoon dog.” However, upon learning that raccoon dogs do not inhabit Europe, it was changed to the more familiar “monkey” and Mary’s nickname became “little red-haired monkey.” Also, Mary and The
Mary’s forest was created by background artist Kazuo Oga, who is also the creator of “Totoro’s forest” and “Mononoke’s forest”. The world’s top artist of forests and nature, Oga painted a mesmerizingly beautiful “Mary’s forest”. Oga is also the advisor for background art studio Dehogallery, and has developed a strong bond of trust with producer Nishimura beginning with The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.
The storyboards for Mary and The Witch’s Flower were drawn by director Yonebayashi, but it was done so for the very first time on an electronic device, an iPad.
There are 1282 scenes in this film.
A storyboard is made up of a series of layout drawings for every scene, allowing the reader to see the entire flow of the film. Director Yonebayashi’s direction is also added here, making the storyboard an essential part of the creative filmmaking process.
The Quick Action Recorder (QAR) is a device in which photographed drawings are input and played back to check animated movements. Director Yonebayashi was constantly checking key animation and in-between drawings on the QAR. He was so completely focused and serious when at the QAR that he barely responded even when spoken to while working there.
The colors for the heroine are pink and red. Ghibli’s late color stylist Michiyo Yasuda’s color palettes were reflected in the costume color choices for Mary and The Witch’s Flower. Mary changes costumes during the film, but they are all pink and red, such as her deep pink-colored knit sweater, her pink hoodie, and her red coat jacket. The film is set in the late summer season, but when the crew went to England for location hunting during the same season, they found it was a bit chilly, thus the characters are all wearing long sleeves in the film.
The film’s theme song was created by the Japanese music group SEKAI NO OWARI. The group visited Studio Ponoc and also communicated with director Yonebayashi and producer Nishimura through written letters. Through this collaborative effort, and the building of mutual understanding and respect for each other of the creative process of making one song and one film, the film’s theme song was completed. The animation-style drawing of the four group members used for the CD single’s cover artwork was specially created by director Yonebayashi.
This exhibit has been curated to commemorate the film’s release, compiling rare production-related materials that upheld director Yonebayashi’s compelling, animated storytelling and the beautifully elaborate background artistry for Mary and The Witch’s Flower. The full scope of the film’s production spanning three years is presented. There is also fun interactive activities, photo spots, and a section abundantly stocked with movie merchandise. The exhibit opened in Tokyo and tours nationwide.
All of the animated features directed by Yonebayashi (Arrietty, When Marnie Was There, and Mary and The Witch’s Flower) are based on stories from England. Mary and The Witch’s Flower is based on a children’s novel titled The Little Broomstick. The author Mary Stewart is well known for her romantic mysteries and historical fictions, and The Little Broomstick is the first work she wrote for children.
Giving a voice to the characters is also part of animation, the “act of breathing in life.” For Mary and The Witch’s Flower, a stellar group of Japan’s movie actors participated as the voice cast, lead by Hana Sugisaki as Mary. Through the cast members’ voices, character drawings came to life as film characters. When a voice performance that is invested with emotion is added to the animated facial expressions and movements, the moving pictures come alive. Director Yonebayashi’s animation is about portraying human life.
As exemplified with Madam Mumblechook’s grand appearance from a fountain, the dynamic use of animated water effect can be seen in the film. Bodies of water such as lakes and rivers were also seen in Yonebayashi’s previous two films, and animation of water is always used in his works. For director Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo, Yonebayashi animated the water scene where Ponyo speedily rises up from the bottom of the ocean. Animated water effects became Yonebayashi’s forte even before becoming a director.
In the very early stages when the film project was put into motion and a studio was yet to be set up, for many days director Yonebayashi and producer Nishimura would get together at a coffee shop and spend hours there after ordering just a cup of coffee, working out details for their project. It is quite a miracle that the film was realized, but this was only possible thanks to the existence of many unnamed individuals who each agreed to help and support their cause and the film project.
Mary and The Witch’s Flower is Yonebayashi’s third animated feature as director. With his directoral debut with Arrietty at age 36, he became Studio Ghibli’s youngest director. As of June 2017, Yonebayashi is now 43, the same age at which his mentor Hayao Miyazaki helmed Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Yonebayashi’s nickname is Maro.
15 The gardener Zebedee is a man of few words, totally committed to the craft of his occupation, but Mary opens her heart to him immediately. He is one of the protectors of the Redmanor. He has remained faithful to Mary’s Great-Aunt Charlotte and looked after her beautiful garden for many years. The English landscape garden of Redmanor was created through studies of art, literature, and philosophy. There was even a little episode that when the niece of The Little Broomstick’s author took a look at the background art and exclaimed in amazement, “It looks exactly like my garden!”.