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Earwig and the Witch (アーヤと魔女 , Āya to Majo), also titled Āya and the Witch, is a 3DCG animated film directed by Goro Miyazaki and written by Keiko Niwa and Emi Gunji. A co-production between Studio Ghibli, NHK and NHK Enterprises, the film originally aired on television on December 30, 2020, on NHK General TV, and was released in theatres on April 29, 2021, by Toho.

It is based on the 2011 book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, which was translated by Kaoruko Tanaka and published in [[Japan] by Tokuma Shoten in 2012. This is Gorô's third film, after Tales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill. The story revolves around Erica, a bright, young orphan who pits her wits against her magic-wielding foster parents in a mysterious new home.

The film aired on NHK General Television from 7:30 - 8:52pm on December 30, 2020[1], and pre-released at the Lumière Festival, from October 10 to 18, 2020. All 26-episodes of Ronja, the Robber's Daughter was broadcast in conjunction with the film's premiere on NHK. It is set to premiere in theaters in Japan with additional new scenes on April 29, 2021.

Children's Picture Book Ghibli's Dining Table Earwig and the Witch, a cookbook featuring food inspired by the film, was published on April 28, 2021, by SHUFUNOTOMO.

Plot

The Chase

"It's alright. Don't you cry now. Good girl, good girl.
Got the other twelve witches all chasing me.
I'll be back for her when I've shook them off.
It may take years. Her name is Earwig..."
—Erica's mother dropping her off at the orphanage

A mysterious red-hared woman drops of baby at St Morwald's Home for Children.

A woman with thick, curly red hair is tailed by a yellow car with mechanical pinchers on the highway. She flees by motorcycle with a baby swaddled to her chest with a blanket. The baby peacefully chews on a tape titled "Earwig" in pen. The woman has magical capabilities, using a lock of her hair and turning it into worms to obscure the car's vision as she successfully gets away to St Morwald's Home for Children. The woman tells Earwig, the toddler, that she has to stay at St Morwald's now before leaving her on the doorstep.

Earwig's cries bring two women to retrieve her from outside, also picking up the blanket with a note attached to it. The note says "Got 12 other witches all chasing me. I'll be back for her when I've shook them off. It may take years. Her name is Earwig." The younger woman, Thelma, reading the note aloud ponders what the child's mother had done to anger the other witches in her coven. The elderly woman, holding Earwig, finds the idea of witches to be "rubbish" and dislikes the name Earwig. She is also Matron of the Home. She renames Earwig to Erica Wigg.

Do My Bidding!

"E-Earwig, Have you ever thought about what it'd be like to be adopted and live someplace else?"
"Nope! Never considered it. If anyone were to pick me, they'd have to be pretty weird.
Besides, if I were taken into a normal family, there'd only be two or three people to order around.
Even a big house would have six at the most. Talk about boring. But here, I have a whole army of minions at my disposal.
Everywhere I look, the world is sparkling. The windows are so big, the sunlight fills every room.
That, and the cook makes the best shepherd's pie!"
—Custard asking Erica if she ever wanted to be adopted

Earwig teasing Custard.

Years later the children of the home rush outside dressed as sheet ghosts. Erica sneaks off with a friend with a key to the bell tower. Her friend, a boy named Custard, is reluctant to join her sneaking into the building, but joins her as he is too afraid to wait outside. She taunts him with scary stories on the way to the roof, where they look at everything for miles. They spot a ship in the water, marveling at it and wishing they could be on it. Custard then asks if Erica has ever wanted a family or to be somewhere other than the Home. Erica shrugs it off and says not at all. She then adds that no one would want to choose her unless they were unusual. She finds a normal family to be worse, where at the Home, everyone does what she wants. She even goes on to recite the words told to her as a baby when initially dropped off at the home, that there is plenty of sunshine from the large windows and the shepherd's pie is really good. Custard does not share this outlook and seems to really want a family.

The next day, Matron comes rushing in alarmed after hearing the children were dressed as ghosts in the cemetery last night. Erica willingly takes the blame and says she held a farewell party to whoever may be chosen for adoption today. Matron forgives her and wonders aloud why Erica hasn't found a family yet, since she is so wonderful and sweet. Matron then surprises Erica with a sweater and Erica then carries Matron's bag for her. It's clear that Erica has Matron under her thumb. It appears Erica is the smartest one around and all the children look up to her for all kinds of help.

A Strange Pair

"Ah, this is Erica Wigg. She's lived here since she was a baby."
"How about it, Mandrake? What do you think?"
"I think probably."
"We'll take this one."
"Huh? I refuse! I'm not going!"
"What's gotten into you? You know how much we wanted you to have a family, right?"
"But I don't want one. I want to stay with Custard!"
—Erica is chosen by Bella Yaga and Mandrake

Bella Yaga arrives to select a child to be her maidservant.

When it is time for couples to visit the children, they are all focused on the infants, ignoring the older children completely. Erica is clearly irritated by this and leaves. She explains to Custard that she is frustrated by how the adults look at the children like they are ornaments and not individual people. An unusually dressed couple arrives at the Home, both colorfully dressed with fine jewelry. They are there to meet the older children. The woman is stout with a disdainful look on her face while the man accompanying her is rather waif with pointed ears. He isn't even looking at the children, his eyes are untraceable through his glasses. When he notices Erica's eyes on him, he seems to grow taller and loom over her with a dangerous aura. Erica is the only one that sees this. When the Matron starts to introduce Erica, the woman turns to the man she calls Mandrake and asks what he thinks of Erica. He states she "should do" coldly and Erica outbursts with resistance that she wants to stay with Custard. Her say holds no value as she is forced to pack her belongings to go with the odd couple. While packing her things, she finds the cassette tape labeled "Earwig".

Erica is subjected to all manner of hardship at Bella Yaga's home.

Erica is made to follow her new parents to their home, but they seem to care little about her at all, letting her nearly be hit by a car when crossing the sidewalk. She takes this as a challenge. Erica notices the large windows at their home and deems this as her being able to run away whenever she wants, but then the house gate locks magically behind her. When inside the house, Mandrake shuffles off stating he got the woman what she wanted and wishes to not be disturbed. The woman snatches Erica's bag and tosses it into Erica's new room. She turns to Erica and introduces her as Bella Yaga, a witch. She explains she chose Erica because she needs a hard worker and if Erica is lazy, she will be hurt. Erica merely smiles and says she will help as long as she is taught everything Bella knows about magic.

Witch's Job

"My name is Bella Yaga. I'm a witch. I brought you here because I need another pair of hands. If you work hard, I'll leave you alone. However... "That's fine! It's alright."
"I didn't think you looked like a foster mother."
"So it's settled then."
"In exchange for teaching me how to do magic, I'll be your assistant."
"Well then, that's settled."
—Bella Yaga laying out her terms to Erica

Erica endures a terrible stench.

When entering the shop, Erica is met with the stench of the room. The place is covered with all kinds of sludge, filth and clutter. Bella tosses rat bones to Erica to grind to a powder. Bella warns Erica of the Mandrake, that he must never be disturbed. Despite being disgusted with her surroundings, Erica is eager to learn about the magic she is helping Bella with. Bella then notices her current recipe requires the help of a familiar and brings a black cat named Thomas over. The phone rings and Bella picks up, her tone switching to delight as she greets someone as Madame. She then begins to take an order for a spell down, one to get rid of a ballet lead. Erica takes this chance to skim through Bella's spell book, finding recipes for all sorts of things, such as one for winning a dog show. Erica then witnesses Bella cast a spell for the dog show.

Mandrake demands not to be disturbed.

As the night draws in to a close, they have dinner with the Mandrake. Bella insults the choice for dinner, angering the Mandrake, but Erica gleefully compliments it, which calms him down. As Erica gets ready for bed, she determines that if she can't get Bella to do as she wants, she will run away. Erica peers through the bathroom door to watch Bella enter a room, the door disappearing behind her. Erica then enters the room Bella was previously in, finding a grand library far too large to logically belong to the little cottage house. She approaches the Mandrake's study, reading his novel progress and insulting it when two small bat-winged creatures with red eyes begin pushing books to fall on her head. She rushes out of that room, choosing the door at the end of the hall to explore next. Yet another room with a putrid smell, she covers her nose to explore it. It is an entryway to a room of stone arches and columns. It is being used as the garage, holding the same yellow car that chased the red-haired woman when Erica was still a baby. Inside the car, Erica finds a stereo and album called Earwig, so she takes it. She finds that the front door is gone when she returns to the main hallway. Returning to her room, she learns her window is painted shut and cannot be opened. She settles for lying on her bed, comparing the cassette tape she has labeled Earwig and the record she found in the yellow car.

Erica listens to Earwig and her band for the first time.

Erica learns the next morning that she is the only one that uses the bathroom, so tapes a picture of Matron and Custard to her mirror. Bella teaches Erica how to make breakfast and Erica asks Bella where she sleeps at night. Bella threatens her to mind her business and that if she doesn't she will be given worms. The day is spent sending Erica back and forth to collect things from the garden. Erica learns that the Mandrake guards all the entrances and exits of the house, as well as controls all the demons. She will now not only have to get Bella under her control, but the Mandrake as well if she wants freedom. Due to all the picking and washing Erica has done today, she figures Bella has no intention of teaching her magic. That night Erica finally listens to Earwig the first time, hanging out with Thomas and drawing.

Don't Disturb Me

"You can speak!"
"I don't do it very often. I think you should stop that drawing. It's beginning to disturb Mandrake."
—Thomas giving Erica some advice

Erica finds an unlikely ally in Thomas the talking cat.

The Mandrake has been watching Erica closely, so when the next night approaches and Erica is trying to draw him, his eyes peer through the wall. When Erica asks what it is, Thomas replies that it is actually the Mandrake since his den is on the other side of the wall. Thomas then offers to show Erica the spell she needs in the back of Bella's spellbook. It's a spell to protect the body from other magical effects. With Thomas' help and instruction, Erica prepares the spell together. When finished, Erica coats Thomas and herself in the concoction.

Erica plotting her revenge.

Morning, Bella and Erica get into a dispute while Mandrake reads the paper. The paper is slandering his efforts to become a writer. Erica is growing tired of being treated poorly, leading to another dispute between her and Bella in the shop. Bella goes cross-eyed with rage and lightly smacks Erica as a warning. Later the Mandrake surprises Erica with the shepherd's pie from the orphanage, saying it is one of his favorites. Bella heads out with her spells in colorful packages, demanding that Erica finishes her chores before she returns home. Erica settles for trying a spell where she gives Bella a literal set of extra hands. While she is working on this, the Mandrake gives Erica a tray of cookies and tea. They have a pleasant exchange, much to Thomas' surprise. She asks to read his work and he simply replies with a yes before leaving. Erica is forced to hide the doll of Bella when she returns home. All Erica needs to finish it is a lock of Bella's hair. Bella punishes Erica by saying she will only be getting bread and cheese for dinner.

I Won't Give Up Easily

"Open it at the end and keep turning back until I tell you to stop."
"To Make a Plague of Worms"?
"A Thunderstorm to Spoil a Church Fete"?
"A Spell to Make the Bus Come on Time"?
"To Preserve the Body from All Magic"?
"Stop there!"
"To Preserve the Body from All Magic" That's the one we need. If we use that, she can't do a thing to either of us."
—Thomas and Erica select a spell to use against Bella Yaga

Erica working at the garden.

The Mandrake has another display of kindness and has his demons give Erica a full plate for dinner along with a book of his writing. She finds his writing to be boring and calls it a waste. She then pokes a hole through the wall with a flathead screwdriver, where she spies on Mandrake playing the organ briefly. When she enters the bathroom the next day, she finds half the screw driver she drove through her wall to be poking in the bathroom. She is frustrated with not understanding magic and is determined to get back at Bella for this. So, to get Bella's hair, Erica pulls a few strands from the red hat she usually wears. Erica hides it in her medicine cabinet when she is ready to attach it to the doll. When breakfast comes and she is tasked with making fried bread, she deliberately ruins it. Bella nearly gets in trouble with Mandrake and Erica quips that if she was actually taught things, this wouldn't have happened.

Bella Yaga takes Erica down a peg.

While working, Erica asks for a bathroom break, taking the bit of Bella's hair and wrapping it around the doll she made. When she returns to the shop, she finds two small arms to be sprouting from Bella. Bella then threatens her with worms and casts her back to her room. The spell Erica casted to protect her and Thomas worked, so the worms merely pile on the floor. When Erica figures that if Bella sees the worms on the floor, she will learn that Erica has resisted punishment. So, she begins feeding them through the hole in the wall to what she forgets is actually the Mandrake's room. The wall is then pooling in lava, the Mandrake, covered in scales and smoke emerges from it. He is followed by an army of small demons, declaring that if it's worms Bella wants, it is worms she will get.

Strike Back Against a Counterattack

"I won't run away, Mandrake! I'll grow up to be a fine witch! So please! Please let me help you with your novel. I'd like to be of service."
"It's time to go. I don't like being disturbed..."
"Mandrake, please! Just a minute, Mandrake!"
—Erica making a bargain with Mandrake

Bella confronts Erica about this and they are backed into the dresser by the Mandrake, triggering the stereo to begin playing Earwig. Erica shoves the stereo to Bella's chest and jumps into the lava wall, porting her to the old Earwig recording room. In there, Erica sees a photo of all the members of Earwig. She then realizes who the members are, seeing Bella and Mandrake. She is then placed into a flashback crowd, at an Earwig concert, she is focused on the one woman she doesn't recognize, a woman singing with red curly hair... the woman that escaped with her as a baby.

Bella Yaga, Mandrake and Erica's mother in happier times.

When Mandrake enters the room, he asks Erica about the worms and explains to her that they only wriggle into magical places and that music is the same. He assures Erica that it will never happen to her again and that she will be taught magic properly to prevent this from happening again. Erica then asks about Earwig and the red haired woman, even asking if she was his girlfriend. Mandrake starts by explaining the person Bella used to be, always talented at spells and extremely talented at drums. The red-haired woman left Earwig because she opposes witch's law, standing up against the 12 crones. Mandrake explains that when a witch leaves, there is a hole remaining in their place. Erica promises to not leave like that and to become a proper witch. Mandrake then ushers Erica to leave. Erica tries to beg Mandrake to let her go to school to be with her friend Custard. He states he will consider it. Erica notices in her room that the window is open for the first time. Erica returns to Bella in the shop, she hugs Bella and tells her how much she hopes to be a great witch like her one day. She then even asks if they could all go on a picnic someday.

Got Them to Do My Bidding

"It's been half a year since I was adopted.
For the time being, everyone does as I say.
This feels much better than being at the orphanage.
Mandrake has taken to calling me 'Dearwig' with a sweet voice."
—Erica

Six months pass and Erica now has control over Bella and Mandrake. Her room has drastically changed to be filled with extravagant furniture. Her hair ties are now even bows. She is able to freely request food from Mandrake and helps him with his manuscripts. Even the demons obey her now. Only thing she can't seem to get her way with is getting Custard to visit her, as he is too scared of the Mandrake. When Custard does finally visit, the woman with red hair arrives and greets Erica by her original name, Earwig.

Characters

Earwig/Aya/Erica (アーヤ・ツール , Āya Tsūru)
Kokoro Hirasawa (Japanese), Taylor Paige Henderson (GKIDS)
The Main character of Earwig and the Witch. She is an orphan dropped off at St Morwald's Home for Children by the lead singer of Earwig in flee of 12 witches. She grows up to be extremely clever to get whatever she wants. She is taken in by Two former members of Earwig, Bella and Mandrake.
Bella Yaga (ベラ・ヤーガ , Bera Yāga)
Shinobu Terajima (Japanese), Vanessa Marshall (GKIDS)
Ex drummer of Earwig. She is stern and cold, very little love in her to give. She is an extremely talented witch and is tasked by Mandrake to teach Erica the ways of magic.
Mandrake (マンドレーク , Mandorēku)
Etsushi Toyokawa (Japanese), Richard E. Grant (GKIDS)
Ex pianist/ organ player of Earwig. It is eluded that he may not be human. He dislikes being disturbed, but is reserved and kind. After Earwig broke up, he focused on a career as a writer.
Earwig's Mother (アーヤの母親 , Āya no Hahaoya)
Sherina Munaf (Japanese), Kacey Musgraves (GKIDS)
Her name is never mentioned and her motives for leaving Earwig were never explained, but she is the one who dropped Erica off at the orphanage, leaving a note promising to eventually return for Erica.
Thomas (トーマス , Tōmasu)
Gaku Hamada (Japanese), Dan Stevens (GKIDS)
Bella Yaga's Familiar, he is a talking black cat.
Custard (カスタード , Kasutādo)
Yu Saito (Japanese), Logan Hannan (GKIDS)
Erica's best friend at the orphanage, he is extremely timid and loyal to her.
Matron
Head of St Morwald's Home for Children, the first to find Earwig and rename her as Erica. She adores Erica and gives her special treatment in comparison to the other children.
Thelma
Works at the orphanage, presumably lives there and cares for the children.

Behind the Scenes

Initial Plans

The illustrated cover for the Japanese edition of Diana Wynne Jones' Āya and the Witch, which was published posthumously.

According to French fansite Buta Connection, Earwig and the Witch / Āya and the Witch is Studio Ghibli's first film in four years since they co-produced The Red Turtle, and six years since When Marnie Was There.

Based on Diana Wynne Jones' novel of the same name, it was announced as Studio Ghibli's first full 3DCG animated Ghibli film and was scheduled for a television premiere on NHK. The project dated back to 2016 and was always considered for television broadcast despite the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Director Gorô Miyazaki explains, “The project started in 2016, when producer Toshio Suzuki gave me the novel and asked, 'What do you think about it next?' It turns out that I had already seen the book placed on a table during a meeting with him and Hayao Miyazaki. And I thought to myself that maybe that was the next project to come. So I had already read it and started to think about making a film of it."

Hayao Miyazaki first discovered Diana Wynne Jones' novel and fell under the spell of the titular Āya who manipulates adults to do her bidding and approached Producer Toshio Suzuki with the idea of ​​adapting it into film.

“At that time, (Hayao) Miya-san was already thinking about Kimi-tachi wa Dô Ikiru ka (君たちはどう生きるか , How Do You Live?) And wondering which of the two projects to choose,” says Toshio Suzuki. “When he asked my opinion, I said, 'We're going to do Kimi-tachi. But Aya, it's interesting too, it's a project that suits our time. " And we decided to let Goro-kun do it."

Development

ジブリ美術館「アーヤと魔女」人形劇〜始動〜

ジブリ美術館「アーヤと魔女」人形劇〜始動〜

Gorô holding a puppet of the cranky pianist Mandrake, Bella Yaga and Erica to prepare for a promotional puppet play at Ghibli Museum.

The film adaptation makes several changes from the original work, published posthumously after the death of author Diana Wynne Jones. Many details of the book had remained less developed compared to other works by the author. Gorô realized that this had to do with the circumstances surrounding the publication of the book.

“A lot of Diana Wynne Jones's works are well designed, but I had the impression that Āya and the Witch was less dense, that it lacked elements to make a complete film out of it. As I learned later, this text was originally a work-in-progress that she planned to develop later. The version of the book that was published was that version, left as it was before his death. So it's a recent book, but I learned that she started writing it a long time ago."

The ending to the film features several illustrations by Gorô with numerous nods to past Ghibli films.

Gorô was thus able to take certain liberties with the text. In particular, to give the story a more specific time frame and to change certain aspects to adapt to it. Aya is described to be 10 years old. He set the story in the 1990s, meaning she was born in the 1980s. Setting it in the 90's allowed Gorô to leave Aya trapped in her adoptive family's home without contemporary means of communication, such as smartphones, computers, etc. This also mean Aya's mother would have been in her prime during the 1970s, when British rock was in vogue (a musical period that Gorô is particularly fond of), and thus make him the former member of a band.

Production

A 'petite' exhibit of Āya and the Witch at the Ghibli Museum was held during the film's premiere. A special puppet show is shown at the central hall.[2]

In an interview on Deadline, they explains that for Gorô, the process of fleshing out the visual world of Earwig was one of “trial and error,” although heading into the project, he knew how he wanted to use the medium of 3DCG. “With a lot of the animation created here in Japan, the way they use CG, the quality is always based on the approach that was done with hand-drawn animation,” he says. “So, they’re just kind of replacing the process of what they used to do manually, to having the computer do that for them.”

Not wanting the to go in that direction, the director says he also knew that he wasn't going to try to create something “as detailed and perfected” as the work of Pixar. “Going full 3DCG, doing photoreal visuals, didn’t seem right. I gravitated more towards stop-motion animation, using puppets,” he shares. “That was more what I related to, so I referenced works by studios like Laika and Aardman, in that sense.”

“[One] was that I didn’t want to make visuals that would alienate the people who love Studio Ghibli films,” Miyazaki says. “We didn’t want to go too far away from what the studio’s aesthetic has always been, so we were always thinking, what can we do that would stay true to the Studio Ghibli aesthetic, but still in 3DCG?”[3]

宮崎駿監督が『アーヤと魔女』を語る、そして、今足りないものとは…_Hayao_Miyazaki(2020.12.29)

宮崎駿監督が『アーヤと魔女』を語る、そして、今足りないものとは… Hayao Miyazaki(2020.12.29)

Hayao Miyazaki, who helped plan Aya and the Witch directed by Goro Miyazaki, spoke about the project, the charm of the original novel, and his positive impressions of the final film and its CG animation.

Gorô also had to get used to the specific limitations that come with a 3DCG pipeline—figuring out, for example, how to achieve the right balance of brightness and contrast to fit each scene. “A lot of times, the story is set in a very dark room, and we have the characters performing in these dark environments, so it was very hard to find the right brightness or darkness,” he says. “When you make it too bright, it shows the entire room and it’s too revealing, and it’s not really good, and then if it’s too dark, you’re only staring at a very dark screen. So, all through the process, it was very hard to find the right brightness.”

By the end of November 2017, Toshio Suzuki explained that Gorô was busy producing the film at Studio Ghibli. This information however had goes almost unnoticed in the media, obscured by news that the elder Hayao Miyazaki had returned to producing films.

There had been very little news regarding the film until the beginning of 2020, when the film was mentioned during the studio's annual New Year's message. It wasn't until the end of May 2020 that the Suzuki began to unveil more details regarding the film.

Goro posted a photo 'thanking' Aya/Earwig.[4]

Suzuki gave a statement regarding its release, "What will happen to the world after the Coronavirus? That is currently the greatest concern of many people. Even movies and television cannot avoid it. Is Aya a work that can be endured after the virus? Watching the rush, I thought about it many times. And I realized that the big feature of this work is the wisdom of Aya. With wisdom, you can survive any era. When I thought so, I was relieved. If Pippi Longstocking is the strongest girl in the world, Aya is the story of the smartest girl in the world. I hope it will be loved by many people. By the way, when I thought that Aya looked like someone, it was Gorô, the director of this work. When I pointed out that, Gorô was shy and angry." [5]

Goro making an announcement of the film's release.

It is known that Ghibli veteran Katsuya Kondō played a vital role in the development and production of the film. Gorô also employed Yukinori Nakamura, whose previous credits include Resident Evil 6 (2012), as well as making an appearance in the 2016 documentary Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki.

“In a way, 3DCG animation didn't catch on in the film industry in Japan and I was disappointed with that. In addition, Studio Ghibli was inexperienced in this area. Also, I thought I should take the opportunity, ” explains Gorô. Ghibli is a studio that Toshio Suzuki helped found to produce Hayao Miyazaki's films. However, these two won't be able to continue wearing it forever. Come to think of it, I knew there was no future for the studio if we only made copies of the films of the past: well-made imitations, but copies nonetheless. So, I thought I should make this movie in 3DCG."

The cast includes many prominent morning drama actors such as Kokoro Hirasawa, Shinobu Terajima, Etsushi Toyokawa amd Gaku Hamada.

“Using this technique makes it possible to describe very realistic characters and settings. But making a photorealistic animated film wasn't what I wanted to do. So I gave the characters an appearance that resembles that of a full-length animated film, like Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) by the American studio Laika. Take the hair of the characters for example. Instead of drawing them one by one, we created them in pieces to reproduce the volume drawn by Katsuya Kondô, their creator."

In his interview on Deadline, he explains, “In creating animation, a lot of the process is very meticulous planning, and building things, one thing after the other, so there’s not much space for spontaneity or improvisation,” he says. “The liveliness and the spontaneity, we can only add through the music or the voiceovers, so when we have actors that come in and contribute, on the spot, with ad-libs and improvisation, that adds a whole new richness to the film.”

On June 19, 2020, images from the film were revealed by Miyazaki. [6]

Dubbing

The main character, Aya, is played by 13-year old actress Kokoro Hirasawa, Hirasawa is appeared in numerous television dramas and comedies, including Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku (2020) and Watashi Danna o Shea Shiteta (2019). The film also stars Shinobu Terajima as Bella Yaga, Etsushi Toyokawa as Mandrake and Gaku Hamada and Thomas the cat. Many of these actors are staples of morning television dramas in Japan.

Promotion

Aside from announcing his new film, Gorô unveiled concept art for the upcoming Ghibli Park. On that same day, a groundbreaking ceremony for the park was held at the Aichi Expo Memorial Park.

During the Ghibli Not Big exhibition held at the Aichi Arts Center in Nagoya, Gorô Miyazaki gave a press conference on July 27, 2020, announcing his new film and why it was going to be in 3DCG, “I was the only one among the people of Ghibli who knew this method of creation, so I was able to move the project forward without consulting anyone. Hayao Miyazaki told me to go ahead, and producer Toshio Suzuki encouraged me by telling me that it seemed like a good idea. But after that, I was on my own. I was basically the only master on board. So I created the film with a young team and I didn't consult the old guard at all. It's a job that I want everyone to see now."

Goro professed his admiration for the titular character Aya/Earwig, “What’s wonderful about her is that she’s a child but she’s able to make grownups do as she likes them to do,” he said. “Normally, when you’re an orphan and you’re taken in by a very selfish witch, you’re treated badly, you cry, and try to run away, but in her case, she tries to take advantage of [Bella’s] suspicion and control the witch. I thought this would be an inspiration for kids in real life to stand up for themselves.”[7]

During the press event, Gorô also unveiled new models and conceptual drawings of Ghibli Park, whose construction has recently started at the Aichi Expo Memorial Park, as well as a puppet installation inspired by his (then) upcoming film.[8]

Puppet Show

アーヤの人形劇への道~その5~

アーヤの人形劇への道~その5~

Preview of Gorô's puppet show at Ghibli Museum.

In the lead-up to the film's release on NHK General TV on December 30, 2020, Gorô prepared a special puppet show for attendees at Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. The clip released on Ghibli Museum's official YouTube channel shows Gorô supervising with the rehearsals for the show. All the main characters make an appearance, including the star of the show, 10-year-old orphan girl Aya/Erica.[9]

The puppet show premiered in January 2021 and was held at the museum's central hall. Gorô has repeatedly said his new film's style was inspired by films like Kubo and the Two Strings by Laika and Aardman.

Release

Toshio Suzuki pointing at a poster for the film's upcoming theatrical release.

Aya and the Witch was aired on NHK General Television on December 30, 2020. The film was originally set to premiere at the 2020 Cannes International Film Festival and during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan before the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. On June 3, 2020, Gorô Miyazaki gave a statement regarding the nomination,

"Now, in our country, there are many adults and few children. Children nowadays will have a hard time because they have to deal with many adults with that small number. When I was thinking about that, I came across Aya. And I thought, "Well, should I do that!" What to do with Aya's troublesome adults? Please see "Aya and the Witch" for that. I sincerely hope that our Aya will encourage children and encourage adults."

Earwig_and_the_Witch_-Official_English_Trailer,_GKIDS-

Earwig and the Witch -Official English Trailer, GKIDS-

On September 11, 2020, Wild Bunch confirmed they had purchased the distribution rights to Studio Ghibli's films in France from previous distributor Disney, and that they would handle distribution of the film both theatrically and on home media in the country. On December 3, 2020, the Elysian Film Group acquired the British and Irish distribution rights to the movie, becoming its very first film acquisition after founding in February that year.[10] This would make it the first theatrical release of a Ghibli film since Princess Mononoke not to be distributed by StudioCanal UK in the region.

GKIDS acquired the North American distribution on July 7, 2020 [11] On January 7, 2021, they announced that the movie would receive a limited theatrical release beginning on February 3rd, while the it would be added to HBO Max on February 5th.

Music

The soundtrack's album art (Top left), drummer Kavka Shishido in her role as Bella Yaga's drummer (Top right), and Sherina Munaf with Toshio Suzuki and Hayao Miyazaki at Ghibli Museum in 2016 (Bottom).

Aya and the Witch Original Soundtrack (「アーヤと魔女」オリジナル・サウンドトラック) The film's score was composed by Satoshi Takebe, resident composer of Gorô Miyazaki who worked with him on From Up on Poppy Hill. IT was released on January 6, 2021, by Studio Ghibli Records and sold for ¥2,750.[12] The album includes a hand-painted illustration on the jacket by Director Goro Miyazaki. A special edition was released on Amazon.co.jp, which includes a "Mega Jacket", which is twice the size of the regular edition's CD jacket.[13] An A4 size clear files are available with the CD.[14]

The theme song Don't Disturb Me and ending theme The World Is In My Hand (あたしの世界征服 , Atashi no Sekai Seifuku) is performed by renowned Indonesian singer and actress Sherina Munaf. She began her singing career at the age of 9 and starred in the hit Indonesian musical Petualangan Sherina. She moved to Japan to study animation, and in 2016 he sang the (commercial) CM song Niwa no Chigusa (庭の千草), Japanese food manufacturer House Foods Group produced by Studio Ghibli. The song was originally based on the Irish song, The Last Rose of Summer. The singer previously uploaded a photo of herself alongside Studio Ghibli film producer Toshio Suzuki and celebrated animation director Hayao Miyazaki who was holding her 2013 album, Tuna.[15]

For Aya and the Witch, a band has been specially formed around her, consisting of guitarist Hiroki Kamemoto (GLIM SPANKY), bassist Kiyomune Takano (Mrs. GREEN APPLE), drummer Kavka Shishido (宍戸佑名 , Shishido Yūna). Satoshi Takebe composed and provided piano accompaniment.

Sequel

In his Deadline interview, in terms of his next project, Gorô Miyazaki remains undecided. “I’ve heard a lot of people who’ve seen this film saying, ‘Are you making a sequel?’ And that's a little troubling for me,” the director deadpans. “It took four years to make this film, and when you think of spending your next four years doing a sequel, while it’s appealing, I’m not that young..."

“So, I would rather spend my time doing something challenging,” he adds, “something new.”

Credits

Credit Cast
Director Goro Miyazaki
Producer Toshio Suzuki
Character Design Katsuya Kondō
Screenplay Emi Gunji, Keiko Niwa
Background Art Yuhki Takeuchi
Animation Producer Kentaro Morishita
English Dub Producer David Jesteadt, Eric Beckman, Jorge Soto Marin, Michael Sinterniklaas, Rodney Uhler, Stephanie Sheh
Production Cooperation Dynamo Pictures, Marza Animation Planet, ModelingCafe, Toei Animation, Zinou Pharmaceutics, Inc.
Music Satoshi Takebe, Sherina Munaf, Kiyomune Takano, Hiroki Kamemoto, Kavka Shishido
Sound Production Toho, Tohokushinsha Film Corporation

References

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