Mary and the Witch's Flower (メアリと魔女の花 , Meari to Majo no Hana) is an Japanese animated feature films and produced by Studio Ponoc and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and produced Yoshiaki Nishimura.

It premiere in Japan on July 8, 2017 by Toho while the English-language dubbed and subtitled version was released concurrently in the United States on January 19, 2018 by GKIDS.

The film began life following the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki and the shutting down of the production side of Studio Ghibli in 2014. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There, and producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, who worked alongside Isao Takahata in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, had left Ghibli to found Studio Ponoc on April 15, 2015 to produce this film. Additionally, 80% of the staff that were involved in this film had previously worked at Ghibli.

It is based on 1971 British children's story "The Little Broomstick" by Mary Stuart (1916 - 2014). It was originally released in Japan on 1975 as "Small Magic Broom" (Translation by Kyoko Kakegawa / illustration by Akahoshi Akira Mamoru) and republished on 2017 due to the release of this film adaptation. It was called "Mary and the Witch's Flower, New Translation" (Translation by Toshiya Echizen, Yuki Nakata ) and was published by KADOKAWA.

The film was publicly announced with its poster visual on December 14, 2016, and its lead voice actor Hana Sugisaki was announced on February 23, 2017. Yuki Amami and six other cast members were announced on May 23. Actors Sugisaki, Amami and Kamiki have had prior experience performing in previous Studio Ghibli works.

Plot

The ”Fly-by-Night”

Mary Smith moves into the northern English country estate of her Great Aunt Charlotte. The bored, friendless girl tries to make herself useful through chores, but repeatedly messes up. A local boy named Peter teases her for her clumsiness and wild red hair. Tib-cat and Gib-cat, Peter's cats, lead Mary to some mysterious glowing flowers. The gardener identifies the flowers as "fly-by-night"; legend has it that witches covet the flower for its magical power. The next day, Gib-cat disappears. Tib-cat leads Mary to a broomstick but she accidentally bursts a fly-by-night bulb on it. The bulb releases magical power, making the broomstick come to life and enabling Mary to ride it like a witch. The Little Broomstick whisks Mary away to a complex of buildings in the clouds, known as Endor College for witches.

Magic Science

Head mistress Madam Mumblechook assumes Mary is a new pupil with Tib-cat as her familiar, and takes her on a tour of the college. She introduces Mary to Doctor Dee, the college's renowned chemistry teacher. Mary finds herself able to perform advanced spells such as invisibility. Madam and Doctor Dee become convinced that Mary is a prodigy because of her performance as well as her red hair, which is a distinguishing feature among the best witches.

Mary admits that her magical ability comes from fly-by-night, and that Tib-cat belongs to Peter. Madam's attitude changes then but she lets Mary return home once Mary turns over Peter's address. That night, Madam sends a message to Mary, informing that she's kidnapped Peter, and demands that Mary bring the fly-by-night bulbs to her. She and Tib-cat quickly fly back to Endor with the bulbs, but Madam and Doctor Dee imprison her in their transformation lab. Mary finds Peter locked in with her, and discovers that Doctor Dee has been experimenting on animals, including Gib-cat, transforming them into fantastic creatures. From the spell book she took from Madam's office, Mary uses a spell to undo the transformations and unlock the lab. They try to escape on the Little Broomstick, but Peter is recaptured.

Mary Decides

The Little Broomstick takes Mary to an isolated cottage on a tiny island that seems to be alive. Inside the cottage, Mary finds notes on spells and a mirror that Great-Aunt Charlotte uses to contact her. Through visions, Charlotte reveals that the cottage was her old home, and she used to be a red-haired pupil who excelled at Endor. One day Charlotte found fly-by-night on the campus, leading Madam and Doctor Dee to obsessively pursue a project to use the flower to transform all humans into witches. When their experiments failed, Charlotte escaped Endor, taking the flower with her. Charlotte begs Mary to use her last bulbs to return home, but Mary vows to rescue Peter.

Rainbow of Magic

Mary returns to Endor and finds Madam and Doctor Dee trying to transform Peter into a witch. The experiment fails again, leaving Peter trapped within a gelatinous monster. Mary gets the spell book to Peter, and he uses it to undo the failed experiment and all of Madam and Doctor Dee's research. Mary and Peter fly home, with her throwing away her last bulb and saying she does not need magic.

Characters

Main Protagonists

Mary Smith (メアリ・スミス , Meari Sumisu) The redheaded, blue eyed, freckled 11-year old protagonist of this tale. She is curious and innocent in the ways of the world. She's forlorn and unsure of herself when she first moves to her Aunt Charlotte's Red Manor.

Mary's adventure begins when she discovers a mysterious glowing flower called the "fly-by-night". The magic released from these flowers empowers Mary's broom, which allows her to take flight where she ends up traveling to Endor University. Shenanigans ensues.
Peter (ピータ , Pītā) A 12-year old newspaper boy who resides at the grounds of the Red Manor. He flees with Mary to the Endor University. He holds a dark secret.
Tib (ティブ , Tibu) One of Peter's cats who lives in Red Manor. He has black fur and emerald green eyes. He enjoys Mary's company.
Gib (ギブ , Gibu) A grey female cat owned by Peter.

Residents of Red Manor

Charlotte (シャーロット , Shārotto) The kindly mistress of the Red Manor and Mary's great aunt. She watches over Mary.
Flanagan (フラナガン , Furanagan) Manager of the broomhouse at Endor University. He appears to be an anthropomorphic mouse. He has a strong fascination with brooms and later saves Mary and Peter's life.
Miss Banks (バンクス , Bankusu) The housekeeper who works at the Red Manor. A person Mary relies on for emotional support.
Zebedee (ゼベディ , Zebedi) The gardener in the Red Manor. He teaches Mary the secret of flight with a broomstick.

Endor University

Doctor Dee (ドクター・デイ , Dokutā Dei) A professor and "magic scientist" at Endor University. He studies magic transformations and cavorts with Madam Mumblechook.
Madam Mumblechook (マダム・マンブルチューク , Madamu Manburuchūku) The headmistress or principal of Endor University. A stern and intimidating woman who seeks Mary for her transformation magic experiments.

Music

Composer Muramatsu Takatsugu, who also scored Yonebayashi's last film When Marnie Was There, is in charge of the soundtrack for Mary and The Witch's Flower. Joshua Messick, one of the world's leading performers of the hammered dulcimer, participated in the score recording.[1][2]

Behind the Scenes

The end of 2014, the animation production side of Studio Ghibli had been dissolved following Hayao Miyazaki's retirement. Yoshiaki Nishimura and Hiromasa Yonebayashi decided to produce a new film on April 15, 2015 and established a new company, Studio Ponoc.

Following Miyazaki's method of adapting children's books, Yonebayashi decided on adapting "The Little Broomstick" by Mary Stuart. The film's production was composed of 80% of Ghibli's production staff. Much of the film's style and storytelling was greatly affected by Ghibli. Additionally, the ending credits contained a "Thank you" message addressed to Hayao Miyazaki. For this reason, the film is sometimes described as "the second Studio Ghibli" or the successor to Studio Ghibli.

Reception

Box office

Mary and The Witch's Flower grossed $2.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $38.6 million in other territories (including $27.6 million in Japan, $3.8 million in South Korea, $2.9 million in China and $2.6 million in France), for a worldwide total of $41 million.

In Japan, the film opened at second place, grossing ¥428 million ($3.9 million) during its opening weekend; this was an increase compared to Yonebayashi's previous film, When Marnie Was There (2014), which had grossed ¥378.86 million in its first weekend.

In the United States, the film held a special Thursday night preview on January 18, 2018 where it grossed $1.2 million from 573 theaters. It then stayed at 161 theaters over the weekend and grossed $329,097, bringing its four-day gross to $1.5 million. Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86% based on 69 reviews, and an average rating of 6.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Mary and The Witch's Flower honors its creator's Studio Ghibli roots with a gentle, beautifully animated story whose simplicity is rounded out by its entrancing visuals." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Shelia O'Malley of RogerEbert.com gave the film a rating of three stars out of four and stated that "the total lack of inner conflict in Mary might be why Mary and The Witch's Flower-as transportive and entertaining as it is-feels a little slight". However, Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times noted that although the film "isn't quite a masterpiece" and "the screenplay needs a polish", she concluded that the film is "a joy to look at: a visual adventure, and a continuation of a remarkable legacy".

Voice Cast

Character Japanese Voice actor English Voice actor
Mary Hana Sugisaki Ruby Barnhill
Madam Mumblechook Yuki Amami Kate Winslet
Doctor Dee Fumiyo Kohinata Jim Broadbent
Flanagan Jiro Sato Ewen Bremner
Great-Aunt Charlotte Shinobu Otake Lynda Baron
Peter Ryunosuke Kamiki Louis Ashbourne Serkis
Miss Banks Eriko Watanabe Morwenna Banks
Red-haired Witch (Younger Great-Aunt Charlotte) Hikari Mitsushima Teresa Gallagher
Zebedee Kenichi Endō Rasmus Hardiker
Light Fairy Saori Hayami Rebecca Louise Kidd

Credits

Credit Cast
Director, Screenplay Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Animation Director Takeshi Inamura
Assistant Drawing Director Akira Inoue, Akihiko Yamashita
Art Director Tomotaka Kubo
CG Director Yu Karube
Animation Cooperation Actus, GONZO, Comics Wave Film, Video Studio, JCSTAFF, Aiken, Shinei Video, Studio Takurake, Nakamura Productions, Color, etc.
Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura
Special Thanks Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Toshio Suzuki
Production Committee "Mary and the Witch's Flower" Production Committee (Nippon Television Network, Toho, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Walt Disney Japan, Lawson, KADOKAWA, Color, Yomiuri Television Broadcasting, Kenon, Amuse, DN Dream (Partners, LINE, Yomiuri Shimbun, Sapporo TV, Miyagi TV, Shizuoka Daiichi TV, Chukyo TV, Hiroshima TV, Fukuoka)
Special Sponsors Morinaga Milk Industry, JA Mutual Aid

Tie-up Collaboration

  • Morinaga Milk Industry - A special TV commercial was broadcast nationwide, and a tie-in packaged product was released in late June 2017. Morinaga Milk Industry sponsored special preview screenings in three cities - Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.
  • JA Mutual Aid - From June 1st, 2017 to July 31st, 2017, a personalized visual was drawn by director Hiromasa Yonebayashi to all applicants for the sponsor's special site's quiz. Original goods were given out by lottery to the correct answers, and from the end of June TV commercials.
  • Human Observation Variety Monitoring - A TV special called “Impossible Voice Actor Audition” was broadcast on July 13, 2017. Actors Sugisaki and Kamiki as well as Yuki Kaji participated in the role of Flanagan hosted the event.

Navigation

References

External links

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