Here’s your first look at Studio Ghibli's new movie, Aya and the Witch

The film, released later this year, is a major departure from the studio's signature hand drawn style.

by Douglas Greenwood
22 June 2020, 10:34am

2020 Nkh, Nep, Studio Ghibli

No movie studio has mastered the hand drawn image for quite so long (and quite so well) as the Hayao Miyazaki-helmed Studio Ghibli has. For the past 36 years, the legendary hallmark of animated excellence, both in Japan and around the world, has shifted through technological changes with one hand, always, on that unmistakable hand drawn aesthetic. Even as Disney pivoted to 3D animation for all of their films (they haven’t released a traditionally animated film in over nine years), Ghibli stuck to their guns.

But that, it seems, might be about to change. The latest film in Studio Ghibli’s roster, directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao, and produced by Spirited Away’s Toshio Suzuki, is a departure to CGI style. And it looks like it’s been animated entirely in 3D.

Based on the book by Howl’s Moving Castle author Diana Wyne Jones, the film is called Aya and the Witch, and tells the story of a young orphaned girl named Aya whose adopted parents wind up being well-versed in the art of sorcery and spells. The young girl moves into her new home and finds that it’s haunted by spirits and ghouls, but spends the story warming to these weird apparitions in her new surroundings.

Much of the traditional Ghibli aesthetic remains -- frightening female antagonists, schoolgirl pinafores, intricate interior details, wide-eyed black cats -- but they’re a little more glossy this time around. Some fans have been divided on the new look, but there’s nothing to suggest this will become the new normal. After all, Ghibli lovers' appetites, unlike those who’ve engaged with Western animation like Disney’s, have consistently shown their love for the traditional way of how they make animated movies. If anything, this feels like a flashy, temporary detour before normal service resumes.

The film, which was due to bow at Cannes Film Festival last month, will be aired on Japanese television later in 2020. No word on how it will reach the rest of the world, but expect to wait a while: there’s usually a six month gap between a Ghibli release in Japan and its western arrival. To satiate your hunger in the meantime, here are the photos of what you can expect from Aya and the Witch.

2020 Nkh, Nep, Studio Ghibli
2020 Nkh, Nep, Studio Ghibli
2020 Nkh, Nep, Studio Ghibli
2020 Nkh, Nep, Studio Ghibli
2020 Nkh, Nep, Studio Ghibli
2020 Nkh, Nep, Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
Aya and the Witch