You would be forgiven if the opening scene of director Hiromasa Yonebayashi's new film, Mary and the Witch's Flower, looks like something that could have come out of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. That is because Yonebayashi was an animator on many of Miyazaki's most famous films, including Spirited Away, Ponyo, Howl's Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke. He earned an Oscar nomination for his directorial debut, When Marnie Was There.
In the opening scene of Mary and the Witch's Flower, we see Mary running from a raging fire, crumbling ground, and bipedal creatures that turn into... something? Cyclops octopi, maybe? The film is based on the 1971 children's book The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart.
Here's the film's official synopsis:
Mary is an ordinary young girl stuck in the country with her Great-Aunt Charlotte and seemingly no adventures or friends in sight. She follows a mysterious cat into the nearby forest, where she discovers an old broomstick and the strange Fly-by-Night flower, a rare plant that blossoms only once every seven years and only in that forest. Together the flower and the broomstick whisk Mary above the clouds, and far away to Endor College - a school of magic run by headmistress Madam Mumblechook and the brilliant Doctor Dee. But there are terrible things happening at the school, and when Mary tells a lie, she must risk her life to try to set things right.
The Japanese film has a number of well-known actors performing the English dub: Kate Winslet (Titanic, Heavenly Creatures); Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge!, Paddington); Ruby Barnhill (The BFG); and Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Wonder Woman).
Mary and the Witch's Flower hits theaters nationwide on January 19.