Thanks to Madman, we had the chance to see Studio Ponoc’s animated debut Mary and the Witch’s Flower on Blu-ray.
Directed by former Ghibli animator and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the story of young Mary Smith who finds a legendary flower named “fly-by-night”, that gives her the power to become a witch for a limited time.
Mary’s magic broomstick takes he to Endor College, the ultimate campus for sorcerers and witches, where despite her lack of magical knowledge (and with a bit of luck) Mary becomes a star by acting like a total prodigy.
However, she soon enough discovers that the dreamy place is not what it seems, as some twisted animal experiments have been taking place there, including on one of her cat friends. This has been happening in order to unleash a power that will put everyone in danger.
Major concerns were raised when Ghibli and animation fans when the legendary Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement followed by an animated feature hiatus by the popular studio. Thankfully, the team behind Ghibli‘s hits Arrietty and When Marnie Was There decided to continue with their legacy under the newly founded Studio Ponoc. It was a great move to bring to life another established magical tale, The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart.
The result is a beautifully crafted film, that despite being a Ponoc release is full of that Ghibli magic, making the transition almost imperceptible for the viewer. There are colourful illustrations, stunning animation, lovely characters and a story full of heart that mixes elements from Harry Potter, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away, among others.
The soundtrack by Takatsugu Muramatsu (When Marnie Was There) deserves special praise as it takes every frame of the film to the next level, full of magic and innocence. In addition, if you are a fan of the English voices, the film features an all-star cast, including Ruby Barnhill (The BFG), Kate Winslet (Titanic) and Jim Broadbent (Paddington), among others.
The Blu-ray release, also includes a heft dose of extra features that are totally worth watching, such as interviews with the filmmakers, the official press conference with the cast, a making of the film where the creators talk about their time at Ghibli and how they founded Ponoc, trailers, and more.