"Mary and the Witch's Flower" Studio Ponoc

"Mary and the Witch's Flower" Studio Ponoc


Studio Ponoc

written by: Evette Suarez

When Studio Ghibli announced, it was closing its doors for good and was not to make any more compelling cinematic animations it was devastating to their so many fans across the globe. This staple of life had been living and breathing magic for 30 years. Now, where were so many people to turn to attempt to fill the huge void that had made with this news? The answer was to start another studio. 

Studio Ponoc, a new and upcoming animation company, released a trailer for a new movie December of last year called, Mary and The Witches Flower. The movie is based off a book titled, The tiniest Broomstick by Mary Stewart a great U.K Writer. 

 "A black cat that needs to rescue its brother from a witch's spell enlists the help of a lonely ten-year-old Mary Smith."

It is Tib, the black cat who leads Mary to the exotic flower in the woods. When she discovers a little broomstick shortly afterward, she is astonished to feel it jump into action. Before she can gather her wits, it is whisking her over the treetops, above the clouds, and into the grounds of Endor College, where: 'All Examinations Coached for by A Competent Staff of Fully-Qualified Witches.' Here she discovers evidence of a terrible experiment in transformation - deformed and mutant animals imprisoned in cages. At the moment after her broomstick takes off, she realizes that Tib was captured. Returning to the College the following day, she manages to free the animals, but not before the Head of the college, Miss Mumblechook, and her colleague, Doctor Dee, have seen her. Mary manages to flee, but the evil pair are in hot pursuit! "

Does this sound familiar? A little Harry Potter-ish even? Well in the movie's defense the book, which this film is based upon released in 1989, so any thoughts of using the Harry Potter series, which was published in 1997 as an inspiration is just not feasible.  Now as for watching the trailer I got a warm and fuzzy about it even a tinge of little school girl if I am to be so brutally honest. The trailer was quite magical and had a whimsy about it that almost resembled what I felt when I had seen Spirited Away, a Studio Ghilbi box office smash.  The only thing that made me upset was at the end of the sneak peek trailer the date of release was very open ended saying only that it would debut in 2017, if you are impatient as I am with almost everything then I suggest you keep the hope alive still and keep yourself busy maybe even read the book that this movie is based off to fill the time. All in all, I can say that the mash-up of the two famous and well-known movies of which this film trailer resembled give me hope for this new animation. 

The reasoning's behind the trailer for this movie seeming so familiar is the fact that Studio Ponoc is founded by Yoshiaki Nishimura, a former Studio Ghibli producer. Hiromasa Yonebashi and many others followed Yoshiaki. Hiromasa directed "Arietty" and "When Marnie was There," which was nominated and won the Seattle International Film Festival in 2015. The film festival deemed it worthy of a win for its "Beautiful and detailed animation, realistic sound and bittersweet tale of mystery." Hiromasu isn't the only one with talent, though, the founder of Studio Ponoc also has very notable accomplishments under his belt as well. Yoshiaki was recognized for his works by being nominated for an Academy Award for a best-animated feature in 2014 for "The Tale of Princess Kaguya." An Oscar nomination is also one of his accomplishments alongside his colleague Hiromasu for the best-animated feature in 2016 for "When Marnie was There."  Studio Ponoc most certainly has talent in their mists, and I have no doubt in my mind they will have no problem envisioning and putting to life stories that will stick with us for a lifetime, however not all is sunshine and rainbows. Yoshiaki has had stumbles along the way.


In a 2016 article in The Guardian a very liberal U.K news and media source. Yoshiaki bit off a little more than he could chew when asked if Studio Ghibli would ever hire a female director to which he responded with this,

"It depends on what kind of a film it would be. Unlike live action, with animation, we have to simplify the real world. Women tend to be more realistic and manage day-to-day lives very well. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more idealistic – and fantasy films need that idealistic approach. I don't think it's a coincidence man were picked."

Now, this isn't the most sexist thing I have ever heard in my lifetime, but it wasn't exactly the best thing to say either. Of course, this article made a roar of backlash for Yoshiaki which in turn made him immediately think about his words, so he released a public apology via his Twitter.

"I apologize for comments made in an article published on June 6 in the British newspaper The Guardian. The report, based on an interview conducted in Britain on September 28, 2015. I made those statements at the time. First, I left Ghibli at the end of 2014, and I am no longer a Ghibli employee. I deeply apologize for causing the mistaken impression that my opinions represent Ghibli's and displeasing all who love Ghibli. Next, I had the sexist belief that men had a strong tendency to be idealistic and that women were better at living reality. I am reflecting and learning. Gender has nothing to do with making movies. My deepest apologies."

All of this seems comical though because women authors wrote almost all the famous Ghibli movies that they have adapted from books. Case in point; 

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1) 
by Diana Wynne Jones 

When Marnie Was There
by Joan G. Robinson 

Kiki's Delivery Service
by Eiko Kadono 

Baron: The Cat Returns
by Aoi Hiiragi 

Whisper of the Heart
by Aoi Hiiragi

In the end, I guess we can all say that it is water under the bridge and I am sure Yoshiaki has learned from his actions. I am curious though to see if maybe he will hire a female director for anything in the future and I am even more curious as to see how this movie is going to be. I am not going to let a preceding article change my mind on what animations I watch because ultimately, in the end, you should let it go and remember people can change. Much love to Studio Ponoc and I wish them all the success in the world.

~Evette Suarez

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