Fun fact; did you know that Studio Ghibli’s first foray into CG was with 2014’s Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter. It didn’t really have much of an impact when it streamed back in 2014 and most people have most likely never heard of it, but when people are surprised to hear that Earwig and the Witch, Studio Ghibli’s upcoming feature, is going to be done entirely in CG, it’s not an unprecedented concept. I can’t say it’s a great idea, but it’s certainly an idea.
It’s been four years since the last Studio Ghibli film, six technically if we don’t count The Red Turtle since it was a co-production between Studio Ghibli and Wild Bunch. For a studio that once released a new work almost every year, it’s been shocking that we haven’t seen anything related to them in half a decade. That may be because most of the staff is working on Hayao Miyazaki’s latest swan song, How Do You Live?, but it’s still been a long time. That’s why the announcement earlier this year of their latest film, Earwig and the Witch, was so enticing, but man… this trailer is just not winning me over.
Because the trailer aired on NHK and there is no official subtitled version of it yet, the only way you can comprehend the narration and dialogue is if you can either understand or speak Japanese. Still, from context clues we’re to gather that Earwig is an orphan who gets adopted by a witch, unaware that she herself is the daughter of a witch. It gives off a mixture of Matilda, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. All of those are films I enjoy, but this just looks off.
Studio Ghibli’s expressive style simply isn’t translating well to the art style they’ve chosen for the movie. What used to look expressive and lively now looks off-model and uncanny. There is certainly an element of wonder and magic on display here, but it’s not quite Ghibli wonder. It’s hard to put into specific words, but this looks like a movie that would be made by any old studio and not one of the most respected and admired animation studios of all time. Think of how Cars was to Pixar. I’m open to being wrong, but with Goro Miyazki at the helm, who has directed some of the worst Ghibli films, I’m less optimistic than I was about this film than when I first heard about it.
Earwig and the Witch will release sometime in early 2021.