American distributor GKIDS has released the first English dub trailer for Studio Ghibli’s debut 3DCG feature, Earwig and the Witch. The Japanese animation house is one of the most acclaimed in the world, having produced the masterworks of Hayao Miyazaki, the late Isao Takahata, and a few other talented directors. My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away are undisputed classics blending magical realism with beautiful traditional animation. As Studio Ghibli looks to the future, it has branched out into new avenues and mediums, most notably with Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, a television series co-produced with Polygon Pictures that was the studio’s first 3DCG project. The program received mostly positive reviews but the look of the series was uncanny and unbecoming of the studio.
Earwig and the Witch is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones, whose work was previously developed by Hayao Miyazaki into the critically-acclaimed Howl’s Moving Castle. Earwig is a rambunctious girl living at an orphanage in rural Britain who has no idea that her biological mother was a sorceress. When the nasty witch Bella Yaga and the reclusive Mandrake adopt Earwig, she takes it upon herself to learn magic and uncover the secrets of her past. Initial stills released over the summer showed promise that Ghibli had learned from the mistakes of Ronja, with character designs that quite admirably capture the quality of the studio’s hand-drawn icons.
GKIDS shared the first dubbed trailer for the film to its YouTube channel, giving American fans a first look at the characters in motion. Veteran voice actress Vanessa Marshall voices Bella Yaga alongside singer Kacey Musgraves as Earwig’s mother and Richard E. Grant, who most recently played General Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as the Mandrake. No release date is confirmed but GKIDS is planning for a 2021 release. Check out the trailer below:
What enthusiasm there was for the character designs wanes when seeing them in motion. The story and the characters look cute, but put together the whole ensemble isn’t as thrilling as Ghibli’s 2D offerings. Judgment on the film as a whole should of course be reserved until it’s out, but to audiences familiar with the likes of Pixar, Earwig is tough to get excited about from a visual perspective. Ghibli is the undisputed king of traditional animation, but in the world of 3DCG it arguably has a ways to go.
Areas of concern for Earwig and the Witch extend behind the scenes. It is the third feature film directed by Gorō Miyazaki, son of Ghibli godfather Hayao Miyazaki, who has so far not proven to be quite the auteur his father is. The younger Miyazaki helmed the middling Ronja in order to take the 3DCG for a test run before diving in headfirst. His debut feature, Tales From Earthsea, is regarded as Studio Ghibli’s worst film to date. His second feature, From Up on Poppy Hill, is an inoffensive period romance. Hopefully, Earwig and the Witch will represent a marked improvement and establish Gorō Miyazaki as a late bloomer.
Source: GKIDS via YouTube