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2018-03-29

Studio Ponoc's New Anthology Movie: Little Heroes

Studio Ponoc's New Anthology Movie: Little Heroes

Studio Ponoc's New Anthology Movie: Little Heroes

Studio Ponoc's New Anthology Movie: Little Heroes

Hot on the heels with their success with Mary and the Witch's Flower (a decent fantasy movie designed almost solely for Studio Ghibli fans), Studio Ponoc has announced their newest feature film project, and it is an anthology movie consisting of three short stories created by three directors.

The first story is "Kanini and Kanino" and is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Mary, When Marnie Was There, The Secret World of Arrietty). The second story is "Samurai Eggs" and is directed by Yoshiyuki Momose (Ghiblies Episode 2, Capsule Trilogy, Ni no Kuni 2). The third story is "The Invisible Man" and is directed by Akihiko Yamashita, who has worked as an animator and character designer on Howl's Moving Castle, Arrietty, Marnie and Mary. This is his first time in the director's chair.

Little Heroes: Kani, Tamago and the Invisible Man is slated for an August release in Japan. The movie is fairly short, clocking in at under an hour, but promised a wide variety in storytelling and visual design. I have very happy memories of Ghiblies Episode 2, the 2002 Studio Ghibli anthology short film, and I hope that this movie is just as good.

I am happy to see Yonebayashi back in the director's chair again. Mary is a decent movie, but highly derivative and lacking in imagination. It felt like the animators were beating me over the head, saying "Hey, we used to work at Ghibli! Do you like Ghibli? We're just like Ghibli!" Beyond that, there just wasn't much of a movie to see. Perhaps this was necessary in order for the new animation studio to establish itself in a very crowded marketplace, and it was successful in Japan and the outside world, including an Academy Award nomination. So good for them. That said, Yonebayashi really needs to step up and deliver on those promises. I felt like Mary was a step backwards and he needs to be moving forward. I have very high hopes and expectations for "Kanini and Kanino."

I am especially happy to see Momose directing again. He was one of the strongest talents at Ghibli, and it baffles me to understand why he was never given a chance to direct a feature-length movie. He would have been a smarter choice than, say, Goro Miyazaki. But Ghibli gambled on the family name in hopes of finding a suitable successor to Hayao Miyazaki, and, well, things didn't quite go as planned. Momose was always the better talent and the artist with the greatest potential. His Capsule music video trilogy in 2005 is one of the most creative and inventive works to come from Ghibli. He most recently worked as the director of the animation scenes in the video game Ni no Kuni 2 ("Another World 2"). I expect his story to become the centerpiece of this anthology. Here is his big chance to step up.

The choice of Yamashita for the third story is very smart, demonstrating that Studio Ponoc will be expanding their roster of directors. They don't have a legendary name like Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, so they need a solid bullpen to be successful. I'm looking forward to see what this 50-something director can bring to the table.

No doubt this movie will be picked up by GKIDS for distribution in the States sometime next year. Maybe they'll move fast and release the title late this year in order to qualify for next year's Oscars. That's the move that I would make. They need to keep Ponoc's name in the public's mind, and two nominations in two years would be very helpful. Of course, we don't realistically expect an Oscar win; the "Best Animated Feature" category is really the "Disney/Pixar" category, and nothing is going to change the minds of the Motion Picture Academy voters.


Overall, great news, can't wait. Watch this space.

1 comment:

Caleb Lee said...

It's exciting to see this announcement, though I wish they'd let a female director try taking the helm, something Ghibli was never able to accomplish.

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