Family animation is big business and this week sees the release of a new title from the makers of Studio Ghibli classics Arrietty and When Marnie Was There. The new film, Mary and the Witch’s Flower features an outstanding voice cast including Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ewen Bremner, Louis Serkis and Ruby Barnhill as the voice of Mary. We sent our writer Sarah Stockley and her family along to a special advance preview screening to tell us all about it. Over to Sarah…
My children have been enchanted by the magical world of anime since they were small, being engrossed in films such as Princess Monoke, My Neighbour Totoro and Wolf Children and more recently getting into the anime series Fairy Tail. When we heard about a new anime movie called Mary and the Witch’s Flower made by Studio Ponoc we knew we just had to go along and see it.
We attended a special family preview on Sunday, April 29 at Regent Street Cinema and it didn’t disappoint! Actress Ruby Barnhill, better known as Sophie from the BFG, who provides the voice of Mary – came on stage to tell us a bit about her character – the tale is all about believing in yourself and being courageous. The film certainly has the look and feel of Studio Ghibli and this is because Hiromasa “Maro” Yonebayashi, animator on classics such as Spirited Away, Ponyo and Arriety created the magic. Based on an adaptation of Mary Stewart’s 1971 fantasy novel “The Little Broomstick” – Mary and the Witch’s Flower has the feel of Harry Potter meets Spirited Away so if you’re a fan of both you will love this. As you’d come to expect from Japanese anime – the artwork is beautiful and the English version has been dubbed using the voice talents of Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent.
Now lets get to the film, a young girl named Mary is staying with her Great-Aunt Charlotte in the countryside, she is bored, curious and has no self confidence at all. Whilst out wondering one day she meets a black cat who leads her into the forest – where she discovers an old broomstick in amongst the trees and a mysterious purple flower which she picks and takes home. The gardener Zebedee identifies the flower as the very rare Fly-by-Night (also known as The Witch’s Flower) it’s so rare that it only blooms every seven years in one part of the forest.
When the flower buds are squeezed Mary and Tib the black cat are whisked off on the broomstick to a far away land called Endor. Endor College reminded me of a fantastical, colourful Hogwarts, it’s a school of magic run by Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee – both larger than life characters. After being told she is actually a very well accomplished witch, Mary is told to enrol and heads back home. When her friend Peter mysteriously disappears, Mary knows that she has to head back to Endor to save her friend. The movie is full of quirky characters that could only come from the imagination of the Japanese. Expect animal transformation, magic, weird gangly robots, kidnapping and strange dolphin/squid-like flying planes – everything an anime fan will love!
A big thumbs up from Keira (12), Shannon (10) and Fin (6) – we thoroughly enjoyed Mary and the Witch’s Flower and seeing an anime on the big screen.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Friday, May 4th, 2018 and is rated PG.