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It has been a landmark year for Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his retirement just a few months ago, with his last film to be The Wind Rises, which has already received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. And now the company he helped build, Studio Ghibli, will live on in his shadow, and they’ve set Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s When Marnie Was There as the first film to be released in the post-Miyazaki era, and is due in theaters sometime in the summer of 2014. Does anyone think a futuristic Platinum Dunes will ever get a "post-Michael Bay era" reference?
The news came from distributor Toho, via Variety, but it’s hardly a risky move for the studio, as Yonebayashi worked as an animator on several of Miyazaki’s later films, with Ponyo as their last collaboration. His first feature was 2011’s acclaimed The Secret World of Arrietty, a Disney-released adaptation of Mary Norton’s children’s book The Borrowers. We can expect another children’s tale with Marnie, but I’m guessing it’ll still hit pretty hard with the adult crowd.
Based on Joan Robinson’s beloved tale of the same name, When Marnie Was There tells the hauntingly uplifting story of a friendless young girl named Anna, who moves in with a set of foster parents with a house in Norfolk near sand dunes and water where she plays. She soon meets the titular Marnie, an odd young girl whom Anna becomes attached to, until one day when she vanishes, and Anna is left with the feeling of what friendship was like. (Can somebody open up a window in here? I think there’s something in the air that’s getting to my eyes.) Anna then discovers that Marnie isn’t exactly what she seemed to be. It’s got the potential to be truly mesmerizing, and it’s a shame we’ll have to wait so long to see it.
While many of Studio Ghibli’s films bear Miyazaki’s name in some way, even when he wasn’t directing, Marnie’s success will come without any reference to the master. But his influence is everywhere, as Yonebayashi shared screenwriting duties with Keiko Niwa, Miyazaki’s co-writer on Arrietty, and Masashi Ando, a character designer for Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
The Wind Rises has earned $120 million dollars since it opened in July, making Miyazaki’s cinematic swan song a rousing financial success, and we have yet to see how far it will go in the awards race. Care to know what the highest grossing non-Miyazaki Studio Ghibli film is? The Secret World of Arrietty, and you can watch the trailer below.