Studio Ghibli fans are both anticipating and dreading the company’s next film, The Wind Rises, because it is the last movie directed by the illustrious Hayao Miyazaki before his retirement. While The Wind Rises has been received incredibly well in Japan and the film’s trailer has captivated the West, Ghibli is not resting on the laurels of Miyazaki’s farewell masterpiece. The studio has released details about its first film in the post-Miyazaki era, When Marnie Was There.
An adaptation of a children’s book written by Joan G. Robinson, When Marnie Was There will be directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Yonebayashi has previously served as a key animator on several Studio Ghibli projects, such as Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away. His talents are not limited to animation, however. Yonebayashi was the director of The Secret World of Arrietty, the film that holds the title of Studio Ghibli’s most-successful non-Miyazaki film with a gross of $89 million.
When Marnie Was There will serve as an important test for Studio Ghibli. Not only will Miyazaki be absent from the director’s chair, it appears that he will not be involved with the film in any way whatsoever. Still, he has left Ghibli and Yonebayashi with a vetted and experienced team for the movie. Keiko Niwa and Masashi Ando, two writers who have worked closely with Miyazaki on several projects, will be writing the script with Yonebayashi. While the legend himself will not be present, his presence will certainly be felt throughout the duration of the project.
An important indicator of a person’s legacy is how well his or her life’s work functions without the key individual at the helm. The questions about how Studio Ghibli will fare after The Wind Rises are the same questions we heard when Bill Gates moved on to philanthropy and when Steve Jobs died. Fortunately for Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki set up the company for success, even in his absence. He has developed a capable and talented crew to carry on his work and When Marnie Was There is their first chance to show skeptics what they can do. Yonebayashi has proven himself once as a director and he is working with two writers who understand why people all over the globe adore Studio Ghibli’s work. I have no doubt that When Marnie Was There will be the first of many successful movies in the post-Miyazaki era.
Do you have any concerns about a Studio Ghibli without Hayao Miyazaki? How can Hiromasa Yonebayashi distinguish himself from Miyazaki while retaining the quality of previous Ghibli films? Share your thoughts in the comments!