Making of Mary and the Witchs Flower

The city of Hakata in June 2017. That day I, Hana Sugisaki, participated in a talk event about a certain movie. I ate menbei. You ate menbei? Thank you very much. I love it. Btw, do you know this charmingly smiling man sitting next to Ryunosuke Kamiki? Actually, he's an amazing person. Once he holds a pen... ANIMATION FILM DIRECTOR HIROMASA YONEBAYASHI ARIETTY, WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE Could you please draw a portrait of me here? That's... a big hurdle! He's the youngest ever director at Studio Ghibli and is a so-called "Miyazaki disciple". Wow! YONEBAYASHI'S NEWEST MOVIE: MARY AND THE WITCH'S FLOWER PRODUCTION TIME: ABOUT 3 YEARS The newly released "Mary and the Witch's Flower". The flower is called "Fly-by-Night". It's the witch's flower. The witch's flower? Protagonist Mary finds a mysterious flower that blooms once in seven years. It's the witch's flower that was stolen from the magical world. So I'm a witch just for tonight. With her magical power, Mary flies up into the clouds and lands at a magic college. There, she finds an unknown world, but a single lie results in a big incident involving her friends. I can't go home without you. Which path will Mary eventually take? It's a story about courage and growth. Actually, this is not a Studio Ghibli movie. This time, I'm serious. Following Hayao Miyazaki's retirement, Studio Ghibli stopped producing feature films. Nevertheless, Yonebayashi decided to continue making films even without Ghibli. His biggest supporter in doing so is producer Yoshiaki Nishimura. He earned experience while working together with Toshio Suzuki from Studio Ghibli. Building up a new studio and starting at zero. However, they were faced by a big wall. Will the things I learned from Miyazaki work? "They aren't Ghibli." That's terrible. They have no backing from Ghibli. Their only motivation is their big will. I always worked with the things I learned at Ghibli, but that's not all. Top creators from all over Japan gathered to produce a witch's film no one has ever seen before. There are people who are willing to let the spirit of Ghibli live on. That's interesting! The passion of creating stories. We looked at how animation is produced. MAKING OF "MARY AND THE WITCH'S FLOWER" – THE SPIRIT OF GHIBLI LIVES ON – In December 2015, a small animation studio was founded in the city of Musashino. Studio Ponoc. Production of "Mary and the Witch's Flower" started in this tiny room with only three desks. These are the first drawings of Mary. So that's how she looked like first! This time I wanted to draw an energetic girl. Director Yonebayashi has worked for Ghibli for many years. Hayao Miyazaki's 2008 film "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea". Director Yonebayashi is the one who draw its climax. Joining Ghibli in 1996 and being nicknamed "Maro", he has worked on many Miyazaki projects starting from "Princess Mononoke". His life changed at age 37, when he became the youngest ever director at Studio Ghibli. His first film "Arietty" was a big hit and made it on the top of the list of 2010's highest-grossing films in Japan. His second project "When Marnie Was There" was produced together with Yoshiaki Nishimura. This film about a girl in the early stage of puberty was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. At the awards ceremony, he lined up together with world stars on the red carpet. I'm full of unbelievable emotions. But at this time, Ghibli had already stopped production. I travelled all over the country promoting our film, but when I returned to the studio nobody was there and I was disappointed. I felt emptiness like there was a hole inside me. Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki. He has followed these persons for 20 years. This came to an end. After leaving Ghibli, Yonebayashi and Nishimura immediately founded Studio Ponoc. They had a certain reason for doing so. Miyazaki taught us three things for making animation films. First, it should be funny. It's animation so it should be funny. Second, there should be a meaning. And third, in order to be able to produce more films, there should be some profit. There are many studios in the world that make funny movies. But we feel responsible for making hand-drawn films. There was no other studio that was thinking the same way, so we had to start from zero. At "Arietty" and "Marnie", I was working with the things I learned at Ghibli, but that's not all. There should be more things I learned at Ghibli. My challenge is to use the things I learned from Miyazaki himself correctly. Today is a open day at Studio Ponoc. This is what was said there. We want to make films which embody the spirit of Studio Ghibli. We ask for your support. "Embody the spirit"... Actually there's a meaning behind the name "Ponoc". It means "midnight" in Croatian. Passing on the things they learned at Ghibli to younger generations... Their challenge has started. Studio Ponoc's first film, "Mary and the Witch's Flower". It's based on a British novel. In the first place, why did the director choose this story? I wanted a strong story for children for our first film. Protagonist Mary is clumsy and always fails. She gets excited as she gains magical power, but loses it after a while. You barely have any power left. The director has special feelings about the hopeless Mary. Once Mary loses her power, she has to deal with destiny and confrontation. I hope that various people who watch this film can build up the courage to go one step further. Then there was a sense in making the film. So the film wants to show the importance of having the courage to go one step further. That's why the director left Ghibli and made this movie. In order to make his wish com true, top creators from all over Japan gathered. Color, background, music, "Mary and the Witch's Flower" is a new movie in which all components match each other. Btw, do you know how animation is produced? In order to get in touch with Mary's charm, I visited Studio Ponoc. They first showed me the storyboard. Cute. The storyboard is the movie's blueprint. It shows how the director imagines the character's expressions and motions. Having this as a base, the animators draw each motion by hand. And if you scroll all the drawings successively, they begin to move as animations. This cut needed thousands of drawings, right? Yes, a great many drawings. All hand-drawn? Yes. Like Ghibli, Ponoc values hand-drawing. This results in a great number of drawings. For example this one scene. The water, the waves and the splashes were all drawn separately. 106 drawings for just 4 seconds. About 10,000 drawings for the whole film. That's difficult to imagine! But why do they value hand-drawing while others use CGI? The lines of hand-drawn animation contain a certain warmth and this gets transmitted to the viewers. I think that's the good thing about hand-drawing. The warmth of the lines. Btw, if you look at the director's hands. My way of holding pens is strange, so there's a hollow in my finger. What a big hollow! It's a sign of working in the animation business for more than 20 years. This day, there was a special visit to the studio. It has been a while. Hello. The popular band "Sekai no Owari". We will now look behind the scenes of writing the lyrics of the film's theme song. How will the band deal with it? The next step... This day, there was a special visit to the studio. It has been a while. Hello. DJ Love came in his costume today. The popular band "Sekai no Owari". They came to discuss the lyrics of Mary's theme song. Which instruments do you use when creating songs? I use various instruments like the keyboard or the guitar. But mostly I use the guitar. This time we're writing the song in a threesome, so Nakajin wrote this part and I did this one. The first row is from Nakajin and Saori composes the music of the second row. So that's how you do it? Yes. I think that's an unusual way to do it though. We didn't have any complications, right? I wrote about 11 verses. THE SONG SHOULD EXPRESS THE FILM'S WORLD Producer Nishimura said he doesn't want us to produce a commercial song but a song which can be shown at the end of the movie and which has a certain meaning. So we thought very hard about what a theme song should be like and how we should write it. What should the theme song be like? In order to capture the film's world, the band visited Ponoc and they had several meetings and e-mail exchanges. Today is a meeting about the new lyrics the band has written. Then, there was a request from Nishimura. It's not about whether these lyrics are false or not. As something that comes at the very last of the movie, I want it to be a bit more forwardlooking. It should push the viewers a step further. In the rusty part, it'd great if there was a feeling about going forward. But if this part changes this one should also be changed. The producers valued the "rusty part". "Rain was pouring down the sky where the rainbow has disappeared." "You always put up an umbrella when it was raining." To show Mary's development in the movie, these two lines should be more forwardlooking. I want something different in these two lines. It should go a step further. It'd be great if there was a reaction to putting up the umbrella. Rather than thinking about the words, we should think about the story. The protagonist has to develop, so what's "the next step"? Let's go home and think about it. Right. We should think about which kind of mental changes could happen when going a step further. Which answer will the band come up with? This is the studio while in production. Huh? Director Yonebayashi does some strange gestures. Again! What is he doing? This is the studio while in production. Huh? Director Yonebayashi does some strange gestures. Again! What is he doing? And then... He went to a door. He's going in and out for several times. Oh! So he was drawing Mary opening a door. It's about where to put the foots when opening a door. Difficult. Are doors difficult? If you look closely, the gap between your body and the door is very narrow. You never open a door standing far away from it. This is what it makes difficult. So that's what it's like to work in the animation industry for more than 20 years. A process of devising and enduring. Btw, what does the director value while drawing animations? Our work is about reproducing sensation. Reproducing sensation. What does that mean? This is a scene from his previous film, "When Marnie Was There". This tomato looks soft and delicious, but it actually contains a certain secret. Animator Inamura teached us about it. Tomatos aren't that soft and they don't squeeze like that when cutting them. But if you'd draw it realistically, the softness wouldn't come through. Drawings are not like photographs. This is the true heart of animation. Not pursuing the reality, but drawing the things people are feeling. This is the reproduction of sensation, which comes from Studio Ghibli. Starting at Studio Ghibli, we were always drawing things that were in our sensations onto paper. Also at "Mary", there are several reproductions of sensation. The scene in which Mary is having dinner. You can already feel the warmth of the freshly made food, right? The daily production work. The studio got very quiet, but the director was still holding his pen. The time: 1:10 am. Like on all other days, he keeps on drawing alone while most of his colleagues went home. What's his motivation? He showed us his secret. It says "You should draw it!". Actually, this is a letter from Hayao Miyazaki. What could be written in there? What is written in Hayao Miyazaki's letter? It says "You should draw it!" Hearing about difficulties in the production, he sent him an advice. I can't produce anything lazy. Before production started, I told him we decided to make the film. He told me he was happy about it. I wondered since when he was such an amenable person. I have to work hard in order to meet his expectations. The letter contains this strong message. "Maro, draw!!" Drawing until conviction. Director Yonebayashi has a strong passion for creating. Good morning. Nice to meet you. I'm Yonebayashi. Nice to meet you. I'm Kohinata. In May 2017, voice recording startet in a studio in Tokyo Prefecture. This is the recording day for Fumiyo Kohinata who plays a magical scientist. It's his first time having a role in an animation film. What an interesting character! Do I have to speak in synch with the character's mouth? Yes. Then I can't read the script while looking at the screen, so will there be several interruptions? Exactly. There are two possibilities of making the characters lively. First, the motions and expressions of the animation. Second, the emotions of the voice actors. "What is it, Madame Mumblechook? I was just examining the results of yesterday's experiment." He's good. Excellent. Can I try again? Sure. In "Mary and the Witch's Flower", the voice casts consists of many popular actors. Hana Sugisaki, who plays the role of protagonist Mary, has acted in various films and dramas. In 2016's "Her Love Boils Bathwater", she plays a girl who is bullied and yet stays strong. At the 2017 Japan Academy Prize, she won in both "Best Supporting Actress" and "Newcomer of the Year". I'm very happy. As this being her first time participating in an animation film, what kind of Mary will she show us? The first day of the voice recordings. Good morning. Do you often go on foot? Yes, today I'm walking. When asking her about playing the role... Mary has many many lines, so I'm not sure yet about how to avoid sounding boring. Mary is an 11-year-old girl. Amazement, happiness, sadness. She switches emotions rapidly. "Oh, Mr. Zebedee!" What is it? Please let me help you! "Please let me help you!" should be more energetic. Right. The film's success depends on how well Mary is played. While recording, we noticed a certain thing. "Ah, so boring!" "Get out!" It's about Sugisaki's movements. Not just her voice, but also her body is acting as if it were Mary's. I can't have the same experiences as her. But I wanted to be like Mary as much as I could, so I did the movements she did on purpose. And sometimes, I did it automatically. Unlike acting whith the whole body in live-action-movies, animation is voice-only. But with using the body, the voice gets more emotional. "Wait!" We were also able to capture Sugisaki's highlight of acting. It's the scene in which Mary switches from despair to hope in a short period of time. Building up emotions slowly... Then... "Houki!" "Please answer!" "Houki..." "What should I do?" "Houki." "Let's go home together." "Let's go to the red mansion with everyone!" Ok. It was good, wasn't it? Thank you for your work. An important scene. Was it ok? Actually, Sugisaki values something important while acting. It's accepting what's happening in front of me. I want to lie as few as possible. So once recording starts, I forget everything that is written in the script, because I really want to feel what's happening there. While voice recording was progressing, the theme song was already very close to completion. What about kicking the drum a bit more? That could be good. RECORD PRODUCER TAKESHI KOBAYASHI A SONG THAT ARRANGES VOICE AND INSTRUMENTS It's very good. Thanks. But voice recording was very hard. I can understand. When hearing it I can feel my blood circulating. It was very hard work. The rust is growing to adulthood. Growing rust... Hi. Good morning. Mr. Nishimura. Since their meeting two months earlier, the band has been thinking about how to change the lyrics. Mr. Nishimura said he wanted a feeling about going a step further. So we talked about how to change it. I once rewrote the whole text. We produced an alternative version. Changing and returning, changing and returning. How did they eventually interprete "going a step further"? And this is the final version. The theme song written by "Sekai no Owari". Its titel is "RAIN". USING THE SKY AS A SYMBOL FOR MARY'S DEVELOPMENT "Rain was falling in the rainbow-lit sky." "Though the rainbow will eventually fade, "the rain will nourish the plants." "Rain was falling in the rainbow-lit sky." "Even if the rainbow someday fades, "we'll always look up to the sky." "So I'm sure it's all fine now." "That's it! Let's go look for an umbrella "for when the next rainy day comes." It's excellent. Thank you very much. I owe you one now. It's really a good song. But it was hard, right? Yes. I'm sorry for causing you inconveniences. A theme song is not a commercial song, so I'm very happy they were able to make a theme song. It was very encouraging to see people who are making films with utmost effort. Most of the work is completed now. Nice to meet you. On this day, final adjustments were made to the film. Animation, voice, music and sound effects are being checked in this progress. There should be some sounds of the broom. You're right. 3 years after starting the project, completion seems close enough to touch. But when asking him about his feeling, he gave an surprising answer. I don't know yet. I think we were able to make something cool, but I don't know yet. A conspicuous anxiety. What is it about? When thinking about it, we remembered an earlier conversation which could contain the answer. This time it's not Ghibli. It's surprising how little security there is when it's not Ghibli, isn't it? "It's not Ghibli." This is the origin of the anxiety. When people who worked at Ghibli and their talents gather and make a film, even if the result is as good as a Ghibli movie, people will say "They aren't Ghibli". That's... ...terrible. At Ghibli, getting money for advertising costs was natural. It was normal to have several investors. I'm always thinking of that. The magic named "Studio Ghibli" has dissolved. People watched "Arrietty" and "Marnie" because they were Ghibli movies. So we have to make people watch our film even though it's not Ghibli. It's about what we can do with having no magical power. Just like Mary. The Studio Ghibli that was built up by the masters. Til now, Yonebayashi and Nishimura had been backed by this brand. How far can they go without it? In the film's novel, there's the following text passage. "It's not good to open this door with magic." "I should do it in the usual way even if it takes longer then." There's no magic named "Ghibli" anymore. "Mary and the Witch's Flower" is also is a personal story for themselves. Shortly before the film's premiere, there was a special day for the two of them. I'm nervous. What will they think of it? Even when I try to guess it I have no idea. They drove over to their former workplace, Studio Ghibli. But why? Shortly before the film's premiere, Yonebayashi and Nishimura drove over to their former workplace, Studio Ghibli. It's completed. Congratulations. Thank you. They came to let the masters watch the newly completed film. They haven't shown it to the cast and staff yet. I really wanted to make this film and it was very hard work to produce it in a new company. But many people helped us and we were eventually able to complete it. Please watch the result. A screening for just two people. "I won't watch it". It appears that Miyazaki has said that. "Preserving the spirit of Ghibli." It's a film that was made by this thought. Why are we so nervous? How will the masters who shaped their lives react? What surprising words will they say? The screening of "Mary and the Witch's Flower" that was held at Studio Ghibli. How will the masters react? Thank you for watching. No problem. It's a young film. Thank you very much. Well done. I'm glade we made it. After the screening, the masters had the following to say. While watching I was thinking of something like the spirit of Ghibli. And that it lives on outside Ghibli. TOSHIO SUZUKI But at Ghibli, there are many religious parts, right? And here there are none. It's very comfortable to watch because it's simplicity itself. ISAO TAKAHATA They valued these words. "Thank you for you hard work" is the phrase one wants to hear the most, isn't it? The anxiety has transformed into self-confidence. The next day, the two received us with smiling faces in a preview facility in Tokyo. The progress that started from zero without the magical Ghibli. Yonebayashi and Nishimura will continue to follow this path. It's because they have a big will. There are events in which I meet children. And I want to continue making films which make them happy. Just like Ghibli has aroused his heart, from now he'll make many movies like that by himself. This is director Yonebayashi's current challenge. Translation and subtitles by Koganei