Recently, the littlest Craggling has been tentatively spreading her cinematic wings beyond the admittedly lush and verdant shores of Disney, Pixar, Illumination and exploring other options. We’ve watched Wes Anderson’s “The Fantastic Mr Fox” and, recently, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” so when we saw a trailer for “Mary And The Witch’s Flower”, she was smitten.
One summer holiday, Mary follows an odd cat into the nearby woods where she stumbles upon a strange flower, each bloom of which gives her the powers of a witch for one night. When she finds an abandoned broomstick in the forest, the witch’s flower brings it back to life and it whisks her off to far away Endor College, a school of magic where the headmistress has more than a passing interest in Mary’s discovery.
As the littlest Craggling has just turned five I thought it probably best to catch a showing of the English dub (subtitles can wait a few more years) but thanks to an impressive cast boasting the likes of Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ewan Bremner and Ruby Barnhill (“The B.F.G.”) as Mary herself, it never feels like the poor relation. The visuals, as you’d expect from Studio Ghibli alum Hiromasa Yonebayashi are exquisite and bring Mary Stewart’s book to vibrant, vivid life. Mixing magic, fantasy and folklore with a lightness of touch and a gentle sense of whimsy, the film may feel a little slighter than previous Ghibli entries but what it lacks in depth of character it more than makes up for in charm and imagination.
It’s a promising debut for Studio Ponoc, offering a delightfully surreal animated tale of a school of witchcraft and wizardry that’s a world away from the familiar tropes of Hogwarts. It may be a little hard to find a showing near you but with a little bit of luck, you’ll be able to enjoy the magic of The Witch’s Flower too.