Mary and the Witch's Flower
|Mary and The Witch's Flower|
Japanese theatrical release poster
|Hepburn||Meari to Majo no Hana|
|Directed by||Hiromasa Yonebayashi|
|Produced by||Yoshiaki Nishimura|
|Based on||The Little Broomstick|
by Mary Stewart
|Music by||Takatsugu Muramatsu|
|Box office||$41 million|
Mary and The Witch's Flower (Japanese: メアリと魔女の花 Hepburn: Meari to Majo no Hana) is a 2017 Japanese animated fantasy film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, produced by Studio Ponoc founder Yoshiaki Nishimura, animated by Studio Ponoc, and distributed by Toho in Japan. Based on The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, this is Studio Ponoc's first feature film.
The film tells a story of a girl named Mary Smith who finds "fly-by-night", a mysterious flower that can give her the power to become a witch for only one night. The film was released in Japan on 8 July 2017. In the English-language version of the film, which was concurrently released with a subtitled version in the United States on 19 January 2018, the film features the voices of Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent.
A magical laboratory has caught fire. A red-haired girl slips away with a satchel, but is seen and pursued. The girl manages to escape on her flying broomstick, but a massive explosion knocks her off her broomstick. The broomstick and satchel fall to the ground. Out of the satchel spill magic seeds, which cause the plants and animals in the area to rapidly grow.
Young Mary Smith moves into the British estate of her Great Aunt Charlotte. The bored, friendless girl creates messes as she tries to make herself useful through chores. A local boy named Peter teases her for both her clumsiness and her wild red hair, which she hates.
Tib and Gib, Peter's cats, lead Mary to mysterious glowing flowers in the forest. Zebedee, the estate gardener, identifies the flowers as "fly-by-night" (said to have magical power). The next day, Gib disappears and Mary follows Tib to go look for her. Tib leads her to a broomstick ensnared in tree roots. Mary frees the broomstick, but accidentally bursts a fly-by-night on it. The flower releases magical power in the form of a blue gelatinous substance, making the broomstick come to life, and enabling Mary to ride it like a witch. The Little Broomstick whisks Mary and Tib away to a complex of buildings hidden in the clouds. Flanagan, a fox creature who looks after students' broomsticks, scolds her for crash-landing her broomstick and tells her she's at the Endor College for witches.
The headmistress, Madam Mumblechook, assumes Mary is a new pupil with Tib as her familiar, and takes her on a tour of the college. The tour reveals a campus with modern technology and conveniences, wherein witches take courses in magic arts alongside fields of science such as chemistry. During the tour Madam introduces Mary to Doctor Dee, the College's renowned chemistry teacher. Mary finds herself able to perform advanced spells such as invisibility. Madam and Doctor Dee become convinced that Mary is a prodigy, because of her performance as well as her red hair, which turns out be a distinguishing feature of the strongest witches.
At Madam's office, Mary finds a spell book hidden behind a picture of fly-by-night. Mary admits that her magical ability comes from fly-by-night, and that Tib actually belongs to Peter. Madam's attitude to Mary suddenly changes, but she still lets Mary return home. The magic granted to Mary by the flower ends as the sun sets, and Mary barely makes it home safely. That night, Madam sends a message to Mary informing her that she's kidnapped Peter, and demands that Mary turn the fly-by-night over to her. She and Tib fly back to Endor with the flowers. Madam and Doctor Dee imprison her in Doctor Dee's transformation lab. Mary finds Peter in the lab, and discovers Doctor Dee has been experimenting on animals, including Gib, transforming them into fantastic creatures. In the spell book, Mary finds a spell that can undo all magic, and uses it to undo all the transformations, and unlock the lab. As they try to escape, they find themselves cornered on a balcony, only for Flanagan to return the Little Broomstick, scolding Mary for leaving it lying around. Mary then escapes, but Madam and Doctor Dee recapture Peter.
The Little Broomstick takes Mary to an isolated cottage. Within the cottage, Mary finds notes on transformation spells and a mirror, that Great Aunt Charlotte uses to contact her. Charlotte reveals that the cottage was her previous home, and she used to be a red-haired pupil at Endor, the very one from the introduction. One day Charlotte found fly-by-night, leading Madam and Doctor Dee to obsessively pursue a project to use the flower to transform humans into witches. When their experiment disastrously failed, Charlotte decided to escape Endor, taking the flower with her. Charlotte begs Mary to use her last bud to return home, but Mary vows to rescue Peter instead.
As Mary attempts to return to Endor, Madam chases her, demanding the spell book back. The book is taken in the aerial pursuit, and Mary falls near the lab. The Little Broomstick breaks, and the magic of the flower expires. Mary makes her way to the lab, and finds Madam and Doctor Dee trying to use the flower to transform Peter into an all-powerful witch. The experiment fails again, leaving Peter trapped within a gelatinous monster that rampages across the lab, draining the magic of all in its path. Mary gets the spell book from Madam, and realizes Peter can use magic now. Taking Peter's hand from within the monster, Mary gives him the book with the spell to undo magic, allowing him to activate it. It undoes the failed experiment as well as all of Madam and Doctor Dee's research relating to it. The lab is destroyed.
Mary awakens in the ruins of the lab, which has been completely grown over. Flanagan returns her broomstick to her, having repaired it, and scolds her for leaving her broomstick lying wherever she wants. The two take the Broomstick back home, but while flying, Peter sees a Witch's Flower bud in her hair. She throws it away, stating she doesn't need magic anymore. The last bud of the flower explodes in midair, no longer needed. Mary returns home and goes to school with Peter. The Little Broomstick leans against the wall at the manor, home.
|Character||Japanese Voice actor||English Voice actor|
|Mary Smith||Hana Sugisaki||Ruby Barnhill|
|Madam Mumblechook||Yūki Amami||Kate Winslet|
|Doctor Dee||Fumiyo Kohinata||Jim Broadbent|
|Flanagan||Jiro Sato||Ewen Bremner|
|Peter||Ryunosuke Kamiki||Louis Ashbourne Serkis|
|Miss Banks||Eri Watanabe||Morwenna Banks|
|Zebedee||Kenichi Endō||Rasmus Hardiker|
|Light Fairy||Saori Hayami||Rebecca Louise Kidd|
Composer Muramatsu Takatsugu, who also scored Yonebayashi's last film When Marnie Was There, is in charge of the soundtrack for Mary and The Witch's Flower. Joshua Messick, one of the world's leading performers of the hammered dulcimer, participated in the score recording.
Mary and The Witch's Flower was released theatrically in Japan on July 8, 2017 by distributor Toho, airing on 458 screens across Japan. Altitude Film Sales announced at the Berlin International Film Festival that it had acquired the worldwide rights to the film, and would release the film within the UK. Madman Entertainment announced that it had secured the rights to the film within Australia and New Zealand, and would premiere the film theatrically at Madman Anime Festival in Melbourne on November 5, 2017, with a wider release on January 18, 2018. GKIDS later announced that it would distribute the film within North America, with a one-week Oscar qualifying run on December 1, 2017, a limited opening on January 18, 2018, and a wider release on January 19, 2018. Altitude (the UK distributor) confirmed in early March 2018 that the film will have a special holding at selected Vue Cinemas on April 10, 2018 before it's official UK wide release on May 4, 2018.
The English dub of Mary and The Witch's Flower (starring Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent) was directed by Giles New and produced by Geoffrey Wexler. The English dub was recorded in July and August 2017 in London, and had its premiere in Los Angeles on October 23, 2017 at the GKIDS "Animation is Film" festival.
The movie was released on DVD, Blu-ray, Digital HD and 4K Ultra HD by Walt Disney Japan on March 20, 2018. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in North America by GKIDS' main home media distributor Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on May 1, 2018. Madman Entertainment released the film on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia and New Zealand on July 4, 2018. Altitude Film Distribution released the film on DVD, Blu-ray and a Blu-ray Steelbook in the United Kingdom on September 10, 2018.
Mary and The Witch's Flower grossed $2.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $38.6 million in other territories (including $27.6 million in Japan, $3.8 million in South Korea, $2.9 million in China and $2.6 million in France), for a worldwide total of $41 million.
In Japan, the film opened at second place, grossing ¥428 million ($3.9 million) during its opening weekend; this was an increase compared to Yonebayashi's previous film, When Marnie Was There (2014), which had grossed ¥378.86 million in its first weekend.
In the United States, the film held a special Thursday night preview on January 18, 2018 where it grossed $1.2 million from 573 theaters. It then stayed at 161 theaters over the weekend and grossed $329,097, bringing its four-day gross to $1.5 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87% based on 78 reviews, and an average rating of 6.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Mary and The Witch's Flower honors its creator's Studio Ghibli roots with a gentle, beautifully animated story whose simplicity is rounded out by its entrancing visuals." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Sheila O'Malley of RogerEbert.com gave the film a rating of three stars out of four and stated that "the total lack of inner conflict in Mary might be why Mary and The Witch's Flower-as transportive and entertaining as it is-feels a little slight". However, Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times noted that although the film "isn't quite a masterpiece" and "the screenplay needs a polish", she concluded that the film is "a joy to look at: a visual adventure, and a continuation of a remarkable legacy".
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