Mary and the Witch's Flower (English dub)

A young girl named Mary discovers she has the mysterious power to become a witch for a single night in this Japanese anime fantasy film based on The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart. First feature film from Oscar-nominated ex-Ghibli lead producer Yoshiaki Nishimura's Studio Ponoc.

One day, Mary follows an odd cat into the nearby woods where she stumbles upon some magical flowers. Their magic brings her ordinary broomstick to life and suddenly it whisks her above the clouds and off to a strange place. There, she discovers Endor College, a magic school into which she enrolls and, despite a lack of magical knowledge, becomes a promising student. But she quickly discovers that there are strange experiments taking place behind closed doors, and all too soon, she comes face to face with great danger – and a life-changing choice.

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Studio

Studio Ponoc

Adventure, Animated, Kids & Family, Fantasy, World Cinema

103mins

Rating: PG

Japan

It pains me to say it: the first feature from Ghibli successor Studio Ponoc is underwhelming and unfulfilling in comparison to what we’ve experienced from film masters Hayao Miyazaki (Howl’s Moving Castle) and Isao Takahata (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya). Even on its own merits, Mary and the Witch’s Flower lacks a core heartfelt relationship seen in director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s previous efforts Arrietty and When Marnie Was There. Fortunately, like many of Studio Ghibli’s lesser films, there’s still enough cinematic and literal magic to make this fantasy adventure watchable.

Based on Mary Stewart’s The Little Broomstick, it’s understandable why this Ghibli crew would adapt a novel about a girl who gets Spirited Away to a Castle in the Sky where she becomes a Kiki-like witch. There, she visits a not-quite-Hogwarts university and the film mines a good amount of awe and wonderment from impossible architectural structures and wizard robotics. Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent also do superb jobs as faculty leaders Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee, loading their voices with sinister slabs of pompousness and eagerness.

Unfortunately, this narrow focus on the magic world doesn’t give Mary much time with her Great Aunt Charlotte or Peter the paperboy. It’s not a problem at first, but when the climax counts on the audience being invested in these relationships, it can barely make a single shoulder shrug let alone a tear fall.

At least Mary’s a gosh-darn likeable lead with her impulsive, happy-go-lucky ability to entertain herself just by going outside to look at flowers or follow the neighbour’s cat. The film gets by on her adventurous attitude alone, which will be enough to sweep audiences up in a journey that poses some good simple questions about science and ethics.

Los Angeles Times

press

Magic flows freely if not infinitely in "Mary and the Witch's Flower," an effortless animated charmer from the gifted Japanese director and Studio Ghibli veteran Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

Collider

press

A whimsical, winsome world of invention, gorgeously translated on screen by the animation team.

Hollywood Reporter

press

A stirring adventure most suitable for tweens and teens.

Variety (USA)

press

Director Yonebayashi clearly fetishises the romantic countryside setting of such European stories for Mary's time with her family, the school itself is quite unlike anything we've seen, making it easy to understand why Mary might think she's dreaming.

South China Morning Post

press

Sadly, this film struggles to escape the long shadow of Ghibli's past achievements, not least Kiki's Delivery Service - also about a young witch in training - as well as that of Harry Potter.

FilmInk (Australia)

press

...a wonderful children's film full of fun magic and breathtaking imagination...

A pleasant romp for children of all ages

I really enjoyed this animated movie. Based on the book by Mary Stuart, it was a delight to the eyes, and the voice acting by Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet was spot on for the English setting.