Earwig and the Witch’s First Trailer Reveals Studio Ghibli’s Approach to CGI

Earwig and the Witch is Goro Miyazaki's upcoming feature film -- and the first 3D Studio Ghibli feature film. The film is slated to air on NHK in Japan on December 30th and will be released theatrically in the US in early 2021 by GKIDS. Stills of Earwig and the Witch have previously been released, but now a trailer has finally been shown.

Seeing the whimsical Studio Ghibli style take on 3D animation has been a cause of alarm for some, but Goro Miyazaki proves that he can live up to his father's legacy. Earwig and the Witch's motion obviously can't mimic the hand-drawn charms of 2D animation, nor is it as painterly as Hayao Miyazaki's own CGI short film for the Ghibli Museum, Boro the Caterpillar. However, based on the animation shown in the trailer, the film manages to avoid common problems found in many CGI anime.

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CGI anime has become more common but tends to receive mixed reviews. Some series, like the 2016 version of Berserk and Kagerou Project's Mekakucity Actors, have been flat-out savaged for bad 3D animation. A common complaint is that anime-style character designs tend not to transfer well and can butcher a character's features, especially if adapted from a detailed manga. Many CGI anime tend to look clunky and unnatural; it's simply a lot harder to do naturalistic CGI on the budgets most anime receive.

However,  Studio Ghibli, with all its extensive resources, has managed to transfer its signature style fairly nicely into 3D. The characters' faces still manage to resemble their 2D counterparts. The main character Earwig is notably very expressive in the trailer. The animation flows well, and even if the character animation isn't quite as fluid as high-end Disney/Pixar productions, it manages to make a virtue out of its limitations with a charming vibe reminiscent of stop-motion animation.

Earwig and the Witch features many elements present throughout many of Ghibli's films, from scenic settings to cooking scenes to fantastical displays of magic. However, while it's still all pretty, it doesn't appear that the animation is going to be anywhere near as beautiful as the most stunning hand-drawn scenes in Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle.

Earwig and the Witch is based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, the author of the original Howl's Moving Castle novel. It follows the story of a young orphan girl who gets adopted by a suspicious duo and learns that she's a witch's daughter. Ghibli is still able to keep its own charm as it delves into the new territory of 3D CGI, even if a little bit of the studio's magical atmosphere gets lost in the transfer.

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