After a decade-long Studio Ghibli drought, legendary director Hayao Miyazaki surprised fans by coming out of retirement (again) with the announcement of his newest film, “The Boy and the Heron” earlier this year. Studio Ghibli’s North American distributor, GKIDS, dropped the official teaser trailer for the film last month, sending the internet into a frenzy. Most recently, GKIDS announced the voice cast for the English dubbed version of the film.
Luca Padovan (“You”) will star as 12-year-old protagonist, Mahito Maki. Set in 1943 Japan, towards the end of World War II, “The Boy and the Heron” follows young Mahito who is arranged by his father, Shoichi (Christian Bale), to live with his maternal aunt, Natsuko (Gemma Chan), following the loss of his mother in a firebombing (alluding to the real-life events of the deadly firebombing of Tokyo). At his aunt’s residence, Mahito spots a heron (Robert Pattinson) who guides him through a tunnel and into another world, shared by the living and the dead. On this side, Mahito begins to view illusions of his mother.
Like Mahito, Miyazaki and his family also fled to the countryside to evade the bombings. Another semi autobiographical detail of the film is that Shoichi works as a fighter plane manufacturer, like Miyazaki’s own father did. The film touches on deep philosophical themes of loss and escapism, informed by Miyazaki’s life experiences during the war.
Additional cast includes Dave Bautista as The Parakeet King, with Mamoudou Athie, Tony Revolori and Dan Stevens starring as the Parakeets. Willem Dafoe (Noble Pelican), Karen Fukuhara (Lady Himi), Mark Hamill (Granduncle) and Florence Pugh (Kiriko) also star. Miyazaki’s long-time collaborator, Joe Hisaishi, contributes to the musical score.
“The Boy and the Heron” made its international premiere at the 48th Toronto International Film Festival and U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival. After some special advance previews on Nov. 22, it will be released nationwide in theaters on Dec. 8.