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What Makes The Boy And The Heron An Artisan Film

November 24th, 2023What Makes The Boy And The Heron An Artisan Film

THE BOY AND THE HERON opens on December 8

Among the many artists whom the world can thank for helping some animated films achieve the same esteem as live-action movies is Hayao Miyazaki. He is one of the co-founders of Studio Ghibli – the much celebrated, Academy Award®-winning production company behind Japanese anime classics like SPIRITED AWAY and KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE, to name only a few. The legendary director has returned a decade following the release of THE WIND RISES in 2013, to write and direct his twelfth feature, THE BOY AND THE HERON.

The English-language translation of the film’s original Japanese title, HOW DO YOU LIVE?, is a reference to Genzaburō Yoshino’s 1937 novel of the same name, which makes an appearance in the film. However, THE BOY AND THE HERON is actually a wholly original story. In addition to being Miyazaki’s supposed final work, it is also the artist’s most personal work to date and one that AMC Theatres has proudly selected as an AMC Artisan Film. Before this adventurous animated fantasy hits the big screen on December 8, let’s take a look at all the reasons why it is the latest film to receive this honor.

Pushes Boundaries And Sparks Conversation

Taking place in World War II-era Japan, THE BOY AND THE HERON follows 13-year-old Mahito Maki a year after the tragic loss of his mother, when he and his industrialist father, Shoichi, move to the countryside to live with his aunt, Natsuko. While there, the guilt-ridden Mahito encounters the heron of the film’s title, whom he discovers is not a normal kind of bird as they form an unlikely alliance against sinister forces in a mystical land that exists right outside of his own reality.

As mentioned by GKIDS president Dave Jesteadt in a report from IndieWire, THE BOY AND THE HERON serves as a semi-autobiographical project for Miyazaki – save a few notable embellishments, of course. An article by The Hollywood Reporter mentions how Miyazaki was, like Mahito, very close to his mother, and how his family also managed to escape the bombings of Japan in World War II by traveling to the countryside. By borrowing from his own life experiences, the story achieves a grounded and authentic depiction of its setting amid its more fantastic elements.

Brings A Unique Perspective

As for the way THE BOY AND THE HERON depicts its more fantastic elements, the film has already earned raves for featuring some of the most astounding visuals to come from a Studio Ghibli release. Many elements of the basic narrative reflect that of a traditional odyssey story, but its bizarre, and even nightmarish, art design greatly exceeds expectation.

That being said, as an aforementioned article by The Hollywood Reporter mentions, some critics have noticed that various aspects of the story – such as certain characters and themes – may appear familiar to fans of Miyazaki’s previous work. However, it is the way in which they are executed for this film in particular that makes them feel one-of-a kind.

Unites An Acclaimed Cast

The voice cast for the English-language dub of THE BOY AND THE HERON includes some Studio Ghibli veterans and newcomers alike. Among the first-timers are the actors who play the titular duo – Luca Padovan, of Netflix’s “You” fame, as Mahito and THE BATMAN star Robert Pattinson, as The Grey Heron.

Fellow Studio Ghibli newcomers include SUICIDE SQUAD’s Kare Fukuhara as Lady Himi, THE CREATOR star Gemma Chan as Natsuko, Oscar® nominee Florence Pugh as Kiriko, and MCU star Dave Bautista as The Parakeet King. Oscar winner Christian Bale – who played the title role of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE – voices Mahito’s father, STAR WARS icon Mark Hamill returns for his third Ghibli film – following the 1980s’ CASTLE IN THE SKY and NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND – as Granduncle, and Willem Dafoe’s role as Noble Pelican marks his second collaboration with the studio after 2006’S TALES FROM THE EARTHSEA.

Stretches Actors Outside Their Comfort Zones

For the members of the English-language voice cast who are making their Studio Ghibli debut with this film, THE BOY AND THE HERON very likely could have proved to be an enlightening experience for them. However, the one who is being stretched out of his comfort zone the most here has to be Robert Pattinson, who is not only a first-time Miyazaki collaborator, but is making his voice acting debut with this film.

And what a debut it is for the British actor, whose voice is not at all recognizable as The Grey Heron. In fact, the star of the TWILIGHT movies and GOOD TIME disguises his voice to match the character so well that you could be easily convinced that Masaki Suda – who portrays the role for the original Japanese-language cut – returned for the English-language dub himself as they sound remarkably similar.

Features A Compelling Score

One of the best-known of Miyazaki’s many long-time collaborators at work on THE BOY AND THE HERON is Joe Hisaishi. The musician has composed the music for several Studio Ghibli titles, including the aforementioned CASTLE IN THE SKY and SPIRITED AWAY, as well as MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and PRINCESS MONONOKE.

Hisaishi’s work ranks among his finest pieces so far. He conducts a soundtrack that is somewhat contradictorily subtle when compared to the grand, epic scale of the story and its animation, but is still very wondrous and stirring nonetheless. Listening to the music on its own is enough to send your imagination on an unforgettable journey.

An unforgettable journey is just the thing to look out for when deciding what should be deemed an AMC Artisan Film and THE BOY AND THE HERON takes the cake with flying colors. Experience it for yourself when it comes to an AMC Theatres location near you!

THE BOY AND THE HERON opens on December 8

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