Anyone who has seen the movie, Earwig and the Witch, by Studio Ghibli co-creators Takuji Kubota and Ponyari Denny, will instantly recognize the story and animation style. However, to appreciate Earwig and the Witch, one must first understand how Miyazaki conceived the film and developed the characters. For this movie, Kubota is the only director. Prior to Earwig, studio Ghibli co-productions had been hit by two other animated movies not produced by the studio, namely The Princess and the Frog and Zao.
The Princess and the Frog, released in 1998, was a huge hit in Japan, becoming the second biggest movie of that year. Though the subject matter is somewhat different (with a romantic comedy replacing the fairy-tale premise), both are Ghibli creations. Ponyari Denny is the primary writer on the screenplay. While both are talented screenwriters, Ponyari Denny is also a screenwriter for more successful Studio Ghibli movies such as Kiki's Delivery Service and My Little Pony. Earwig and the Witch, on the other hand, were written by Eiko Hasu.
Kubota and Hasu both have a background in working with studio anime movies, but Earwig and the Witch are the first time they're allowed to direct an original anime film. The decision to create the film independently was due largely to Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki's lack of experience directing an animated feature. As most fans of the studio know, Miyazaki is a master of creating works of visual art that are breathtaking in their beauty and serene in their approach. When it comes to film, he is an artist par excellence. For this reason, there is little doubt that Earwig and the Witch can stand on their own without the man of Miyazaki's movies handling the screenplay and the film itself.
Earwig and the Witch mark the start of a rather interesting collaboration between studio head Tomoko Ninomiya and former assistant studio head Eiko Hasu. The two had previously worked together on the live-action movie adaptation of the Lettavela Mythos by Isao Takahashi. After the live-action hit and the critical acclaim that came with it, Hasu and Ninomiya felt that it was time for them to pursue their own artistic vision, which they did with the independent film.
The Witch and the Lovers are the second movie in the studio's wildly successful franchise of anime films based on fantasy novels. It takes place twenty years after the events of the first movie, which depicts the beautiful witch Lotte as she tries to rebuild her life following her tragic death in the first film. This time, she has fallen in love with a human named Takeshi who is from the north American region of Minnesota. He is a young man in his twenties...
Animation is clearly not a priority when it comes to a studio such as Earwig. The reason for this is that anime fans are not interested in Studio Ghibli's (the company behind the award winning Spirited Away) level of quality. It's just not how they like to see their movies produced. But luckily for those fans who can't get enough of Ghibli's unique style of animated movie making, the studio seems to have found an ace in the hole: Takahashi. His work on the animation is quite phenomenal, with live-action scenes that have real feeling to them, and the animation is quite fluid and animated, which helps to make up for the somewhat skeletal appearance of the characters.