Amazon Studios has picked up the American rights to Ronia The Robber's Daughter, a 26-episode Japanese animated series co-produced by Studio Ghibli, directed by Ghibli's Goro Miyazaki, and animated by CGI animation studio Polygon. The American dub will be narrated by The X-Files' Gillian Anderson. According to Variety, the show is set for release on Amazon Prime later this year.
When Studio Ghibli announced in 2014 that it was shutting down film production after co-founder Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement, animation fans' hearts broke. But Ghibli hasn't closed its doors, it's just retrenching. The studio behind films including My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away has stayed active through co-productions like Ronia and Michaël Dudok de Wit's gorgeous international co-production The Red Turtle. And its distinctive visual style can still be seen in Ronia's animation. Here's the Japanese-language trailer:
Ronia (or Ronja, in the Japanese version) is based on a thoroughly delightful 1981 fantasy novel by Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish creator of Pippi Longstocking. The story follows a young girl growing up wild in a woodland full of strange creatures, as the only child of the leader of a band of notorious thieves. She has various adventures involving the magical creatures of the wood, but eventually forms a Romeo-and-Juliet friendship with a young boy who's the only child of the leader of a rival band of thieves. The animated series features Ghibli's usual phenomenally rich backdrops for the woodland setting, and its familiar rounded character designs, but they're clearly CGI, with a gimbaled floaty quality that Ghibli characters don't normally have. It's an unusual blend of a very traditional style with new computer animation techniques.
This isn't Ghibli's first project animating a Western children's novel. Hayao Miyazaki based his film Howl's Moving Castle on a book by British author Diana Wynne Jones. His son Goro, Ronia's director, previously directed the Ghibli feature Tales From Earthsea, adapting Ursula K. LeGuin's classic fantasy novel. But Ronia is Ghibli's first involvement in a TV series, and it's Amazon's first Ghibli import.
According to other sources, Amazon also ordered a full season for its children's show Little Big Awesome, a 2D-animated series from Titmouse. The LA-based studio is known more for its highly adult-skewed entertainment: the grotesquely funny feature film Nerdland, the ultra-violent TV shows Metalocalypse and (in the latter seasons) Superjail, and the cartoon elements in Fox's cartoon / live-action blend Son Of Zorn. Little Big Awesome was part of Amazon's 2016 pilot program, which encouraged Prime users to watch the first episodes of six shows and vote on which one the company should take to series. Little Big Awesome seems to be the final result of that process. It's a trippy, energetic program that includes puppets, live action, and flat pastel animation that has some visual similarities to Adventure Time. The show is also scheduled to launch later this year. The pilot is still available on Amazon Prime.