The collective works of Studio Ghibli co-founder/Japanese animation god Hayao Miyazaki are truly one of a kind and have continued to offer the kind of enthusiastically creative, traditionally-animated splendor that hasn't been around in Hollywood since the days of the Disney Renaissance back in the late 80s/early 90s.
Studio Ghibli's next project, Kokuriko-Zaka Kara, will be brought to life under the guidance of Miyazaki's son, Goro, whose directorial debut, Tales From Earthsea, was seen as a solid notch below his father's output - but really, did anyone really expect him to match/outdo his dad?
Kokuriko-Zaka Kara was originally a shojo magazine serial (re: Japanese comic book or manga) that ran back in the early 1980s. The 1960s-set tale revolves around Komatsuzaki, a high school girl whose father vanished at sea some time ago and whose mother is a professional photographer constantly traveling the world. Komatsuzaki spends her days running the family lodging house and struggling with the same issues that plague everyone in their teenage years.
Film journalist Hiroo Otaka broke the story about Studio Ghibli's next project via his Twitter account (note: those that cannot read Japanese ought to just skip clicking that link ;-)). The film is expected to reach Japanese theaters next summer and, depending on its financial success, could crossover to the U.S. in the future.
Pixar's John Lasseter has played a pivotal role in exposing U.S. moviegoers to the works of H. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli in general. Disney quietly distributed the head artist's most recent project, Ponyo, in theaters last year, but Miyazaki's films have always been a cult item in the States - as opposed to Japan, where his movies sell tickets like a feature headlined by James Cameron or Steven Spielberg. Hopefully, Studio Ghibli's non-Miyazaki projects will retain that U.S. cult following over the upcoming years.
Hayao Miyazaki is co-scripting the adaptation of Kokuriko-Zaka Kara, a more down-to-earth tale than that of the filmmaker's most famous creations like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. The studio's dazzlingly colorful 2D animation has only improved over the years and there's little doubt that G. Miyazaki's new film will be as beautiful-looking as his dad's - perhaps not as mind-bending or original, but that's why the older Miyazaki is known as truly one of a kind.
While the plan seems to be for G. Miyazaki to slowly become the new head creative force at the studio, the elder Miyazaki is likely to make at least one more film (if not more) before retiring - again. Japanese animation fans around the world will undoubtedly be eager to see it, whatever it may be or whenever it comes to fruition.
We'll keep an eye out for more information about Studio Ghibli's Kokuriko-Zaka Kara in the future.