Studio Ghibli, celebrated for its outstanding animated films, was co-founded by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest names of all time behind animated features. Both Studio Ghibli, as well as Miyazaki, have together produced ten widely-acclaimed features. The Boy and the Heron, for instance, is Ghibli and Miyazaki’s latest project, which is already released in Japan and is now coming to the US theaters in December 2023. The film will follow the story of Mahito, a young 12-year-old boy who is struggling to settle in a new town after his mother’s death. However, when a talking heron informs Mahito that his mother is still alive, he enters the whimsical and mysterious world created by Miyazaki.
The original Japanese cast has earned acclaim domestically, but the English-dubbed version, set for release on December 8, 2023, boasts an equally impressive roster of Hollywood heavyweights. It’s a cast featuring two DC’s Batman actors — Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson. But that’s just the beginning — the ensemble also includes David Bautista, Willem Dafoe, Mark Hamil, and Florence Pugh, among others. So how did Studio Ghibli manage to pull in such a star-studded, costly cast for the feature? Well, it comes at a monetary cost, that’s for sure. But there certainly are more reasons behind why these high-profile actors agreed to play their respective roles (both previously in other films and now) in The Boy and the Heron.
Studio Ghibli Has a Reputation for Creating High-Grossing Critically Acclaimed Films
Studio Ghibli has a reputation for meticulous animation and critically acclaimed films that resonate with audiences globally. Films like Spirited Away, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and My Neighbor Totoro, with its iconic characters, are among some of the major touchstones. This international acclaim pulls in actors to work with the Ghibli brand. The actors/voice actors understand that their involvement is not just another role but will be a contribution to animated cinema for years to come. This established esteem is why A-list talent is consistently drawn to the dubbing roles for the English-language releases of Studio Ghibli’s works, making The Boy and the Heron no exception.
Hayao Miyazaki’s Legacy and Reputation for Storytelling and Animation
Hayao Miyazaki’s storied career is another reason why these actors are drawn to work on his films. He’s a legend with visionary storytelling and animation prowess. Miyazaki’s work is characterized by a delicate blend of whimsical narratives, complex characters, and lush, hand-drawn artistry. As a co-founder of Studio Ghibli, his films — like Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises, Spirited Away, etc. — are revered for their depth and beauty. Miyazaki is so exclusive and selective about his work that he only has eleven features to his name over a six-decade-long career. So it’s not just Studio Ghibli or Miyazaki who want these actors to work with them but it’s an honor for the actors as well to be able to work on his films.
GKids’ Distribution Has a History of Working With A-List Actors in North America
GKIDS, who usually partners up with Studio Ghibli for its distribution in the North American region, has a distinguished history of partnering with top-tier talent. For instance, Princess Mononoke featured Gillian Anderson and Billy Crudup. More recently, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya included the voices of Chloë Grace Moretz and James Caan. Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel were the voice actors in Only Yesterday and The Red Turtle, respectively. So the Japanese animation giant has strong roots in the North American market and can pull the strings to sign high-profile actors like Bale for the role.
Christian Bale Previously Played a Lead Character in Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle
Christian Bale, who is lending his voice to Shoichi Maki (Mahito’s father) in The Boy and the Heron, has previously played the character of Howl in Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle — a wandering wizard with a moving fortress and a cursed heart. So it’s not the first time that Bale has played a voice actor in an animated feature from Studio Ghibli.
So if you’re astonished by how big and star-studded the cast of The Boy and the Heron is — it’s probably because you’re either not familiar with Miyazaki’s previous works or you don’t know the names of the actors who have voiced his characters. Well, now you do and it’s time for you to scour through his previous works before The Boy and the Heron hits theaters all over the US on December 8, 2023.
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