This summer, When Marnie Was There, the first Studio Ghibli movie in the post-Miyazaki era, will be released in theaters across Japan. Not only will it be the first Ghibli film without the involvement of either studio founder — Miyazaki or Isao Takahata — it will also be the first one to feature an original theme song written entirely in English. (I guess the closest other one would be Whisper of the Heart and that movie’s Japanese cover of the John Denver classic, “Take Me Home, Country Road.”)
So who have they tapped to write this historic theme song? None other than Asian American singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn.
On her blog, Ahn recounts how she reacted upon learning she had been chosen to write the song:
In case some of you don’t know, I practically worship the movies that Studio Ghibli release! They have moved me so much, and have been an undeniably positive influence in my life. To sing on one of their movies was a far off, distant dream I had, but never really believed could come true.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the producer of this film contacted me asking if I would be interested in writing the ending theme song. I literally gasped in a way you would… say, if you saw a pegasus flying in the sky. And then I let out a scream of delight and ran around the house like a little girl.
Based on a classic British children’s story, When Marnie Was There tells the story of Anna, a lonely little girl who strikes up a friendship with Marnie, another young girl who also happens to be a ghost.
The film will be directed by Yonebayashi Hiromasa — who last directed 2010’s The Secret World of Arietty and stars Sara Takatsuki and Kasumi Arimura in the lead roles of Anna and Marnie. Surprisingly, the film is being touted as the first Ghibli movie to feature two female leads, though I think Satsuki and Mei-chan — from My Neighbor Totoro — might have something to say about that.
The film opens in Japan on July 19. So far, there’s no word on an American release of the movie.
UPDATE: The official Studio Ghibli twitter account has revealed the first images from the upcoming film: