‘The Imaginary’ Trailer: Animated Movie Boasts Innovative Light and Shadow Technique

Netflix dropped the trailer for “The Imaginary,” the hand-drawn fantasy from Japan’s Studio Ponoc (streaming July 5), currently in competition at the Annecy Animation Festival. The Oscar hopeful is adapted from the A.F. Harrold novel (illustrated by Emily Gravett) and is told through the eyes of young Amanda (Evie Kiszel) and her imaginary companion, Rudger (Louie Rudge-Buchanan), a boy who introduces her to make-believe adventures that turn dangerous when he encounters forgotten Imaginaries in a mysterious town.

“The Imaginary” is directed by former Studio Ghibli animation vet Yoshiyuki Momose (“Grave of the Fireflies”) and produced by Studio Ponoc founder and former Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura (the Oscar-nominated “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” and “When Marnie Was There”).

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“The Imaginary” marks the second feature from Studio Ponoc and the first in its multi-film deal with Netflix. The studio was founded in 2015 as a spiritual successor to Ghibli and released its debut feature, “Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” two years later. The 2D fantasy was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and concerns a mysterious flower that gives a young girl the power to become a witch for a single night.

Studio Ponoc next released “Modest Heroes” (2018), an anthology comprised of three experimental shorts. One of them, “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose,” was directed by Momose. This was followed by the official 2020 Olympics short, “Tomorrow’s Leaves,” also directed by Momose.

“The Imaginary” was made in collaboration with French animation studio Les Films du Poisson Rouge (“Klaus”) and boasts an innovative light and shadow technique. This is a breakthrough for animation involving light diffraction and adding volume and textures to characters, which takes aesthetic inspiration from painters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer.

The animation team includes Kosuke Hayashi (art director), Susumu Fukushi (director of photography), Kenichi Konishi (animation supervisor), Anaël Seghezzi (texture and lighting director), and Atsushi Okui (digital imaging).

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