Ten years after the work “once considered the last” The Wind Rises (English title: The Wind Rises), director Miyazaki Hayao brought to the screen the new film The Boy and the Heron (English title: The Boy and the Heron ), became the focus of attention not only in his home country of Japan but also globally.
Another movie… not Miyazaki Hayao’s last
In 2013, director Miyazaki Hayao released Floating Wind, a work about an engineer who designed aircraft during World War II. Afterwards, former president of Studio Ghibli – Hoshino Koji said the director would “retire” after this project.
However, during the Oscar Week 2017 event, producer Suzuki Toshio shared that director Miyazaki had returned to filmmaking. The Boy and the Heron became “Miyazaki Hayao’s last film”, and also a farewell gift for him to his grandson. Considered the last film in the famous director’s career, The Boy and the Heron attracted a lot of attention from the public.
After the film’s very successful debut in his home country of Japan, in September, many sources said that Miyazaki Hayao had found inspiration for a new work and was ready to return to work, even though now The director has turned 82. So The Boy and the Heron will probably continue… not his last film. However, the audience was still completely happy with this “trick”.
The film took 6 years to complete
In 2020, producer Suzuki Toshio said the film had completed 36 minutes of filming after more than three years of making. Previously, director Miyazaki usually directed about 7 – 15 minutes of film a month, but when making The Boy and the Heron, he only produced 1 minute of film per month. This is also partly related to a reform in working style, when Studio Ghibli employees can leave work at 8pm every day. The employees humorously shared that leaving work on time every day makes them more “human” than ever.
At the end of 2020, it was reported that the film was halfway completed in 125 minutes of total duration, and by 2023, the film would be completed in time to be released to the audience.
No promotional materials other than posters were used
In Japan, The Boy and the Heron did not use any promotional materials except for a single hand-drawn poster of a heron. All information about the film including content, cast, production staff… is also kept completely confidential until the premiere date.
Explaining this “no promotion” marketing strategy, producer Suzuki shared: “I think that currently, a lot of information about films is given out during the promotion period. […] And then I started thinking, what would people think if a movie didn’t have any promotional information? This is just my personal opinion, but in this age of so much information, “not having information” is probably also a form of entertainment.”
Studio Ghibli’s special strategy has worked very well. The audience came to the film with curiosity, with absolute trust in director Miyazaki Hayao and admiration for Studio Ghibli. The release of The Boy and the Heron in Japan became an important cinematic event of the year, making the film especially true to its nature. If the marketing strategy for The Boy and the Heron was a gamble, Studio Ghibli probably won big.
The film opened with 1.35 million tickets sold, surpassing the 2.1 billion yen mark in revenue and becoming the work with the highest opening revenue in Ghibli history, surpassing even the Spirited Away monument. Currently, the film has a revenue of 8.4 billion yen, ranking third among the highest-grossing films of 2023 in Japan and ranking first among non-franchise works.
The unique marketing strategy, box office success and stature of director Miyazaki Hayao made promoting The Boy and the Heron in international markets also experiencing a lot of pressure. The film’s distributor in the US – GKIDS shared that The Teenager and the Heron can be considered the biggest marketing challenge ever for this company. Not only do they hope to bring the film to theaters across North America, but they also hope the film “finds the audience it deserves.” With all these special things, The Boy and the Heron is truly a work worthy of enjoying at the box office later this year.
THE BOY AND THE HERON – Vietnamese title: THE TEENAGER AND THE HERRON – opens on December 15.