Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron is set to hit theaters this December. (Alamy) (Album, Album)

Despite threatening to retire, Japanese animation icon Hayao Miyazaki is back with the new feature film The Boy and the Heron for Studio Ghibli.

Miyazaki’s career in animation is unmatched. After directing Ghibli classics like 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro, 1997’s Princess Mononoke, 2001’s Spirited Away and 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle, the 82-year-old filmmaker shows no signs of slowing down .

For his latest work, Miyazaki is based on a 1937 novel of the same name, but adds his own story that combines elements of nature, family and fantasy.

Here’s everything we know about it so far.

The Boy and the Heron release date.

Animation director Hayao Miyakai returns with The Boy and the Heron. (Invision/Alamy) (Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron will be released in UK cinemas from Boxing Day, Tuesday September 26th, making it a belated Christmas treat.

The film made its Japanese debut back in mid-July, without any marketing to prepare audiences for its plot or even its arrival.

The film has since had special previews at the BFI London Film Festival and the Manchester Animation Festival.

Reviews of “The Boy and the Heron”.

The Boy and the Heron (Elysian Film Group)

Having already screened for a select group of critics and audiences, early reviews have offered those not yet fortunate enough to see Miyazaki’s latest work a taste of what he has to offer.

According to Total Film, “The Boy and the Heron” proves that the director is still working at the top of his game. The source said that if this is indeed Miyazaki’s final farewell, it will be “an extremely beautiful farewell.” The Telegraph was equally impressed, writing that the film “will touch and astound its audience on a level just beyond their cognitive reach.”

Deadline was a little more balanced, saying there were “beautiful moments and narrative missteps,” while Variety had similar thoughts, calling it “both comforting and slightly disappointing.”

Read more reviews below:

Overall film: “Miyazaki proves he is still a master of the medium” (4 minute read)

The story goes on

The Telegraph: This swan song from Studio Ghibli may be their best film yet (3 minute read)

Deadline: Hayao Miyazaki’s Mysterious Tale of Loss and Miracle – Toronto Film Festival (5 minute read)

Diversity: Hayao Miyazaki has put his retirement on hold to give us some new fantasies (6 minute read)

The Boy and the Heron trailer

The first trailer for “The Boy and the Heron,” released in September 2023, invited us into a world where nature and humanity are at odds, while also introducing us to a little boy who, like you, has an unusual friendship with one talking heron closes.

Check it out below:

The Boy and the Heron

“The Boy and the Heron” combines themes such as family, nature and fantasy. (Alamy) (Album, Album)

After a family tragedy, young Mahito Maki moves to a new town where he struggles with grief and adapting to his new surroundings.

As the story progresses, we watch as Mahito battles the outside chaos before befriending a mysterious gray heron and being transported to a fantasy world in a menacing ancient tower, filled with magical characters and even more talking animals.

Set at the height of the Pacific War, Miyazaki’s latest work continues many of the threads and themes that run through the majority of his work, including the collision of nature and humanity and the importance of family.

English voice actors for The Boy and the Heron

Robert Pattinson will play a talking heron in the latest Studio Ghibli film. (Getty Images)

In mid-October, we received word about which actors would be lending their voices to the English-language version of The Boy and The Heron, which is scheduled to be released this Christmas alongside the original Japanese dub.

Netflix series You star Luca Padovan will provide the voice of Mahito, while The Batman star Robert Pattinson will provide vocals for the film’s titular character.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman, Christian Bale, will also play Mahito’s father Shoichi, with Florence Pugh as Kiriko, Mark Hamill as Great Uncle, Karen Fukuhara as Lady Himi and Gemma Chan as Natsuko.

Meanwhile, Willem Dafoe will play the Eclectus Pelican, Dave Bautista will play the Parakeet King, and Mamoudou Athie, Tony Revolori and Dan Stevens will all play parakeets.

“The Boy and the Heron” will be released on Tuesday, December 26th.

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