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Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron to Open Toronto Amid Strikes – The Hollywood Reporter

Japanese anime legend Hayao Miyazaki’s much anticipated final film, now titled in English The Boy and the Heron, is set to open the Toronto Film Festival with a toned-down star presence on Sept. 7.

Studio Ghibli’s long-awaited mysterious epic feature — with hand drawn animation from Miyazaki — will have an international premiere at Roy Thomson Hall after a release in theaters in Japan from July 14. GKIDS plans a theatrical release in North America later this year for The Boy and the Heron.

Studio Ghibli previously described the film as “a grand fantasy” loosely inspired by Japanese author Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 novel How Do You Live?, a coming-of-age story about the emotional and philosophical development of a young boy after the death of his father. 

Studio Ghibli, which Miyazaki co-founded, has screened earlier titles in Toronto like The Red Turtle (2016), The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2014), The Wind Rises (2013), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), Spirited Away (2002) and Princess Mononoke (1999).

But handing the opening night slot to The Boy and the Heron marks the first time a Japanese film or an animated title has launched the Canadian festival. Doing so will mean a less buzzy red carpet heading into Roy Thomson Hall for the 48th edition this year, with Hollywood’s double strike after SAG-AFTRA joined the Writers Guild of America with its own labor action and banned its members tied to studio or streamer pics from promoting titles in Toronto or other fall festivals.

“We are honored to open the 48th Toronto International Film Festival with the work of one of cinema’s greatest artists. Already acclaimed as a masterpiece in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki’s new film begins as a simple story of loss and love and rises to a staggering work of imagination,” Cameron Bailey, CEO of TIFF, said in a statement on Thursday.

Last year, Toronto opened its 47th edition with the Netflix refugee drama The Swimmers, Sally El Hosaini’s film about the journey of real-life sisters from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Amid the SAG-AFTRA strike, Venice had to replace Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, starring Zendaya, with Edoardo De Angelis’ Comandante after MGM pushed the R-rated tennis drama, also starring Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor, to 2024.

Released in Japan as Kimitachi wa Do Ikiruka (translated as How Do You Live?), The Boy and the Heron is an original story written and directed by Miyazaki, produced by the Oscar-winning Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, and features a musical score from Miyazaki’s long-time collaborator Joe Hisaishi.

Previously informally referred to in English-language press by its tentative title, How Do You Live?, the anime legend’s first film in 10 years was released in Japan without any promotion, marketing materials or film description besides one poster to allow audiences to discover the film with no expectations or preconceptions.

Toronto programmers in their announcement for the opening night film similarly offered no plot summary, no voice cast or descriptions of the film’s setting or characters. After launching with the Japanese anime pic, fest organizers plan a star-studded Sept. 7 to 17 festival as Roy Thomson Hall will a host a world premiere for Craig Gillespie’s GameStop short-squeeze saga Dumb Money, which stars Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogen; and international bows for two Netflix titles: U.S. director Chloe Domont’s Sundance hit Fair Play and NYAD, a biopic about marathon swimmer Diana Nyad to star Jodie Foster and Annette Bening.

Toronto Film Festival programmers, who also booked the latest star-driven movies by Taika Waititi and Atom Egoyan into Roy Thomson Hall for gala premieres, will make additional lineup announcements in the coming weeks. 

Studio Ghibli’s only poster for The Boy and the Heron is below.

The Boy and the Heron

Courtesy of Studio Ghibli

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