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Netflix Film Lands Global Streaming Rights to Japan’s Studio Ponoc

Studio Ponoc, a Japanese animation studio founded by Studio Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, has entered into a multi-year pact with Netflix, which will become the exclusive streaming home of upcoming Studio Ponoc films, beginning with “The Imaginary” later this year. (The film was released in Japan in December.)

Founded in 2015, during a fallow period in Studio Ghibli’s history when Hayao Miyazaki had supposedly retired and work at the fabled studio had slowed to a trickle, Studio Ponoc has produced a feature film (“Mary and the Witch’s Flower”) along with an anthology of their short work (“Modest Heroes”), as well as productions for the Tokyo Olympic Games and some commercials.

The animation coming out of Studio Ponoc, named after the Croatian word for “midnight” or the beginning of a new day, reflects “founder Nishimura’s goal of a new start for globally appealing animation created in Japan that inspires and enthralls all audiences around the world,” according to a studio statement.

As for “The Imaginary,” it “portrays the depths of humanity and creativity through the eyes of young Amanda and her imaginary companion, Rudger. Their fantastical adventures launched from her attic, lead them to discover a magical world of creatures and places never before seen until a sinister force threatens to destroy their imaginary world and the friendship within it.”

It is directed by Yoshiyuki Momose, another Studio Ghibli veteran, and is produced by Nishimura. The animation is 2D hand-drawn with flourishes of computer animation or, as the press release states, “heightened by first-of-their-kind techniques of light and shadow.”

This is the latest strategic alliance Netflix has forged on its feature animation side, which also includes an output deal with Aardman Animation (the recently released “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” and an upcoming “Wallace and Gromit” feature), Skydance Animation (“Spellbound” later this year and new projects from Brad Bird and Rich Moore), DreamWorks Animation (next month’s “Orion and the Dark”) and Sony Animation (“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” and the upcoming “K-Pop: Demon Hunters”).

Netflix’s upcoming slate also includes “Ultraman: Rising,” “Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie” and “That Christmas.” Their animated feature “Nimona,” produced in partnership with Annapurna, was recently nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

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