PARIS • Studio Ghibli, home of the masters of Japanese animated film, has decided to take the plunge into 3D under the direction of founder Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro - though he is far from ready to put away his coloured pencils.
With the same taste for the fantastical as his father, the 54-year-old is coming out of the shadows with Earwig And The Witch, due to go online as part of the Gerardmer Fantasy Film Festival kicking off today.
The film, originally scheduled to premiere at last year's Cannes Film Festival and launched instead at the Lumiere event in Lyon, is the story of an impish orphan girl adopted by a witch and befriended by a black cat.
It has the unmistakable Miyazaki imprint, but fans of Hayao Miyazaki standouts such as My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004) may be thrown off balance by the colder effect of 3D.
For a studio acclaimed for the visual harmony of its creations, the leap is a gamble, Goro admits, aware of the risk of disappointing a fan base going back more than 30 years.
Even so, he says his perfectionist 80-year-old father has given him "free rein".
"He hardly commented at all during the production," the creator of Tales From Earthsea (2006) and From Up On Poppy Hill (2011) said in an interview.
"He stopped by regularly to check on it, but given the technological differences with traditional animation, he had no frame of reference. It's not his medium."
The move into 3D is by no means "entering into some kind of competition" with the American animated film giants with their vast technical and financial resources, Goro says.
"You could liken big American productions to Tesla electric cars, while what we are trying to do is create an electrically assisted bike for getting around town. There are landscapes you can see only thanks to this slower pace of a bicycle."
Despite Studio Ghibli's international fame, "we are neither a big studio nor a big company, more like a neighbourhood workshop, a little creative place", he says.
"I don't think we can plan on a generational change as people expect."
While computer graphics offer "a new possibility for the future", traditionalists can rest assured that "drawing on paper, the traditional animation like my father's, will continue at the studio", Goro says.