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The Boy and the Heron: Release date, cast and reviews for Studio Ghibli’s new film

Animation legend Hayao Miyazaki returns with a touching new epic

Studio Ghibli's The Boy and the Heron is due for release this December. (Alamy)
Studio Ghibli's The Boy and the Heron is due for release this December. (Alamy)

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

Miyazaki’s career in animation is unrivalled. Having helmed Ghibli classics like 1988’s My Neighbour Totoro, 1997’s Princess Mononoke, 2001’s Oscar winner Spirited Away and 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle, the 82-year-old filmmaker shows no signs of slowing.

For his latest work, Miyazaki takes his cues from a novel of the same name released back in 1937 but injects it with 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)
Animation director Hayao Miyakai returns with The Boy and the Heron. (Invision/Alamy)

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

The film had its Japanese debut back in mid-July, with hardly any marketing to prepare audiences for its storyline or even its arrival.

Since then, the film has made special preview appearances at the BFI London Film Festival and Manchester Animation Festival.

The Boy and the Heron reviews

The Boy and the Heron (Elysian Film Group)
The Boy and the Heron (Elysian Film Group)

Having already screened for a select group of critics and audience members, early reviews provided those not yet fortunate enough to catch Miyazaki’s latest with a taste of what he has in store.

According to Total Film, The Boy and the Heron proves that its director is still working at the top of his game, with the outlet saying that if this is indeed Miyazaki’s final farewell “it’s an extremely fond one.” The Telegraph were equally impressed, writing that the movie will “move and amaze its audience on levels just beyond their cognitive reach.”

Deadline was a tad more balanced, saying it has “moments of beauty along with narrative missteps,” while Variety had similar thoughts, calling it “both comforting and slightly disappointing.”

Read more reviews below:

Total Film: "Miyazaki proves he's still a master of the medium" (4-min read)

The Telegraph: This Studio Ghibli swansong may be its finest film to date (3-min read)

Deadline: Hayao Miyazaki’s Mysterious Tale Of Loss And Wonder – Toronto Film Festival (5-min read)

Variety: Hayao Miyazaki Put Retirement on Hold to Bring Us a Few New Fantasies (6-min read)

The Boy and the Heron trailer

The Boy and the Heron (Elysian Film Group)
The Boy and the Heron (Elysian Film Group)

The English language trailer for The Boy and the Heron arrived in early November and showcased the vocal talents of its starry cast - one that spans Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Christian Bale, Florence Pugh and more.

Check it out below, while the film's new poster can be seen above.

Released in September 2023, the first trailer for The Boy and the Heron invited us into a world where nature and man are at odds while introducing us to a young boy who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a talking heron - as you do.

Watch it below:

The Boy and the Heron plot

The Boy and the Heron combines themes of family, nature and fantasy. (Alamy)
The Boy and the Heron combines themes of family, nature and fantasy. (Alamy)

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

As the story progresses, we watch on as Mahito battles external chaos before befriending a mysterious grey heron and being whisked into a fantasy world inside an ominous old tower that features magical characters and even more talking animals.

Set during the height of the Pacific War, Miyazaki’s latest continues many of the threads and themes that run throughout the majority of his work, including the clashing of nature and man and the importance of family.

The Boy and the Heron English voice cast

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

In mid-October, we received word of which actors would be lending their voices to the English language cut of The Boy and The Heron, due for release this Christmas alongside its original Japanese dub.

Star of Netflix’s You, Luca Padovan, will provide the voice of Mahito, with The Batman star Robert Pattinson providing the vocals for the film’s titular heron.

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

Meanwhile, Willem Dafoe will play the Noble Pelican, with Dave Bautista starring as the Parakeet King and Mamoudou Athie, Tony Revolori, and Dan Stevens all playing parakeets.

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