Hayao Miyazakis Animated Fantasy Epic The Boy and the Heron to Open Toronto Film Festival

Director Hayao Miyazaki’s animated fantasy epic “The Boy and the Heron” will open the 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s set to screen on Sept. 7 at Roy Thomson Hall.

Miyazaki wrote and directed the movie, marking the acclaimed filmmaker’s first feature in 10 years. While several releases from Studio Ghibli, which Miyazaki co-founded, have screened at TIFF — including 2016’s “The Red Turtle” and 2002’s “Spirited Away,” this is the first time a Japanese film or an animated film has been selected as the festival’s opening night film.

“We are honored to open the 48th Toronto International Film Festival with the work of one of cinema’s greatest artists,” said Cameron Bailey, CEO of TIFF. “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. I look forward to our audience discovering its mysteries for themselves, but I can promise a singular, transformative experience.”

“The Boy and the Heron” was released earlier this year in Japan, where it generated $13.2 million in its opening weekend to become the biggest debut in Studio Ghibli’s history. The company boldly launched the film without any promotion, marketing materials or plot description, so that audiences were able to discover the twists and turns of the story without any expectations.

Since then, it’s been revealed the story follows a boy named Mahito Maki, who discovers an abandoned tower in his new town and enters a fantastical world with a talking grey heron.

TIFF will be the first time that people outside of Japan will watch the film. GKIDS is distributing “The Boy and the Heron” in North America, where it will be released in theaters later in 2023.

This year’s edition runs from Sept. 7-17. As previously announced, Taika Waititi’s sports-centric “Next Goal Wins,” Alexander Payne’s comedy “The Holdovers,” Kore-eda Hirokazu’s tear-jerker “Monster” and Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall” are among the festival lineup.

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