Nothing makes me happier than the finest animators in the world choosing much-looked-over areas of the UK as the subjects for their films. The Norfolk coastline is one such area, one of England’s forgotten treasures, where sand dunes and marshes cast their hold on the land and salt grasses sway in the breeze amidst myriad rivers and tributaries. From Medieval times onward, rowboats were the predominant form of transport, and you can imagine this kind of atmosphere is going to work well with Ghibli’s magical, flyaway animation style.

Edit: While the creators have officially stated that the setting has been moved to Hokkaido, Japan, it nonetheless is heavily influenced by the Norfolk town the original book was based off, so if you know the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk district, you will find it very familiar indeed! Many thanks to KB and Alua for this information.

‘When Marnie Was There’ is Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s second feature following his 2010 debut ‘Arrietty’. It’s based on the book of the same name by English author Joan G. Robinson, who originally wrote it back in 1967. The story follows solitary child Anna, who is sent off to Norfolk for the summer, where she meets the equally lonesome Marnie, in a desolate house out on the marshes. At its essence, it is a beautiful ghost story about bonding, friendship, and history. It’s part of Miyazaki’s own list of recommended children’s books.

This film promises to be a very moving and beautiful affair. The trailer reveals some lovely aesthetic choices when it comes to scenery and the two main characters, plus the dreamlike music, which is ‘Fine on the Outside’ by Priscilla Ahn, makes me love it even more. I have a feeling that Studio Ghibli is going to use its artful talent to ramp up the sense of calm and quiet power inherent in the original tale. A must see, that’s for sure!

Although it is being released in Japan later this month, currently no US or UK release date has been set, so we shall have to sit tight for now. In the meantime, take a gander at the trailer below, and let us know if you’re looking forward to seeing it!


Main image ©

7 thoughts on “The new Ghibli film is set in Norfolk, and it’s awesome.

  1. If you see the film trailer you can see it’s actually set in Japan, but they’ve used Norfolk-like scenery. Anna can also be a Japanese girl’s name too, but kept Marnie’s name the same so I wonder if they’ve set Anna to be half Japanese with English grandmother.

  2. As KB said, it’s actually set in Japan. They announced they would be changing the setting – to Hokkaido specifically – although I think there’s still a visual closeness to the original location. The windmill in the story has become a tower, but that tower looks very much like the windmill in Burnham Overy Staithe, the Norfolk town that was a stand-in for Little Overton (the fictional name of the town in the original story).

    • Thanks folks for your input – it’s great to get a bit more information about this film! I am nonetheless glad that so much influence is being drawn from Norfolk despite it being set in Hokkaido – very much looking forward to it.

  3. now I understand that the scenery isn’t meant to be Norfolk I can appreciate it better. Of course the Burnhams are nowhere near the Broads. I wonder what my aunt Joan Robinson – who wrote this and lots of other wonderful children’s books – would think of this venture – she’d probably be highly amused! It is very pretty.

    • Hi Gale,
      It is starting to make more sense the more information we get! We’ll be updating as interviews and UK release dates come through so do keep an eye out!
      That’s pretty amazing having Joan Robinson as your aunt – she was a fantastic writer. Many of her books are on a list for my kid sister 🙂

  4. Thank you for a fascinating blog – this is not just the first I’ve heard of the film, it’s also the first I’ve heard of the book – which, considering I grew up in Norfolk and love children’s stories, is a shame because it sounds wonderful (and with copies on Amazon selling for over £200 it’s unlikely I will ever read the original). Still, I really enjoyed Arrietty, so am now looking forward to seeing this new film.


    • It’s been re-released for Kindle in the UK – this only happened during the last six months (I still reviewed a second hand print copy because that was all I could find back in December). If you are outside the UK this doesn’t help.

      The second hand print copies on Amazon UK are cheaper than the ones on Amazon US though. These you can order from anywhere in the world (no licensing issues, unlike with electronic books). They might be snatched up soon though.

      I think chances are pretty good that it’ll get a US re-release (if only electronic) as well, with the renewed interest from this film.

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