Animation Fails! Studio Ghibli’s Earwig and the Witch.

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Animation Fails! Studio Ghibli’s Earwig and the Witch. Link to
Animation Fails! Studio Ghibli’s Earwig and the Witch.

As we all know, I'm a big fan of Studio Ghibli. And I'm not the only one with fans across the globe. Usually, they give us brilliant movies in the realm of 2D animation. However, with the 2021 release of Earwig and the Witch, the studio dabbled in their first 3D animation.

Which compared to their 2D stuff, failed. So a year after release, what exactly made this particular animation make the studio have a fall from grace?

Continue reading as I deep dive into what ruined the animation for this movie, from an average person's perspective, not animators.


Typically a Ghibli movie is fluid; there's a lot of movement. Even in the more static stories, it feels alive and doesn't feel like something's stalling. In this movie, this isn't the case. For example, you see Earwig run, but the legs feel stiff, and it doesn't feel like she's moving very fast.

The characters don't feel like they interact in the scene very much. They don't touch stuff as much, and it doesn't feel like there living and belong in that environment. And that stiffness in movement ruins how we see the characters and ruins their development and what we are shown. It feels off-putting and doesn't look right.

It's not just in everyday movement and interacting with objects but also when people are talking.

The lip-syncing whilst it starts and stops at the same time as characters talk and stop talking. Still, the mouth movements are so slow that the action (at least to me) doesn't match up to the speed of speech. It adds to the stiffness, and considering the address can sometimes get excitable and angry. The mouth movements let it down, and when the animation tries out, unique expressions don't hit as well as they should!

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Reacting to environment

Now I have mentioned reacting to the environment a little bit earlier in character dynamics and movement. But it doesn't just fall on characters and how they interact with the environment. It also works the other way round.

For example, let's look at the hair.

In the movie's first scene, a woman with big red hair is driving through a road and interacting with the wind because that's how the world works. Now is there a little movement; however, it should be blistering with the speed and direction of the wind. The hair should go in her face or split. And considering it is heavy and curly, it could blow out and go frizzy behind her, and I'm not sure how they could've ruined it because 3D animation has got to a point where you can easily make hair no matter how heavy and curly it is a blister in the wind.

This isn't the only example. The next one is water. In this movie, Earwigs hair is tied up in two very tight pigtails on top of her head. However, when water is poured on the hair, there's just an increase in highlights, which isn't inherently wrong. That makes sense. However, it doesn't show us as intensely as it should when it's the only thing that affects the hair. It doesn't give us the reaction to the environment we need like the hair should get limp, not have a couple of strands get curly as it should flop to the shoulders because of the weight of the hair. Especially as the hair ties get weak, it makes the environment feels false, as if they don't fit and lets the animation down!

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Now, if you read my content, often you know in my 'What makes Studio Ghibli the gold stand of animation.' Post.

Then you know how much I praise the art style for having such detailed backgrounds. Yet in Earwig and the witch, those glorious backgrounds are terrible!

The first problem is that the sky's look in most daylight scenes doesn't match the art style of the 3D animation because of the lack of detail in the clouds, such as shadows.

The lack of detail in lighting and shadow makes the background (specifically the clouds) look flat and out of place with the rest of the animation.

Even the most mundane scene in a Ghibli animation is brought to life with good use of shadow and light.


Talking about backgrounds has moved us on to an essential part of animation, and that is lighting. Lighting is critical in animation and has several uses.

  • Sets the tone/atmosphere of a film
  • It shows how a character is feeling
  • It enables us to see the detail in the character

However, the light source is too oversaturated in Earwig and the witch and barely changes from a daytime lighting scenario. Which thoroughly washes out the character and background.

In doing this, a couple of things happen. The first is that we can't see the features of characters adding to the stiffness of animation. Secondly, the minimal amount of experimentation doesn't set the tone for the film. Or show the fantastical nature or danger of settings, ruins the immersion, and doesn't show us anything about the atmosphere, style, and character.

Ultimately Erwig and the Witch is how not to animate in 3D if you don't want a soulless stiff work. Maybe Ghibli should've used it on a short movie instead of a full-blown feature!

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