INTERVIEW: Actress Ruby Barnhill on Voicing “Mary and The Witch’s Flower” – Animation Scoop

INTERVIEW: Actress Ruby Barnhill on Voicing “Mary and The Witch’s Flower”

This Thursday January 18th, Fathom Events is screening both the foreign and English-language versions of the new anime film, Mary and The Witch’s Flower, in select theaters nationwide – the night before its regular theatrical release. “Mary” is one of the 26 films eligible for an Oscar nomination in this year’s Best Animated Feature category.

It’s also the latest film from Oscar-nominated director Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty, When Marnie Was There) and is based on the 1971 Children’s novel The Little Broomstick, by late author Mary Stewart. This film adaptation is a fantastical adventure filled with spirit.

Young Mary moves into the English countryside home of her Great Aunt Charlotte. Her parents are away on business but will join them in a week, in time for Mary to begin school. Until then, she’s bored. That is until one day when she discovers a rare flower in the woods. Its powers will take Mary on an incredible, magical journey.

If you’re not familiar or accustomed to foreign animated films, you may find the pacing a little leisurely, especially early on. But things pick-up once Mary is transported to a Witch and Warlock college in the clouds, that’s filled with colorful creatures and dazzling visual accoutrements.

I screened the English-dubbed version of “Mary”, which features Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent as the voices of the two head professors at the college. Both veteran actors put plenty of personality into their characters.

And young actress Ruby Barnhill (“The BFG”) voices the title character. Barnhill projects Mary’s enthusiasm from the first frame to the last. The character is endlessly curious and determined to follow through on every task. I asked Barnhill what it was like to be a part of this film:

Jackson Murphy: What were some of your favorite animated adventure movies growing up?

Ruby Barnhill: Honestly, the Studio Ghibli films were and still are a massive influence on me and my sister growing up. I love all of the incredible adventures the characters go on, as well as all the wonderful characters themselves and the style of animation is beautiful to look at. A few of my favorites are definitely “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, and “Howl’s Moving Castle”. I’ve been watching them since I was about 5 years old, and haven’t stopped loving them.

JM: What kinds of qualities do you and Mary share?

RB: I think one quality we share is that we are both very curious, and don’t like to be bored. At the start of the film Mary isn’t really having a great time because she is constantly bored and looking for things to do, and I’m the same. If I’m just at home being lazy all day (which I sometimes enjoy!) I’m always itchy and looking for things to do!

JM: What would Sophie, your character from “The BFG”, think of a witch and warlock school in the clouds?

RB: Well, I think Sophie, for a start, would definitely believe everything that was happening in Mary’s world. I mean, Sophie met a giant and travelled to Giant Country, so I think she would believe there was another magical world somewhere else! I think she would want to explore the school, and find out more about all the science behind magic and meet all the teachers.

JM: How fun was the voiceover recording process?

RB: The voiceover process is really fun! I loved seeing how my voice was Mary’s voice, like this whole other person, and it was really cool doing all of the fun reactions!

JM: What’s your favorite scene in the film?

RB: I would have to say my favorite scene is probably the one where Mary is being shown around the school because it was amazing seeing all of the magical rooms and places. When we recorded those scenes it was the first time I had scene them, and it was the first time Mary had seen them, and so it was great seeing her reactions.

JM: What do you hope audiences take away from seeing “Mary and The Witch’s Flower”?

RB: I hope audiences take away the fact that, we all have problems, big and small, and we all wish we could just get away sometimes. But it’s really important to appreciate the here and now, and everything and everyone we have.

Mary and The Witch’s Flower is a sweet experience – consistently intriguing, with a script that includes some effective social commentary on animal cruelty and the methods and applications of modern science. The Fathom Events screening will also include a Q&A with the filmmakers. It’s rated PG and is appropriate for children 10 and up. For theater locations and ticket info, visit

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy is a movie critic and entertainment columnist. He is the creator of the website, and has made numerous appearances on television and radio.
Jackson Murphy
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