Studio Ghibli approached The Astrid Lindgren Company in 2009, with the hopes of turning the story of Ronja into a feature film. By the time the negotiations were finished, however, the Studio had been asked to create a television show for NHK, the public broadcaster in Japan. They felt that Ronja’s story was the perfect fit, and suggested the change to The Astrid Lindgren Company. This was a first for Studio Ghibli, having only created feature films in the past, and they realized that the tighter time frame of a television show would require new techniques for the animation. They teamed up with renowned 3DCG studio Polygon Pictures and production company DWANGO Co., Ltd, to bring this story to the small screen.
In October 2014, the series, called Sanzoku no Musume Rōnya in Japanese, started to air on NHK. It was directed by Goro Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli and produced by Nobuo Kawakami of DWANGO. Since then, it has been named “Best 2D Animated Programme” at the Asian Television Awards, and won the International Emmy Award in the category “Best Kids Animation”. The broadcasting rights are being sold all over the world, and the Swedish version started airing in Sweden in January 2016.
Throughout the production, the producers corresponded frequently with Astrid Lindgren’s family and The Astrid Lindgren Company. In combination with a very faithful reading of the book and immense research into medieval practices in Europe, this correspondence really served to make the story come alive while remaining faithful to the original work. Interestingly, the series still feels distinctly Japanese, and the supernatural beings of Mattis’ Forest are clearly visual heirs to other mystical creatures from Studio Ghibli’s previous productions. A Swedish reviewer puts it like this:
”It is quite clear that Miyazaki has a great sense of affection towards the books of Astrid Lindgren, and in this television series he shows that on every level. Sometimes it feels as though the two of them have been working side-by-side to create something exceptional together, that is how hard it is to separate the two. Miyazaki also manages to do this without forsaking the distinctive voices of both himself and Astrid Lindgren, which gives us a show that combines the visions of two unique creators into something wholly original that stands firmly on its own two feet.”
Miyazaki has said the following about the story: ”Ronja the Robber’s Daughter is a story not just about a girl who grows into adulthood, but it is also a story about the love and growth between a parent and a child, and a story about the bonds between friends. My goal is to create a work that everyone, from children to adults, will be able to enjoy.”