A drawing of the main character, Belle, their virtual avatar
"BELLE" will be coming out in Japan on July 16. (Illustration by Lexey Gonzalez, Wichita State University)

In ‘BELLE,’ a Young Teen Uses Music and Virtual Reality To Deal With Loss

Studio Chizu’s upcoming film is about a high schooler who finds herself in an online space where she and her avatar become beloved and admired.

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A drawing of the main character, Belle, their virtual avatar

Studio Chizu’s upcoming film is about a high schooler who finds herself in an online space where she and her avatar become beloved and admired.

“BELLE” is about a 17-year-old high schooler named Suzu who lives in the countryside of the Kochi prefecture with her father. Suzu loved to sing, especially with her mother; however, after her mother’s death, she was unable to overcome the pain and heartache, and her ability to sing disappeared. She eventually grew more and more distant from her father and kept her heart shut from the rest of the world.

Suzu felt that writing music was the only purpose left in her life. One day, she discovers the massive online space known as “U” and creates her own alter ego through her avatar, Belle. Suzu quickly realizes that when she is inside the virtual world as Belle, she can sing naturally. As she continues to showcase her own music in “U,” she becomes a world-famous singing princess, gaining millions of followers and creating a new persona for herself.

Through singing as Belle, Suzu has the ability to release the pent-up emotions within herself. The song in the trailer represents an important moment for Belle’s character, showcasing her powerful yet vulnerable musical composition. Her desires are also carried through the lyrics, as she wishes to see what kind of world lies beyond the small melody she composed.

However, this new experience is short-lived when she comes across a mysterious mythical creature that resembles a bipedal dragon. Together, they embark on a journey full of adventures, challenges and love, pursuing their quest to become who they truly are.

Based off the trailer for “BELLE,” the audience can expect to explore romance, action and suspense, along with deeper themes such as life and death.

Studio Chizu films

Mamoru Hosoda is the director of Studio Chizu. The headquarters was established during the production of “Wolf Children” and thus the studio was given its name, “chizu,” which means “map” in Japanese. Director Hosoda’s main philosophy for his movies is that “they should serve the public like a park where many people gather,” and Studio Chizu is the place that fully embodies his thoughts and philosophies. A recurring concept in many of his movies has to do with the characters overcoming the struggles in their lives and striving for a better future.

The main characters in Hosoda’s films tend to possess a lot of spirit, energy and free will when it comes to choosing and cultivating their own futures. Studio Chizu’s logo is a silhouette of a young person leaping into the air, manifesting that cheerfulness and liveliness that Hosoda is trying to nurture. The logo also uses “minchotai,” a font favored by many newspapers and books in Japan.

Production

The production for “BELLE” features a number of international collaborations. Jin Kim is a Korean animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios. His works include character designs for movies such as “Tangled,” “Frozen,” “Moana” and “Big Hero 6.” Kim’s concept designs can already be seen in the trailer, particularly with Belle, who strongly resembles Elsa and many other Disney characters. Cartoon Saloon is an Irish animation studio that also has staff working on the film. They are known for works such as “Wolfwalkers,” and took part in creating the different worlds in “BELLE.” Lastly, the concept illustration of the massive digital community of “U” was created by Eric Wong, an up-and-coming British architect and designer. Director Hosoda personally commissioned Eric to come up with the universal “internet space” from both an architectural and design perspective.

Studio Chizu also hosted a global open casting call for singing extras. Those who passed the auditions will take part in a pivotal scene in the film where people from all over the world sing along with Belle. Despite holding a global audition online, there’s no doubt that people had issues with the language barrier since everything was in Japanese. Nonetheless, it is still an impressive move to try to include singers from many different countries.

Release Date + Updates

Without a doubt, the film looks breathtaking so far and the production team makes the film appear even more promising. “BELLE” will be released on July 16 in Japan. There has yet to be any confirmed dates on when the film will be released internationally. However, everyone can get updates about “BELLE” from Studio Chizu’s official global Twitter account, where information concerning the characters and the behind-the-scenes can be found, along with posts about the other films created by Studio Chizu.

 

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