The Imaginary Trailer Teases a Stunning Animated Feature Coming to Netflix

Netflix explores the world of made-up friends with The Imaginary from anime legends Yoshiyuki Momose and Yoshiaki Nishimura.

THE IMAGINARY - Studio Ponoc's The Imaginary will premiere on Netflix later this year. Cr: Netflix © 2024 Ponoc
Photo: Netflix.

“You Imaginaries never learn,” sneers a character in the trailer of Netflix’s new animated movie The Imaginary. “There is one thing imagination can never defeat. And that is reality.”

Snotty as he might be, the speaker has a point. 2024 has already seen the release of two movies about imaginary friends, and both of them met with a mixed response. The Blumhouse horror film Imaginary, about a pretend play pal turned evil, turned a profit but disappointed viewers. The John Krasinski movie If starring Ryan Reynolds has also made back its budget, but audiences seem largely down on it.

Netflix hopes to turn the tide with their entry into the genre, the animated film The Imaginary. Judging by the first trailer, The Imaginary just might pull it off.

The Imaginary introduces the viewers to Amanda (Evie Kiszel), a precocious girl who spends her days playing with her make-believe mate Rudger (Louie Rudge-Buchanan). When Rudger notices another figment playing nearby, he learns that not only is he not the only Imaginary who exists, but that there’s a whole city of them.

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While the trailer teases lots of whimsical play, with bursting colors and laughing children, it also points to some heady themes that The Imaginary will explore. The Imaginaries love their lives, but they also understand that their time is limited. “Imagination is to us Imaginaries what oxygen is for humans,” explains a pretend person. “Kids grow up and lose interest in us and we are forgotten,” she explains.

Thus, while The Imaginary will deal with issues of play and innocence, it will also deal with death and maturity. That complex combination of themes shouldn’t surprise anyone who recognizes the name of the film’s director, Yoshiyuki Momose. A veteran of Studio Ghibli, Momose has worked on some of the greatest anime movies ever made, including Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. Video game fans might know Momose as a character designer and animation director from the NiNoKuni series.

Momose matches the themes with ground-breaking visuals, which combine CGI and hand-drawn animation for groundbreaking techniques to reproduce light and shadow. The rich colors and interesting character designs already puts The Imaginary above much children’s fare.

Joining Momose is screenwriter Yoshiaki Nishimura, who earned Academy Award nominations for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There. Nishimura adapts the novel by writer A.F. Harrold and illustrator Emily Gravett, bringing their visuals to life. Joining them is an impressive English voice cast, which includes Hayley Atwell, Jeremy Swift, and Kal Penn.

Will The Imaginary make good on the ideas that other imaginary friend films of 2024 only promised? It’s certainly off to a good start.

The Imaginary premieres on Netflix on July 5, 2024.

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