"Modest Heroes" studio Ponoc was founded by producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, formerly of Ghibli, just as that legendary anime studio decided to cool its jets back in 2014. Ponoc's debut feature, last year's "Mary and the Witch's Flower," established it as a kind of Ghibli 2, a place where Ghibli alums could continue to create family-friendly fantasy films.

A Totoro-size wrench was thrown into the works late last year, though, when it was announced Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki would be un-retiring for one last feature film. For now, Ghibli 1 is back in business — and ostensibly using some of the talent Ponoc assumed it would have at its disposal.

That may be one factor in why, for its second major release, Ponoc has decided to go with a more modest effort: a series of three shorts that together make up this 54-minute film.