What could a superhero movie about an African king and his technologically advanced country and an animated film about a girl who discovers a secret school of witches have in common?
The character of Black Panther first appeared in a 1966 Fantastic Four comic book, while “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” is based on the 1971 children’s book by Mary Stewart, who also wrote such novels as “The Moon-Spinners.” The two films, which are both in theaters now, have some surprising similarities (besides featuring two very smart young and resourceful girls in Shuri and Mary.)
Both feature black cats
After consuming a magical herb, Black Panther (T’Challa) awakens in a dreamlike world where he sees the wild cats that he and his predecessors are named for.
In “Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Mary’s adventures start when she is led into the forest by a strange black cat named Tib, who ends up becoming her familiar.
Characters receive magical powers from a mysterious glowing blue plant.
In “Black Panther,” a plant known as the heart-shaped herb grows only in Wakanda. According to the Marvel Wiki, it was believed to be a gift from the Panther God Bast. The herb’s powers are actually a result of the giant meteorite of Vibranium that transformed all of Wakanda. Drunk as a liquid, it bestows enhanced super-solider-like speed, agility, strength, endurance, healing and heightened senses. It also gives the taker (who must be of noble blood) visions in which they can commune with their dead loved ones.
In “Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” Mary follows Tib the cat deep into the forest. There she discovers a strange blue flower that — when she touches it — grants her temporary magical powers. Discovering she can now fly a broomstick, she is taken to a school for witches, where Mary appears to be the most gifted magical student the school has ever had. She also learns that the “fly-by-night” is a rare plant that the headmistress of the school has been desperately seeking.
SPOILERS FOR THE FINALE OF BOTH FILMS
Both feature the same large African mammal in the finale
Mary learns that one of the magic school’s teachers, Doctor Dee, has been experimenting on animals and turning them into bizarre hybrids. With the powers granted her by the Witch’s Flower, she’s able to reverse the doctor’s cruel spells and restore the animals to their original state. When she’s attempting to rescue her friend Peter from the same fate, the now-free animals race to their rescue.
Some of the unusual combatants in the final battle of “Black Panther” are the rhinos raised and trained by W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), who is the head of security for Wakanda’s Border Tribe. They come roaring in — armored no less — as the various factions of Wakanda face off. Per Screenrant, Black Panther wrestled a rhino in “Jungle Action” comics as part of his fight against Erik Killmonger.
In the film, there’s a comical moment when one of the charging rhinos spots an ally and instead of trampling her, gives her a friendly “hello.”
There were no actual rhinos used in the film. Per American Humane, which monitored filming: “In a couple of the scenes where we see actors ride rhinos, they were actually riding horses, and the horses were turned into rhinos in post-production through CGI.”
You can read my reviews of both movies at Forces of Geek:
Mary and the Witch’s Flower