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Are Studio Ghibli’s Days Numbered? Say It Ain’t So

Are Studio Ghibli's Days Numbered? Say It Ain't So

It seems impossible to think that one of the world’s most beloved animation studios might shut its doors and stop making films, but that’s what one Japanese news site says might happen to Hayao Miyazaki’s legendary Studio Ghibli.

According to News Cafe, Ghibli’s newest film, “When Marnie Was There,” might be its last.  As a supposed insider tells the website, whispers of the studio’s closing have circulated since last year, when powerhouse writer-director Miyazaki (of “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away” fame) announced he was retiring and Ghibli producer/co-founder Toshio Suzuki stepped down from producing and became the studio’s general manager instead.

“From here on,” the source says, “it appears as though this won’t be a studio that makes new works, but instead, manages its copyrights.”  In essence, that would mean that the studio would stop producing new films and simply generate revenue from its library of previous creations. In 2010, Miyazaki acknowledged that there was a potential future for the studio in such a form, telling Cut Magazine, “Ghibli should be able to continue with about five staff members as a copyright management company even if we smash the studio. So, Ghibli can say ‘We stop film production. Goodbye.’ I do not have to be there.”

According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Ghibli has declined to follow other animation studios in sending jobs overseas, and as such, their films have become increasingly expensive to make.  According to the paper, Miyazaki’s last film, 2013’s “The Wind Rises” has yet to turn a profit, even though it has made over $90 million.  Ghibli’s most recent film, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” made $50 million, and was considered a flop by the studio, according to Asahi and New Cafe‘s insider.  “There’s no choice but to dissolve the studio, because it’s unable cross the high hurdle of announcing a new film on an annual basis.” 

“When Marnie Was There,” a ghost tale adapted from the book by Joan Robinson, got its first trailer earlier this month, and it promises the lush, thoughtful artistry of all Ghibli films.  Let’s hope it’s not the studio’s last.  

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I think it's unfair to regard Yonebayashi as a failure as many seem to do right now. This is only his second movie on the director's chair. His first, Arrietty, was reviewed very positively, although people stated that there were also weak points among the strong points. Now really, do you think it's fair to demand a director has to be perfect in his first movie (or even his second, third etc)? Hayao Miyazaki was given time to grow, and chances to experiment, learn and maybe make mistakes, and he grew stronger through it. And now Yonebayashi should not get that chance?

BTW: Arrietty took in six times its budget. Marnie got a "weak" start – but even if that doesn't improve, it will likely still take in more than twice its budget. And it has quite positive reviews as well.

As for Hosoda as a successor to Miyazaki: I think it's wrong to state it like that. Yes, Hosoda makes great movies. But I think a world where there is a Hosoda, a Shinkai and a Yonebayashi (to name just three) make fine movies is better than one where Hosoda has no competition.


I got into anime chiefly thanks to Studio Ghibli masterpieces. But none of their films in the last 17 years have come anywhere near to capturing the magic of their first 12 years. Ghibli films after MONONOKE have been interesting but not particularly fresh, innovative or exciting. And the above trailer doesn't give me any hope. The studio had a good run, but they haven't cultivated any young and innovative animators. Their one best hope was Yoshifumi Kondo, who directed what I believe to be Ghibli's finest film, WHISPER OF THE HEART (1995), but he died in 1997, cutting short a career of great promise. Sadly, there's been no one else to fill Miyazaki's or Takahata's shoes. Mamoru Hosoda (SUMMER WARS, WOLF CHILDREN) is the closest thing to a successor to Miyazaki in Japan right now. But he won't work for Ghibli. In any event, most anime features in Japan these days are spin-offs of animated TV series (Naruto, Pokemon, Doraemon, etc.) or remakes of older anime series. Gone are the days when groundbreaking animated features burst forth regularly from a culture of frenzied and creative animators who lived, breathed, slept and dreamt anime.

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