Studio Ghibli movies will be available on streaming platforms for the first time in 2020, a major change of pace for the revered Japanese animation studio that has long banned its films from being available to stream. Why the sudden change of pace? Studio Ghibli producer and former president Toshio Suzuki addressed that question during an event this month to promote the release of “The Story of Ghibli Museum” photography book (via Crunchyroll). Suzuki said Ghibli lifted its “digital distribution ban” in order to “make money for film production.” Suzuki added, “Hayao Miyazaki is currently making a movie, but that takes a lot of time. And, of course, money.”
Miyazaki’s new film is his first animated feature project since the release of “The Wind Rises” in 2013. The director said he would be retiring from feature filmmaking following that release, but he has since gone on to direct an animated short film for the Studio Ghibli museum in Japan and a new feature project. The film is titled “How Do You Live?” and is based on the 1937 book written by Genzaburo Yoshino. Miyazaki has been in development on the film for several years and it was reported in December that only 15% of the project had been completed.
According to Suzuki, Miyazaki approved Ghibli films moving to streaming platforms in part because he has no idea what streaming services are. The producer says he was able to use Miyazaki’s lack of awareness on the streaming services to convince the Ghibli co-founder that it was the right move to sell off streaming rights to Ghibli’s back catalogue. As Suzuki puts it, “Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t know what streaming services are. He doesn’t use computers or smartphones.”
Studio Ghibli movies began streaming exclusively outside of North America on Netflix over the last month. HBO MAX has secured streaming rights to Ghibli’s catalogue in North America and those films will be available to stream when the service goes live in May 2020. Suzuki implied the industry’s overall push to streaming meant Ghibli could no longer avoid the transition, and he added that future Ghibli projects could go directly to streaming giants.
“I am interested in the new movies that are being made on Netflix,” the producer said. “It’s more likely that new films will be created for Netflix’s service. As a film creator, even though I think that cinemas and DVD’s are important for a film release, I also think that digital distribution is important.”
Studio Ghibli has not yet announced any release plans for “How Do You Live?”