UPDATED: Studio Ghibli Stops Making Films...Temporarily

UPDATE: Since news first broke earlier today, more accurate translations of Suzuki Toshio's comments have now surfaced. The veteran Studio Ghibli producer talked about "big changes in all aspects of our operations" which could include a "short break" by the production department. These types of reshuffles and creative hiatuses are apparently not uncommon in Japanese animation companies, but the retirement of Mayazaki Hayao and the relatively lacklutre performance of its last two films means some kind of rethink is definitely in order. Credit to Mark Schilling at Variety for the update.


Sad, sad news today.

While rumors about this have been circulating for months already, this weekend General Manager Suzuki Toshio confirmed on Japanese television that Studio Ghibli will, for the time being, stop its production of animated feature films.

According to French animation site Catsuka, this doesn't mean the end of the studio itself: its short film department for music videos, advertisements and such, will continue. A skeleton crew will be kept for Miyazaki Hayao-related projects, although this doesn't mean the man himself will reverse his retirement, or that a new feature is forthcoming.

People were wondering what the famous studio would do, now that both its founding fathers are currently out of the business. Miyazaki Hayao retired last year after finishing The Wind Rises, and Takahata Isao has no plans for a new film.

Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 after the success of Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, with Laputa: Castle in the Sky being its first film. Since then, the studio has produced a fantastic string of animation masterpieces, and even became a financial powerhouse in the industry with blockbuster successes like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

But the studio has had no luck in fostering new talent to replace Miyazaki and Takahata. Promising newcomers who were 'groomed' as follow-ups died, or left the company. And with animation being a costly affair, without the financial security attached to its two most famous directors, Studio Ghibli could not continue in its current form.

Its last film, When Marnie Was There, premiered two weeks ago in Japan with a decent but disappointing box office, just like its previous release The Tale of Princess Kaguya. With the studio effectively in hibernation, hopefully we will see it wake up again sometime in the future.

If we don't, it marks the end of an era...
Around the Internet:
  • Laubi

    Sad news indeed. However, it has to a subtle extent, been coming due to the lesser success of recent titles.
    Hopefully, this short break will give them time to regroup and maybe even just focus more time and energy on one massive film rather than working on one whilst creating the next.

  • Zwanster

    Just let Hideaki Anno take over Ghibli... anyone?

  • Ard Vijn

    Can I suggest Mamoru Hosoda instead?

  • ColinJ

    You bastard. You just HAD to use an image of GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES and now I'm bummed out for the rest of the day just remembering that movie.

    *sob*

  • Ard Vijn

    Sorry, couldn't help myself.
    If it makes you feel better, I'm sobbing too.

  • Kurt

    I'm quite CRUSHED by this. I actively chose to raise my children on the cinema of Studio Ghibli, the classics from the eighties and nineties, and the new ones. I suppose, I took it for granted enough that the 'Japanese Disney' would be a permanent fixture, always making new stuff so that my grown up children would be able to raise their own kids on both the classic and the news stuff well into the 21st century.

    Deeply saddened by this.

  • MistaTMason

    As tough as it is to swallow, at least they're not sticking around and turning it into a cash cow with subpar films, existing only to pull in receipts from toys and mediocre sequels based on brand recognition. That's what Pixar (and to some extent, Disney in general) has done lately, and it's downright manipulative considering the young audience and threatens to harm the goodwill of their brand. See the Planes films.

    You know everything to come out of Ghibli was genuine art that Miyazaki and co. poured their hearts into perfecting. One of my favorite Miyazaki stories is how he oversaw every one of the 144,000 frames of Princess Mononoke, personally redrawing roughly 80,000 of them! When he finally sent the film to the Weinsteins for American distribution, he also mailed them a katana sword with a note attached that simply read, "No cuts." Not even Harvey Scissorhands got to re-edit it.

  • jacklaughing

    Planes wasn't made by Pixar. That's a Disney animation knock-off. It was co-written by John Lassiter, so he gets most of the blame, but he's also running Disney Animation Studios now, not just Pixar. I'm not a fan of the sequels they've been doing but I see the business choices behind it. Animation is extremely expensive, extremely resource-intensive, and extremely risky. Ghibli is going dormant because they simply couldn't continue to create new films that the public was interested in, because almost all of their identity is tied to one man. It's a tragedy, and I respect their decision, but my guess is that they'd still be going strong if the public were actively interesting in their output post Miyazaki. And that doesn't appear to be the case, sadly.

    Long way around, but I'd rather a studio like Pixar continue making original fare and when need be, do some sequels. They can't craft an amazing new film every year obviously, so I'll give them their due. They aren't going out of their way to create trilogies and adaptations of popular tween books, nor are they simply pumping sequels and ignoring original fare. I think it's fair to give them a break and see what they do in the next five years. They have a slew of original films coming out, and I'm willing to judge them on that.

  • MistaTMason

    Both Pixar and Disney Toones exist under the Disney umbrella, though Pixar does keep its own identity, and Disney has been recycling their brand products more and more lately, with projects like Maleficent. Other animation companies, namely DreamWorks Animation, have really been riding the name recognition train into the ground. The pinnacle of studios looking at short term profits over artistic quality is the expansion of post-conversion 3-D to practically everything that comes out, even if it makes the movie look substantially worse. It muddies up look of all of the animation work for the parents who are big enough suckers to drag their kids into the more expensive 3-D movie.

    Ghibli was much more dedicated to unique artistic vision. I'm not saying the choices by Disney and Pixar aren't better business decisions, because they do create more broadly appealing and less interesting art, which typically means more income from 3-D tickets and other merchandise (I hear Cars and Planes toys sales are a driving force of those franchises). Disney and Pixar execs and creatives have jobs and need to make money, but their model isn't producing work with anything near the absolutely unique beauty or challenging or frightening subject matter in movies for kids and adults like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away.

  • Zero Lastimosa

    While I haven't really been a fan of their recent films, as a former traditional animator this is pretty sad news to hear :/

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