A short Introduction to Studio Ghibli

 

Delivering packages together with Kiki, getting lost with Chihiro and growing plants together with Totoro – the creations of Studio Ghibli have made countless childhoods special.

Let’s take a moment to walk through the history of Studio Ghibli and get a quick overview over the success story of this production studio. No other Japanese studio has been able to draw millions of viewers into the cinema. Not only that, but since its establishment Studio Ghibli has also boosted the popularity of Japanese movies in general as well as introduced Japanese culture overseas.

Let me give you a small peek inside the walls of this infamous production studio and explain the reasons behind its grand success.

History

Studio Ghibli was established in 1985 by director duo Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, together with the help of producer Toshio Suzuki. The main cause for that was the great success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), written and directed by Miyazaki. Since then he has been the creative mastermind behind Ghibli and also the representative face of the company. Takahata remains the second main director of Ghibli and gained first great recognition with the outstanding Grave of the Fireflies (1988).

Studio Ghibli has cooperated with a number of gifted producers, animators and directors. Especially worth mentioning is Joe Hisaishi who is responsible for numerous of Ghibli’s memorable soundtracks, mostly movies directed by Miyazaki. Since August 1996 Disney is one of the main distributor of Ghibli movies abroad. Over the years, the company has worked on several different projects, reaching from animated feature films to short movies, commercials and television films. Its biggest success was Spirited Away (2001) which established Studio Ghibli as an internationally recognized production studio.

However, Ghibli’s Golden Era of success seems to have found its end. The news of founder Miyazaki resigning from his work gave raise to the question whether the doors of the dream factory might need to be closed forever.

Miyazaki leaving Ghibli

When talking about Studio Ghibli there is one man who needs to be named – Hayao Miyazaki.

“Father of Studio Ghibli” or “Japan’s Walt Disney” are just some of the ways people refer to him. Even though rumors of him quitting already started after the great success of Princess Mononoke Hayao Miyazaki officially resigned in September 2013. In a press conference he explained his decision with the following words:

 

“When you reach my age there are many moments when you just can’t stand [it] any more. When that happens I put my pencil down and I just go home … I’ve reached my limit and can’t go further”

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Around one year later, in summer 2014, Studio Ghibli announced that they would take a “brief break” in the production of new movies due to restructuring of its management. As of now, the future of Studio Ghibli is hard to predict. Some people interpret this break as the first sign of the nearing end of Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki resigning from his work certainly came as a big shock even though he expressed this wish years ago.

Whether Studio Ghibli has really found its end is impossible to say at this point. What the company needs most at this point is time to overthink its current position in order continue its successful past. We can just wait for the next moves of Studio Ghibli and hope that it will continue making movies that entertain generations to come.

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Trivia

So far we’ve covered mostly known facts about Studio Ghibli. Now, allow me to share same trivia with you that you can use to impress your friends.

  • Spirited Away (2001) is the most successful movie in Japanese history and even overtook Titanic in box offices.
  • Christian Bale voices main character Howl in the English dubbed version of Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). Allegedly he was ready to take on any role in Miyazaki’s next creation after watching Spirited Away.
  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) wasn’t immediately successful after its premiere. Only when local stores introduced stuffed toys of Totoro did the movie gain a bigger fanbase.
  • With Spirited Away (2001) Studio Ghibli managed to earn approx. $200 million even before coming to the US – a new record.
  • With its runtime of 2h and 14min Princess Mononoke (1997) is the second longest animated movie in history, right after Uchuu senkan Yamato: Kanketsuhen (1983) with 2h and 45min.
  • When Disney cut the original ending of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) for its American release Studio Ghibli sent a traditional Japanese Samurai sword to its offices with a message that read “No cuts” attached to it.

This concludes this quick trip back into our childhoods. Now that you have a good overview over the company’s history let me come back to my initial question – what makes Studio Ghibli movies so successful?

Studio Ghibli’s main strength is the ability to turn every movie into an unique viewing experience. What the viewers get to see are not only a nice storyline with interesting characters and good music in the background. No, Studio Ghibli has a love for details when it comes to fitting different elements like a captivating story, lovable characters and dramatic music together into one piece of art. That’s what makes their movies stand out from the crowd.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know what your all-time favorite Ghibli movie is and most importantly, how do you judge the future of Studio Ghibli? Leave your opinion in the comment section down below.

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