It seems that at this point Studio Ghibli’s future is uncertain without the legendary animation director, Hayao Miyazaki who is now 72 years old. Studio Ghibli has been very profitable with Hayao Miyazaki at the helm, producing such Japanese animated classic films as My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. The famed director is also the co-founder of the Japanese animation studio, which had been producing animation for 29 years.
Following the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli’s general manager Toshio Suzuki had been hinting that the studio might take a break and downsize. There were also rumors of the studio closing.
There seems to be some mistranslation of the words Mr. Suzuki spoke during a Japanese TV interview at Jounetsu Tairiku, a program of MBS. Kotoku.com made some clarification on what Ms. Suzuki said, which was first posted by a fan (in English) on a social media networking site, were some members of the media picked up the news, although the images with Mr. Suzuki’s comments were not translated.
Mr. Suzuki defined the temporary closure or cessation of operation as “spring cleaning” by using the words “ooshouji” and restructuring or “saikouchiku.” He said that the restructuring of the company had been considered for some time. Continuing with the interview, Mr. Suzuki also used the used “shoukyuushi” that translates to a breather, a pause or a break. He did not utter the word “kyuushi” that means suspend, pause or stop.
However, during the same interview, Mr. Suzuki also hinted that Hayao Miyazaki might come out of retirement and work on a short film for the studio’s museum.
The Studio Ghibli trademark
Compared to other animation studios that use CGI and computer-aided animation, Studio Ghibli uses hand-drawn animated films, still employing the laborious frame-by-frame method of creating animation. The studio is known for this artistic style, which had become their signature. All the characters are delicately rendered. The environments are well-crafted and the sensation of movement is effortless. The secret rests on the continued employment of the same animators for years, which assured the studio of consistent craftsmanship and artistry.
The 2001 animated film, “Spirited Away” had a record-breaking gross earnings of $274 million from worldwide sales, making it the highest-grossing film in the history of Japanese films. Its budget was $19 million. In 2002 it took home the Golden Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival. It also won the Academy for Best Animated Feature in 2003. Before his retirement, Miyazaki created “The Wind Rises,” which grossed more than $117 million.
The latest film from Studio Ghibli, “When Marnie was There” is expected to make just about $36 million. It was released in Japan on July 19 but there is no schedule yet for its international release. It was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Another animated film, released in 2013, “From Up on Poppy Hill” only made $61 million. This was directed by Goro Miyazaki, director Hayao Miyazaki’s son.
The studio did not say that it is losing money but with the lowered revenues, it does pose a concern. The future of Studio Ghibli though, is still uncertain. Maybe the short break will steer them in the right direction.