Studio Ghibli (pronounced "djibb-lee")note was founded on June 15, 1985 by celebrated Japanese anime directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, along with producer Toshio Suzuki and publisher Yasuyoshi Tokuma, in the wake of Miyazaki's overwhelming success with Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Studio Ghibli is known for its incredibly rich and detailed animation, exacting attention to detail, Crowning Music of Awesome (mostly but not entirely by composer Joe Hisaishi), and imaginative plots (frequently involving flying scenes, a personal favourite of Miyazaki's).
Ghibli has been rated as the top brand in Japan, and is a household name even among non-otaku. New Ghibli films are consistently the top grossers for the year in Japanese cinemas, and some films such as Spirited Away and Ponyo have gained a mainstream following in North America (in part thanks to a distribution deal with Disney; more on that below). The studio tends to focus on films rather than television series, but it is frequently the "gateway drug" for new anime fans. Ghibli is also like Disney in that Ghibli maintains their animation staff as full-time employees instead of the typical Japanese practice of employing freelance artists paid on a piecework basis, and Miyazaki has stated that this was intended to improve his animators' standard of living as much as the quality and consistency of their work.
Because of this ethos, though, Ghibli became infamous for its exorbitantly high overhead costs – almost on par with American animation studios.note This, plus a few other factors, all led to the Studio's downfall during The New '10s… which will be explained more fully towards the bottom of this page.
Miyazaki has said that he chose the name of a World War II Italian fighter for his studio based on his love of aviation and Italy (vis. Porco Rosso). Unfortunately, the wrong characters were chosen to represent "Ghibli" in Japanese based on a mispronunciationnote , and Miyazaki didn't discover this until after he'd already named the studio. He has since proclaimed himself satisfied with the "jiblee" pronunciation even though it's technically wrong.
Several Maserati automobiles and at least one modern fighter plane have also been named "Ghibli", which means "hot wind off the desert". This is actually a Arabic word from Libya – the Italian equivalent is "Scirocco" – and it refers to a particular wind that sweeps across the Sahara.
To date, Studio Ghibli has produced the following movies:
- Castle in the Sky, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (1986)
- My Neighbor Totoro, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (1988)
- Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata (1988) note
- Kiki's Delivery Service, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (1989)note
- Only Yesterday, directed by Isao Takahata (1991) note
- Porco Rosso, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (1992)note
- Ocean Waves, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki (1993) – Ghibli's only Made-for-TV Movie
- Pom Poko, directed by Isao Takahata (1994)
- Whisper of the Heart, directed by Yoshifumi Kondo (1995) note
- Princess Mononoke, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (1997)
- My Neighbors the Yamadas, directed by Isao Takahata (1999) note
- Spirited Away, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2001)
- The Cat Returns, directed by Hiroyuki Morita (2002) note
- Howl's Moving Castle, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2004) note
- Tales from Earthsea, directed by Goro Miyazaki (2006) note
- Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2008) note
- Arrietty, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (2010) note
- From Up on Poppy Hill, directed by Goro Miyazaki (2011)note
- The Wind Rises directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2013) note
- The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, directed by Isao Takahata (2013) note
- When Marnie Was There, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (2014) note
- The Red Turtle, directed by Michael Dudok de Wit (2016) note
- How Do You Live?, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (released in 2020 or 2021)
You can now vote for your favourite Ghibli film HERE!
Like many other Asian studios, they have also worked on productions as a support studio through their C-unit (Miyazaki runs the A-unit and Takahata runs the B-unit; the C-unit is random):
Animated works on which Studio Ghibli has assisted in some way:
- Azumanga Daioh (Backgrounds)
- Beast Wars II (Finish Animation)
- Berserk: The Golden Age Arc (Backgrounds in II and III)
- Birdy the Mighty: Decode (In-Between Animation)
- Black Lagoon (Art Boards, episode 24)
- Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (Finish Animation)
- Le Chevalier d'Eon (In-Between Animation & Digital Paint)
- Corpse Princess (In-Between Animation)
- Both Cardcaptor Sakura movies (Special Effects)
- Crayon Shin-chan (In-Between Animation)
- Detective Conan: The Fourteenth Target (In-Between Animation)
- Devilman (Animation for the OVAs)
- Elemental Gelade (Background Art)
- Flame of Recca (Background Art)
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (In-Between Animation)
- Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (In-Between Animation)
- Gunsmith Cats (In-Between Animation and Photography for episodes one and two)
- IGPX Immortal Grand Prix (In-Between Animation)
- Kochikame (In-Between Animation, series and the first movie)
- Lupin III – While some of the people who would later build Ghibli were involved with some of the early entries (most notably Miyazaki and Takahata), the company itself provided Animation Cooperation for Farewell to Nostradamus.
- Martian Successor Nadesico (Finish Animation)
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (In-Between Animation)
- Neon Genesis Evangelion (Animation Assistance for episode eleven; Co-producers)
- Rebuild of Evangelion (In-Between Animation and Production Cooperation for You Can (Not) Redo)
- The New Batman Adventures (Key & In-Between Animation for "Growing Pains" through Atsuko Otani, Mariko Matsuo, Takeshi Inamura, Mariko Suzuki, Tamami Yamada, Masaya Saito, and Eiji Yamamori)
- Otaku no Video (In-Between Animation)
- Overman King Gainer (In-Between Animation)
- Raideen (In-Between Animation & Digital Paint, 2007 series)
- Robot Carnival (Production Cooperation)
- S Cryed (In-Between Animation)
- Sailor Moon (Finish Animation)
- Sands of Destruction (In-Between Animation)
- Superman: The Animated Series (Key & In-Between Animation for "World's Finest, part 2" through Atsuko Otani, Masako Shinohara, Eiji Yamamori, Takeshi Inamura, Shinsaku Sasaki, Ikuo Kuwana, Mariko Suzuki, Hana Kikuchi, Tamami Yamada, Akiko Teshima and Atsushi Tamura)
- Summer Wars (Key Animation through Hideaki Yoshio)
- Tekkonkinkreet (Background Art)
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (In-Between & Finish Animation)
- Transformers Headmasters (Finish Animation)
- Trigun (Key & In-Between Animation)
- Xam'd: Lost Memories (In-Between Animation; Photography)
- ×××HOLiC (In-Between Animation)
- You're Under Arrest! (Cel Painting for the first season, In-Between Animation for the second season)
- Zillion (Finish Animation)
Studio Ghibli also has a couple of games to its credit:
- Magic Pengel (Character Designs and Artwork)
They also allegedly helped with the artwork for Jeanne d'Arc.
The studio has its own museum that shows exclusive short films. The short that evolved into Ponyo was first shown here. It also distributes Western animated films in Japan such as the works of Michel Ocelot, Sylvan Chomet, and Aardman under the "Ghibli Museum Library" label.
Studio Ghibli is well-known among anime fans for maintaining a very strict anti-editing policy when they license their films for international distribution – although they have no problem with foreign companies translating credits or dubbing dialogue and insert songs (in fact they encourage it because they value accessibility), they do not allow even one single frame of animation to be altered or edited out. This is due to the Warriors of the Wind fiasco, when New World Pictures heavily censored Nausicaä behind Miyazaki's back (more information about that can be found on the film's page). It became an issue after Disney negotiated a deal with Tokuma Shoten in 1996 that allowed Disney to distribute all but one of Ghibli's feature films.note They handed localization of Princess Mononoke off to Miramax. Harvey Weinstein immediately tried to edit Mononoke to get the movie re-rated PG. In response, Suzuki (allegedly) sent him an authentic katana, attached to which was a note: "No cuts!". On the one hand, this policy has allowed North America (where companies are notorious for censoring foreign things) to see these movies as they were meant to be seen; on the other hand, Mononoke's PG-13 rating almost certainly led to its being a Box Office Bomb and to Disney's subsequent refusal to allow Only Yesterday any release at all. Still, Disney has for the most part done rather well by the rest of Ghibli's catalogue, which are often the top-selling anime in North America for any given year due to the studio's mainstream credibility.
Unfortunately, despite all the critical acclaim, by the late-2000s it was clear that all was not well at Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki's infamous workaholic and Control Freak tendencies meant that the studio had not adequately fostered new directorial talent capable of taking over once he and Takahata finally retired. Indeed, the studio did not do so until it was absolutely unavoidable. Miyazaki did actually choose his successor back in the 90's; unfortunately for him, it was Yoshifumi Kondo (director of Whisper of the Heart), who sadly and unexpectedly passed away in 1998 after suffering a brain hemorrhagenote . Hayao's son Goro's 2006 directorial debut Tales From Earthsea received mixed reviews and the studio did not consider it a success. Producer Toshio Suzuki's decision to tap the younger Miyazaki to direct Earthsea caused a rift between the two Miyazakis, as Hayao believed that Goro was not ready to direct a filmnote , a belief that the film's lackluster performance appeared to confirm. However, the elder Miyazaki's opinion of the finished film, "It was made honestly, so it was good", did much to repair their relationship, as Japanese culture considers sincerity more praiseworthy than success. Miyazaki seems to have finally found his successor in Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of Arrietty. In addition, Goro's second movie, From Up On Poppy Hill, won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year, which has likely secured him a place as another worthy successor to his father.
But even finding new directors was not enough to stop Ghibli's financial troubles. The worldwide economic collapse of the late-2000s meant Ghibli could no longer depend on Western sales to cover its meager domestic profits – which alone were barely enough to cover its aforementioned absurdly high operating costs. Toshio Suzuki ominously intoned in 2010 that Ghibli would shut down if Arrietty did not sell enough at the box office to secure financial backing for another film. As it turned out, Arrietty did do well enough (80% of Ponyo's sales) to ensure funding for Up On Poppy Hill, which became the highest-grossing Japanese film for 2011. However, the studio ended up taking a heavy loss on Princess Kaguya – unsurprising given Takahata's chronic inability to complete anything on time or within budget – and profits for Marnie and The Wind Rises were middling at best, putting the studio's future in question.
In early 2014, Miyazaki, Takahata, and Suzuki all announced their retirements – and Miyazaki, long infamous for flip-flopping on this subject, appeared to mean it at the time.note On August 3, Suzuki stated that Studio Ghibli would take a break from feature film animation while they undergo restructuring and figure out where/how to continue the company in the future. Since then, Yonebayashi left the studio and joined Studio Ponoc, founded by former Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, to direct and co-screenwrite Ponoc's first movie Mary and The Witch's Flower, and Goro has directed Ronja The Robbers Daughter as a TV co-production with Polygon Pictures.
New hope for the studio has been garnered when, in very late 2015, it was announced that Ghibli would be providing some of the animation for The Red Turtle, which was released September of 2016 in Japan. The film is notable for being a co-production between Ghibli and the European studio Wild Bunch. In late 2016, Miyazaki gave hints that he was un-retiring for one more feature film, which was confirmed early in 2017. On October 31, 2017, it was announced that Miyazaki's next film would be an adaptation of the 1937 Genzaburou Yoshino novel, How Do You Live?, which is planned for a 2020 or 2021 release.
In July 2017, GKIDS, which owns the North American theatrical distribution rights to the Ghibli films, acquired the other rights to the Ghibli films, with the exceptions of The Wind Rises and Grave of the Fireflies. GKIDS previously distributed From Up on Poppy Hill through Cinedigm, as well as The Tale of Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There, Ocean Waves, and Only Yesterday through Universal.
On April 5, 2018, Isao Takahata died at the age of 82 due to lung cancer.
Studio Ghibli and its works provide examples of:
- Celebrity Voice Actor:
- Beginning in 1997 with Princess Mononoke, every last one of their films has an All-Star Cast of veteran Japanese actors for their main characters, some of those including popular singers and stage actors. Even before then, Ghibli has used celebrities to voice supporting and main characters, such as Shigesato Itoi, who voices Satsuki and Mei's father in Totoro; and Issei Takahashi, who voices Seiji Amasawa in Whisper of the Heart.
- In their English dubs produced first by Disney and later Ghibli itself, they have a mix of professional voice actors as well as celebrities who don't normally do voice acting.
- Channel Hop:
- Castle in the Sky was distributed by Toei and Totoro was distributed by Toho. When Kiki's Delivery Service, Toei distributed the film once again. By 1991, all of Ghibli's films would be distributed by Toho, which has been a member of Ghibli's production committes since 2002. So, all of the Ghibli films in Japan have been distributed by Toho in their theatrical releases.
- The North American releases have a long history:
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was licensed first by New World Pictures and released it as the infamous Warriors of the Wind.
- My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and Kiki's Delivery Service were dubbed into English by Streamline Pictures for screenings on Japan Airlines. Of these, Totoro was released in North America on VHS by Troma and 20th Century Fox.
- For Grave of the Fireflies, it was licensed first by Central Park Media and later by ADV Films, who then restructered into Sentai Filmworks, who released a Blu-Ray with their own dub in addition to the original CPM dub. To this day, Sentai still retains the rights since the film isn't represented by Studio Ghibli.
- Disney negotiated with Tokuma in 1996 to acquire the rights all of their films and dub them with an All-Star Cast for future distribution of their works; their divisions Miramax and Touchstone distributed Princess Mononoke and The Wind Rises, respectively. In 2011, GKIDS took control of the theatrical rights to the Ghibli films and would later go on to license From Up on Poppy Hill, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There, Only Yesterday, and Ocean Waves; Poppy Hill was distributed by Cinedigm and the latter films were distributed through Universal. Six years later, GKIDS took control of the remaining rights to the films outright and distributed them through Shout! Factory, except for the aforementioned Grave of the Fireflies and The Wind Rises, as it is still licensed to Disney. Thus, GKIDS owns the theatrical, television and home video rights to every Ghibli film except for Grave of the Fireflies and The Wind Rises.
- Ghibli Hills: The Trope Namer; many of their films are filled with scenes set in lush, pristine wilderness.
- No Export for You: Until Disney negotiated a deal with Ghibli's former owner Tokuma Shoten in 1996, any attempt to watch a Ghibli film in North America aside from Totoro was impossible.
- Production Posse: A lot of Ghibli's staff members are long-time employees, including Toshio Suzuki, Hayao Miyazaki and his son Goro, Isao Takahata, Yoshifumi Kondo, Masashi Ando,Makiko Futaki, Kitaro Kosaka, Yoshiaki Nishimura, and Hiromasa Yonebayashi.
- Screwed by the Lawyers:
- The reason GKIDS has yet to license The Wind Rises. Even after the purchase of the Ghibli catalog, Disney's rights to that film has not yet expired.
- As for Grave of the Fireflies, the rights to the film are owned by Shinchosha and it's still licensed by Sentai Filmworks in North America. However, in 2018, GKIDS acquired the theatrical rights to the film, thereby acquiring these particular rights to all except one of Ghibli's films.
- Screwed by the Network: After GKIDS bought out the Ghibli film license from Disney, they confirmed that they would not release digital copies of their films. This is a result of Studio Ghibli's own Executive Meddling, since even Disney couldn't do it back when they had most of those licenses.
- Start My Own: Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki organized Studio Ghibli after Miyazaki and Takahata finished work on the film adaptation of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.