Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Studio Ghibli

Go To
The kingdom of dreams and madness.

"I do believe in the power of story. I believe that stories have an important role to play in the formation of human beings, that they can stimulate, amaze, and inspire their listeners."

Studio Ghibli Inc. (スタジオ・ジブリ; 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, Awesome Music (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, the Miyazaki films are well known and revered in France (they were by and large unaffected by a local backlash to The Japanese Invasion in The '90s) 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. Their movies also tend to be much longer than the typical animated film as well: while most in the industry don't even crack 90 minutes due to the expense involved with making them, Ghibli's can go well over the 100-minute mark, and their films are among the longest in the history of animation, with six of them having a runtime of over two hours.

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.

In 2019, GKIDS began the process of opening the films up to digital platforms in the US. They released almost every Studio Ghibli work onto all digital purchasing services, with the exception of Grave of the Fireflies, which already had a (admittedly limited) digital release, in December. That year Ghibli's international distributor Wild Bunch signed a streaming deal with Netflix and began streaming the library internationally on February 2020 (with Canada getting them from June of that year). That same year, Max (then HBO Max) acquired the streaming rights to its library in the US and the catalogue (sans Grave of the Fireflies as well) became available on the platform at launch in May.

Has a wiki here.

Trope namer for Ghibli Hills. Has absolutely nothing to do with the jibblies.

To date, Studio Ghibli has produced the following works:

Feature films

Short films

TV series

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 ran the B-unit until his death; the C-unit is random):

Animated works on which Studio Ghibli has assisted in some way:

Studio Ghibli also has a couple of games to its credit:

They also allegedly helped with the artwork for Jeanne d'Arc.

Despite being known as an animation studio, in the early 2000s, Studio Ghibli briefly dabbled in live-action films as well, which were released under the (now defunct) live action subsidiary, Studio Kajino.

Live action films by Studio Kajino:

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 Animations 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 Tokuma Shoten sold Nausicaä overseas behind Miyazaki's back, where the buyer, Manson International, heavily cut the film (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 Films. 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 had 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. The contract between the companies expired in 2017 and was not renewed.note 

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 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 founded Studio Ponoc with former Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, and directed the studio's first movie Mary and The Witch's Flower, and Goro has directed an adaptation of Ronja the Robber's 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 inspired by the 1937 Genzaburou Yoshino novel, How Do You Live?, which was released in 2023, and a month later in the same year, it was announced that Goro Miyazaki will be directing a fully CGI film, the first from the studio, which in June 2020 was revealed to be an adaptation of Earwig and the Witch and it was released in December on Japanese TV network, NHK (making it the studio's first Made-for-TV Movie since Ocean Waves back in 1993).

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. Shout! Factory distributes the home media releases on GKIDS' behalf. 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.

After five years of development, a park themed around the films, titled Ghibli Park, opened on November 1st, 2022.

On November 10, 2022, Ghibli announced a collaboration with Lucasfilm on their Twitter account, making it the first collaboration between them and Disney since the latter's distribution of The Wind Rises back in 2013. The collaboration, the hand-drawn short Zen - Grogu and Dust Bunnies, would debut two days later on Disney+.

On September 21, 2023, it was announced that Nippon Television (a longtime partner of Ghibli since the '80s) would acquire Studio Ghibli, ending their 18-year run as an independent animation studio. According to Toshio Suzuki, the deal was primarily motivated by his and Miyazaki’s ages and their desire to find someone who can lead Ghibli when they’re gone. As of the acquisition, Ghibli will be headed by senior operating officer and board director Hiroyuki Fukuda, while Suzuki and Miyazaki will assume the roles of chairman and honorary chairman, respectively. Nippon TV will primarily be handling the management side of things, allowing Ghibli to focus solely on their creative endeavors.

Studio Ghibli and its works provide examples of:

  • Abandoned Mascot: Based on their consecutive appearances in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky, the fox squirrels seemed as though they were going to be built up as the company's mascot. However, Totoro became the official mascot immediately after, making the fox squirrels redundant; since then, they have only appeared as an Easter Egg in one film.
  • Breaking Old Trends: The Red Turtle is the first, and so far only, film of theirs not to be animated in Japan by them or their usual production partners. With European animators and studios like Dreamwall and A. Film assisting them.
  • 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.
  • Denial of Digital Distribution: This was the longest practice from Studio Ghibli, which refused to put out their movies on streaming services. Though that changed in 2020 with HBO Max and Netflix gaining rights to distribute them.
  • Epic Movie: Studio Ghibli's films are often much grander in scope and longer in length than most animated films, even in Japan. Even their more mundane slice-of-life films and kid-oriented films are much longer than most animated films.
  • "Everybody Helps Out" Denouement: Very often you will see characters that started out as enemies put their differences aside in order to work together to help the protagonist resolve the situation, or at the very least they lend moral support.
    • From Up on Poppy Hill - the male and female students put their differences aside and band together to fix up and save the club house / the people of Yokohama band together to help Umi and Shun make it to the harbor in time to speak with a ship's officer who has important information about their shared past.
    • Ponyo - After the flood, the towns people form a boat convoy / Sōsuke's parents, the goddess of the sea, the wizard and the residents of the retirement home get together to bring the movie to a resolution.
    • Porco Rosso - the sea plane pirates who were supposed to be hunting down the protagonists decide to band together to help them escape the Italian police.
    • Spirited Away - Although they are initially content to sit back and watch her suffer, the denizens of the bath house band together to help Sen with the stink monster. Later, a group of characters who were all originally hostile to Sen work together to make her a protective charm.
  • Food Porn: Many films are stuff full of mouth watering food.
  • Ghibli Hills: The Trope Namer; many of their films are filled with scenes set in lush, pristine wilderness.
  • Invisible Advertising: Done intentionally with How Do You Live?, deliberately eschewing trailers, promotional stills, or any other conventional forms of advertising. The only indications that the film both existed and was coming out came from press announcements and a theatrical poster, neither of which gave any indication about the film's contents. According to producer Toshio Suzuki, the lack of advertising was done as a direct contrast with Ghibli's prior promotional campaigns, stating that "Doing the same thing you’ve done before, over and over, you get tired of it. So we wanted to do something different." Suzuki also mentioned that Hayao Miyazaki was worried about the lack of promotion, but nonetheless trusted the decision and felt that it was ultimately the best course of action.
  • No Antagonist: This is mainly for films they make which are intended for children, such as Ponyo and My Neighbor Totoro, where the tension comes from the plot. The reason why is to avoid teaching children that the world is Black and White.
  • 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.
  • Painted CGI: In most of their films, 3D assets are given hand-painted textures to blend in with the 2D hand-painted backgrounds. Said textures are painted on paper like standard backgrounds, and then mapped to the 3D models. Even more impressive as they have been doing this since 1997's Princess Mononoke.
  • 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.
    • In terms of animation contractors, Studio Takuranke and Nakamura Productions are the most reoccurring in their projects.
    • Takeshi Seyama has edited most of Ghibli's films, including those directed by Hayao and Goro Miyazaki, since its founding.
  • Retraux: When Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea was released on Blu-ray, Studio Ghibli added Post-Processing Video Effects to simulate film grain, gate weave, and a slight softness to replicate the look of analogue 35mm film and vintage cel animation while working with digital ink and paint. Their previous all-digital films (starting with My Neighbors the Yamadas) had this filter retroactively applied for the Blu-ray remasters to simulate how the films looked when they were originally released in cinemas via. 35mm prints. All future films from Studio Ghibli (and successor Studio Ponoc) would later have this filter on home video releases and digital theatrical printsnote , even in the All-CGI Cartoon Earwig and the Witch.
  • Screwed by the Lawyers:
    • For several years, this was the reason GKIDS had yet to re-release The Wind Rises. While GKIDS initially purchased the theatrical and digital video rights to the film, Disney still owned the home media rights to it until 2020, when GKIDS bought the home media rights to that film as well.
    • 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 was a result of Studio Ghibli's own Executive Meddling at the time, since even Disney couldn't do it back when they had most of those licenses. That was, however, until December 2019 when GKIDS announced that they acquired the digital video rights to all of the Ghibli films except for Grave of the Fireflies.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The majority of Studio Ghibli's films tend to be on the idealistic side, with My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away being prominent examples; the only other film that leaned more towards the cynical side is Grave of the Fireflies. Meanwhile, Isao Takahata's films post-Grave of the Fireflies lie somewhere in the middle, taking on a decidedly more bittersweet tone.
  • 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.
  • Studio Hop:
    • Castle in the Sky was distributed by Toei Company and Totoro was distributed by Toho. When Kiki's Delivery Service was released, Toei distributed the film once again. By 1991, most of Ghibli's films would be distributed by Tohonote , which has been a member of Ghibli's production commitees since 2002. So, all of the Ghibli films in Japan have been distributed by Toho in their theatrical releases. Toho also re-released Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in Japanese cinemas in 2020, after being distributed by Toei in 1984. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Grave of the Fireflies were also codistributed by Daiei.
    • The North American releases have a long history:
      • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was licensed first by Manson International and released 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 and for theatrical releases in the Hong Kong market. Of these, Totoro was released in North America on VHS by Troma and Fox Searchlight Pictures.
      • 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.
      • Similarly, The Red Turtle is licensed by Sony Pictures Classics instead of Disney or GKIDS.
      • 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 when their contract expired in late 2013, 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 was still licensed to Disney at the time. Then, in December 2019, GKIDS bought the digital video rights to the films, including The Wind Rises. Thus, GKIDS owns the theatrical, television, home video and digital video rights to every Ghibli film except for Grave of the Fireflies and The Red Turtle.
  • What Could Have Been: Ghibli had several films that never saw the light of day.
    • Isao Takahata originally wanted to make an adaptation of the novel, Border 1939, which would've acted as a spiritual sequel to Grave of the Fireflies that would've touched on similar themes to that film. Takahata would make a full outline of the the film, before it was cancelled due to concerns about the film being partially set in China being too risky (the film would've had numerous settings besides Japan such as China, Korea and Mongolia) due to the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, which was recent at the time and negative public sentiment against China being at an all time high.
    • In the late nineties, Hayao Miyazaki originally planned to make a film titled Rin the Chimney Sweeper. Little about the film is known outside of the fact that some of the ideas intended for the film would be later reused for Spirited Away, most notably its ending song, "Always With You".
    • Hayao Miyazaki originally wanted to do a sequel to Ponyo, until Toshio Sezuki persuaded him to work on The Wind Rises instead. Miyazaki had also thought about doing a sequel to Porco Rosso as well, titled Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie, but it never went past the concept stage.
    • In what could've been a serious case of Playing Against Type, Hayao Miyazaki and Ghibli had expressed interest in doing an adaptation of horror manga Parasyte. This never went through due to New Line Cinema holding the film rights at the time.