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Are Studio Ghibli's Days Numbered? Say It Ain't So

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood July 31, 2014 at 4:15PM

It seems impossible to think that one of the world's most beloved animation studios might shut its doors and stop making films, but that's what one Japanese news site says might happen to Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli.
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Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki

It seems impossible to think that one of the world's most beloved animation studios might shut its doors and stop making films, but that's what one Japanese news site says might happen to Hayao Miyazaki's legendary Studio Ghibli.

According to News Cafe, Ghibli's newest film, "When Marnie Was There," might be its last.  As a supposed insider tells the website, whispers of the studio's closing have circulated since last year, when powerhouse writer-director Miyazaki (of "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away" fame) announced he was retiring and Ghibli producer/co-founder Toshio Suzuki stepped down from producing and became the studio's general manager instead.

"From here on," the source says, "it appears as though this won't be a studio that makes new works, but instead, manages its copyrights."  In essence, that would mean that the studio would stop producing new films and simply generate revenue from its library of previous creations. In 2010, Miyazaki acknowledged that there was a potential future for the studio in such a form, telling Cut Magazine, "Ghibli should be able to continue with about five staff members as a copyright management company even if we smash the studio. So, Ghibli can say 'We stop film production. Goodbye.' I do not have to be there."

According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Ghibli has declined to follow other animation studios in sending jobs overseas, and as such, their films have become increasingly expensive to make.  According to the paper, Miyazaki's last film, 2013's "The Wind Rises" has yet to turn a profit, even though it has made over $90 million.  Ghibli's most recent film, "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," made $50 million, and was considered a flop by the studio, according to Asahi and New Cafe's insider.  "There's no choice but to dissolve the studio, because it's unable cross the high hurdle of announcing a new film on an annual basis." 

"When Marnie Was There," a ghost tale adapted from the book by Joan Robinson, got its first trailer earlier this month, and it promises the lush, thoughtful artistry of all Ghibli films.  Let's hope it's not the studio's last.  

This article is related to: Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises, Animation


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.