Studio Ghibli Is Restructuring, Not Shutting Down


Rumors of the death of Studio Ghibli have been greatly exaggerated. That in itself should be cause for celebration, given the weeping and gnashing of teeth that went on over the weekend. The full translations from an interview with Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki had not yet been released, and his comments actually reveal a more complex picture of Studio Ghibli’s future in the wake of creator Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement.

What Suzuki has actually said is that the film production side of the studio will undergo a restructuring as a result of Miyazaki’s retirement and the expenses attached to producing films using inhouse talent. Here’s what he had to say (via The Playlist):

I’m sure many of you have heard the rumors that there are about to be big changes to come to every aspect of Studio Ghibli. If you’re wondering what those changes are… we’re thinking of dismantling it once over. It’s some major cleaning up. We’ve been thinking of restructuring  or should I say reconstructing for a while now … Miyazaki’s retirement was definitely a big deal for us. What do we do with Ghibli after that? It certainly wasn’t out of the question that we continue to make movies. Temporarily, we should take a break and think about where we go from here.

So, it’s less of a total shutting down of Studio Ghibli and more a re-examination and potential overhaul. The studio actually has another film on the horizon: When Marnie Was There, a project that Suzuki admits has caused a number of challenges for the studio.

The entire time I’ve been with Ghibli, when we’re making a movie, I never risked anything … We only did things that we knew worked for certain. We did everything with a ‘frontal attack’. You only become unconventional when you’re in trouble. When you’re in trouble, you start challenging things. With ‘Marnie,’ we had some difficulties. Compared to the Ghibli movies we’ve made up to now, the foundation is different. It’s definitely different from the films that Miyazaki made. Whether it’s a good meaning or a bad meaning, there is a youthfulness to it. Following Miyazaki’s retirement, everything that is Ghibli is being replaced with youth.

Although Suzuki’s remarks are not entirely hopeful about the future of the animation studio, I think we need to recognize that there were going to be major upheavals with the retirement of Miyazaki. It’s foolish to think that the studio was not going to experience changes and further growing pains, but that does not mean a total collapse. Studio Ghibli has continued to produce high-quality films using in-house talent in a time when animation work is usually shipped out to other countries. They are also one of the few studios still using 2D animation when 3D has become practically standard. Their last film, The Wind Rises, has made over $90 million in total box office, but still has yet to recoup its production costs.

So for now, I think we can hold out hope for the future of Studio Ghibli. As Suzuki says, “everything that is Ghibli is being replaced with youth.” I’m not certain that’s such a bad thing.