Has Studio Ghibli Made Its Last Film?

August 4, 20140 Comments

Studio Ghibli, home to retired Oscar winner Hayao Miyazaki, may shut its animation-production facilities because of the challenges of financing new features, according to an interview from an unnamed company insider posted on Japanese news sites.

The studio’s future has been cloudy after the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki, the 73-year-old director/animator whose Spirited Away won the 2003 Oscar for Best Animated feature. The Wind Rises, which debuted last year, was his last film and his third Oscar nomination. The film grossed 11.6 billion yen ($113.4 million) in Japan and $5.1 million in the United States. However, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, the film has yet to make a profit.

When Disney began distributing Miyazaki’s films in the U.S., they billed him as “the Walt Disney of Japanese animation.” Pixar co-founder and head of Disney Animation, John Lasseter, is a huge fan who executive-produced the English translations of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

The studio’s other prominent behind-the-camera leaders are also nearing retirement. Director Isao Takahata‘s last film, 2013′s The Tale of Princess Kaguya, is considered to be his last. The studio’s co-founder and long-time producer Toshio Suzuki also stepped down last year from making films, but remains as the company’s general manager.

Other directors at Studio Ghibli also haven’t been successful recently, financially hurting the studio as it continued to maintain a Japan-based production operation rather than shipping animation jobs overseas. As a result, Ghibli’s latest movie, When Marnie Was There, “seems like it will be the last.” The film is directed by Hiramasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty) and debuted last week to disappointing numbers.

Employee contracts are largely scheduled to end soon and they are expected to be laid off. The insider is quoted saying, “From here on, it appears as though this won’t be a studio that makes new works, but instead, manages its copyrights.”

Sad news. However, the studio has a large fan base and if they’re having trouble financing new features, they could try crowd funding. I’ve only seen a couple of their features, but I’d throw some money their way.

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