Behind every great movie is a great studio. And Studio Ghibli is actually behind several great movies, as well as their most well-known creative mastermind Hayao Miyazaki. But he isn’t the only driving force! That’s what occurred to me when I was reading the news about Miyazaki’s decision to leave his retirement to work on Ghibli’s last feature named How Do You Live? If you also crave to learn more about Ghibli, go on reading today’s post where I’ve gathered my modest findings about Ghibli, its founders’, business philosophy, path to success, etc.
How It All Started…
Studio Ghibli Inc. is an award-winning animated film studio based in Tokyo, Japan. It was founded in 1985 by animators Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. Remember those names because they are very important. Many of the themes and practices employed in Studio Ghibli’s movies come from the personal experiences of these three, particularly, Miyazaki.
They have produced 22 films since their founding beginning with Laputa Castle in the Sky in 1986 and most recently Earwig and the Witch in 2020. There was Nausicaa, too, but that was before they were officially founded.
As I was scrolling through my Facebook ad design template and surfing the web for new facts, I came across one interview, where one of the founders notes that Ghibli actually comes from humble origins. The original Studio Ghibli office was located on the first floor of a house in the suburbs of Tokyo. No wonder, in the beginning, nobody expected Studio Ghibli to last very long, much less 30 years. It’s not a secret that they approached each film with the mindset of ‘If this succeeds, will make another one, if it flops, we’re out.’ Luckily for all anime lovers, they succeeded and created a couple dozen mesmerizing films that are now regarded as exemplary.
Ghibli is primarily focused on creating movies for its Japanese audience. As for international releases, they are the gravy on top of the animation potatoes. That being said, while Studio Ghibli is a very Japan-centric company, there are definitely foreigners in the office, especially Italians!
Ghibli has a strict no-alterations policy when it comes to the distribution of their movies. This is a result of what happened in their very first film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which was torn apart for the American release and retitled Warriors of the Wind. In fact, Suzuki’s official stance in the matter is ‘Let’s not talk about this version, OK?’
Here is how serious Ghibli is about that zero-alterations stuff. During negotiations for Princess Mononoke, Suzuki sent the American producer Harvey Weinstein a samurai sword with a note that read ‘No cuts!’ Ingenious, isn’t it?
The former chief executor of the company, Tory Hara, said that Ghibli’s success was contingent on three Hs, which were high cost, high risk, and high return. In other words, anything that is good, let alone outstanding, takes a lot of work and a lot of luck.
What’s in the Name?
The name ‘Ghibli’ is actually a word used by Italian pilots that refers to a hot wind blowing through the Sahara desert. It’s also the name of an aircraft. Miyazaki took its name for the studio because he wanted to blow a sensational wind into the Japanese world of animation, and that he did.
Miyazaki’s father ran a company that specialized in manufacturing fighter plane tail fins during World War II. The boy became entranced by the process, and the way all the parts connected leading to his love of planes. Miyazaki’s mother, on the other hand, contracted spinal tuberculosis and was bedridden for nine years between 1947 and 1955. Hayao drew on this experience when creating My Neighbor Totoro, which included a mother with a long-term illness.
At the dawn of feature-length Japanese anime films, Takahata and Miyazaki were already making history. One series called Heidi was animated by Miyazaki and directed by Takahata and went on to be a landmark show in the East, drawing Japanese tourists to see the Swiss Alps.
Takahata and Miyazaki came to realize that the limitations of time and budget in television were too much to make everything worthwhile. They wanted to make something that would have an impact and really emotionally deliver. This is what first inspired them to move away from TV and make their own movie. The first unofficial Studio Ghibli movie, as we’ve mentioned earlier, was Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which brought the creators coveted recognition. It ended up doing well at the box office and was critically praised, as well. As a result of his success, Tokuma Shoten, the company that convinced Miyazaki to turn Nausicaa into a film, helped kick start Studio Ghibli.
These are just some fun facts I’ve found about Ghibli Studio. There are more, much more interesting things you might want to know about your favorite company and their timeless creations! So, go for it!