With the likes of “Castle in the Sky,” “Spirited Away,” and “Princess Mononoke,” available around the world on Netflix and coming soon to HBO max along with all the other Studio Ghibli productions. Why not escape into the world of poetic luxury with the creations of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
The creations of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, the founders of Studio Ghibli are perfect to escape into a surreal atmosphere while immersing yourself to the best of Japanese animals and (re)discover the adventures of Chihiro, Princess Mononoke and Totoro. With the productions on Netflix in certain countries around the world and coming soon to HBO Max, here is everything you need to know about Studio Ghibli before starting your binge watching.
The beginnings of the studio
Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki met in the 1960s when working for the Japanese animation studio Tôei Dôga. The two men worked together for more than a decade notably on the animation Heidi. But it wasn’t until the early 1980s, when the growth of animation on television threatened the quality of productions, that these two enthusiasts decided to join forces to offer the public a quality animated feature film that would not overlook either the narration or the direction. In 1985, a first collaboration ensues, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the animated adaptation of the manga published by Miyazaki in the magazine Animage. On the strength of this first success, and convinced that there is a place for quality animated feature films on the Japanese market, they set up a small production studio in the suburbs of Tokyo, with the help of the Tokuma Shoten publishing company. In 1986 The Castle in the Sky was released on the screens, the first film officially created by Studio Ghibli, now at the head of more than 40 film and video game productions.
It was Hayao Miyazaki who came up with the idea. A avid flyer, he was inspired by the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli, a surveillance aircraft that was developed in Italy during the Second World War. The Ghibli also refers to the hot air in the Sahara desert, symbolising the breath of fresh air being blown in to Japanese animation.
Having become the Studio Ghibli mascot, the figure of Totoro is also the one that secured them their first financial success. While the film (released in 1988) wasn’t as much of a success as the first two Miyazaki and Takahata creations, it was the sales from the associated products (notably the Totoro soft toys) that kept them afloat, alleviated their financial worries and allowed them to continue their work.
Not like the classic animation studios, Studio Ghibli was born with one goal: to explore the depths of the human soul, and to offer Japanese and international audiences poetic stories that would translate all its complexity. No international commercial strategy, but a concern for integrity and exemplary quality, for which its productions are renowned.
The biggest success
In 1989, Kiki’s Delivery Service became the studio’s first major Japanese hit as it was number one in theatres that year. Three years later, Porco Rosso, almost entirely conceived and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, dethroned Hook and Beauty and the Beast at the Japanese box office. But it was Spirited Away, the first non-English-language film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2003, that devoted the studio to its international work. It succeeds Princess Mononoke, which was to be Miyazaki‘s last film before he retired.
Bankruptcy narrowly avoided
In 1988, barely two years after its creation, the studio threatened to close its doors. Released that year, Grave of the Fireflies, an adaptation of Akiyuki Nosaka‘s semi-autobiographical short story, which follows the story of two children left to their own devices during the Second World War, was deemed too harsh for young Japanese audiences. It is thanks to My Neighbour Totoro, released the same year, and his famous stuffed animals that the studio narrowly avoided bankruptcy.
A new film in the works
Hayao Miyazaki is currently working on a new project, entitled How do you live? Based on the novel by Japanese writer Genzaburō Yoshino, it is set to be released in theatres in 2021. Toshio Suzuki, chief producer of Studio Ghibli, recently explained that he had convinced its founder to accept Netflix‘s offer to broadcast a large part of his films on its platform in order to finance the project. Miyazaki, who in 1998 already announced his intention to retire, is not yet ready to quit. While waiting for this new feature film, Studio Ghibli’s first 21 films can be rewatched on Netflix and soon HBO Max.