Producer Toshio Suzuki lets us in on the answer.
Studio Ghibli is known for being fiercely protective of their animated movies, once even sending a samurai sword with the words “no cuts” to Harvey Weinstein, who wanted to make cuts to the U.S. release of Princess Mononoke.
The animation studio’s co-founder and legendary in-and-out-of-retirement director Hayao Miyazaki is also famous for his salty comments against electronic devices and anime fans, so when Studio Ghibli suddenly announced they were allowing Netflix to stream pretty much all of their movies, it was an unexpected move that took many people by surprise.
So why the sudden desire to share their movies online?
Well, according to Miyazaki’s long-time friend and Ghibli co-founder and producer Toshio Suzuki, it all comes down to money.
Speaking at a live talk event on 7 March in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, Suzuki spoke about the digital distribution deal with Netflix, saying: “Theatres and DVDs are important, but I think distribution is also important.”
He went on to say that once the ban on digital distribution of films was lifted, he managed to persuade Hayao Miyazaki to release the films on Netflix by saying “The money it brings in can cover production costs for your movie.”
Suzuki made the revelations whilst participating in a talk session at HMV&BOOKS Shibuya to mark the publication of a photo book showcasing the Ghibli Museum called “Ghibli Bijutsukan no Monogatari” or “Tales from the Ghibli Museum.”
After speaking about the new book, questions were raised as to why the Netflix distribution deal came about, especially given that Miyazaki has expressed negative opinions on electronic devices such as smartphones and iPads in the past.
Suzuki answered questions in his usual friendly, casual manner, revealing the real reason why the self-enforced “ban” was lifted on digital distribution.
“Hayao Miyazaki is currently making a movie but it’s taking a really long time. When that happens, it’s only natural that it will require a lot of money too. I told him this can cover the production costs for that movie. When I said that, he said “Well, there’s nothing I can do then.”
Suzuki laughed good-naturedly whilst sharing the story of how he persuaded one of the country’s most stubborn and stuck-in-his ways anime directors to give his consent to the digital distribution deal.
“First of all, Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t know exactly what video streaming services like Netflix are. He doesn’t use personal computers, he doesn’t use smartphones. So when you mention digital distribution to him, he just doesn’t get it.”
Suzuki’s concerns about finances and distribution come naturally to him as a producer, so it’s understandable why Miyazaki, in the director’s chair, tends to be less interested in these matters and more consumed by his creative process.
So why did they choose Netflix?
“With Netflix, we’re starting to see new movies being made on the streaming service, which I think is interesting. At the same time, they’re making movies from projects that movie companies never would have agreed to before. That’s due to on-demand distribution, and I think that’s a really good thing.”
Suzuki appeared to be full of praise for the online streaming service and the way that it’s been pushing the boundaries of filmmaking with original releases in recent years.
Being more clued on to the dynamic shifts taking place in how people view movies these days, it appears we have Suzuki to thank for dragging the famously old-fashioned Miyazaki into the world of online video streaming.
Seeing as Miyazaki has come out of retirement to make what he says will be his last movie, this pet project, which he wants to be a legacy he leaves behind for his grandson, is so dear to his heart that he’ll even consent to digital distribution to see it finished in his lifetime.