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Ghibli 101: Past, Present, and Future of Studio Ghibli


Official Web Page: http://www.ghibli.jp/   (in Japanese)
Unofficial Web Page: http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/ghibli/

Questions answered on this page:

  1. What is Studio Ghibli?
  2. What does "Ghibli" mean?
  3. How do you say "Ghibli"?
  4. What has Ghibli made?
  5. Did Miyazaki direct all of Studio Ghibli's films?
  6. Why doesn't Ghibli make TV series?
  7. What is the latest Ghibli movie?
  8. What is this Disney/Tokuma alliance?
  9. Does Ghibli use Computer Graphics?
  10. I heard that Miyazaki retired after Mononoke Hime. Is this true?
  11. How many times has Miyazaki "retired"?
  12. Can I write to them?
  13. How can I see the Ghibli movies?


Q: What is Studio Ghibli?

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio, led by one of animation's greatest creators, Hayao MIYAZAKI. The studio creates very high quality animated movies, which is rather unique, since most Japanese animation studios depend on TV series or OVAs. They consistently beat Disney movies in box office revenues in Japan and have received numerous awards. Miyazaki and Ghibli movies are well respected and loved by all Japanese people, children and adults alike.

Ghibli was established in 1985, to make the film, "Laputa: The Castle in the Sky". However, the beginning of the studio can be dated back to 1983, when Tokuma Shoten (Tokuma Publishing, Co., Ltd) decided to produce "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind". Tokuma is a Japanese publishing company which publishes "Animage", an animation magazine, in which Miyazaki had been serializing the manga "Nausicaa" since 1982. After the success of "Nausicaa", Tokuma and Miyazaki decided to make their second movie, "Laputa", and they established Studio Ghibli.

Tokuma was the parent company of Studio Ghibli until March 2005 when it was spun off as an independent company.

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Q. What does "Ghibli" mean?

Ghibli means "hot wind blowing through the Sahara Desert". The name was used for Italian scouting airplanes during World War II. Miyazaki, who loves airplanes (and Italy), named his studio after it.

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Q. How do you say "Ghibli"?

Even though "Ghibli" is an Italian word, it is said jee-blee (or ji-bu-ri in Japanese) when referring to Studio Ghibli. That's how Miyazaki says it, so that's the official pronunciation.

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Q: What has Ghibli made?

Please visit our Ghibli Films page for a complete list.

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Q. Did Miyazaki direct all of Studio Ghibli's films?

No. Miyazaki directed "Nausicaa", "Laputa", "Totoro", "Kiki", "Porco", "On Your Mark", "Mononoke Hime", "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi", and "Howl's Moving Castle".

"Grave of the Fireflies", "Only Yesterday", "Pom Poko", and "Yamada-kun" were directed by his long time colleague and another creative head of Ghibli, Isao TAKAHATA.

Miyazaki produced "Only Yesterday" and "Pom Poko". Ghibli has also been trying to make anime by directors other than Miyazaki and Takahata. "Mimi wo Sumaseba" was directed by Yoshifumi KONDO, who had been the top animator at Ghibli for several years. Sadly, he passed away in January 1998. Miyazaki wrote the script, drew the storyboards, and produced "Mimi". "Umi ga Kikoeru" was directed by Tomomi MOCHIZUKI (director of the Kimagure Orange Road movies), who is not a member of Ghibli. A complete list of Studio Ghibli films is located here.

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Q: Why doesn't Ghibli make TV series?

Ghibli was established specifically to make films. TV anime in Japan are made under such tight schedules and budgets, that it's almost impossible for Miyazaki to make the high quality anime he wants to make. This is rather risky, since Ghibli can produce only one movie per year or so, and one movie flop will really damage Ghibli financially. However, the strategy has paid off so far. Ghibli has tried TV with a TV movie, "Umi ga Kikoeru", which was made by the younger staff, but it went way over budget and schedule.

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Q: What is this Disney/Tokuma alliance?

Disney has acquired the global distribution rights for "Mononoke Hime", and video rights for 8 Ghibli movies (except "Grave"). Disney will release English (and other language) dubs. The agreement can be expanded into other fields, such as CDs, merchandise, and games in the future.

To learn more about the Disney/Tokuma deal:

FAQ: http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/disney/
Compilation of newspaper articles: http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/disney/media-coverage.html

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Q. Does Ghibli use Computer Graphics?

Miyazaki had been rather skeptical about the use of computers in anime. He once commented "Why do we need computers to do what human hands can do?"

The first time Ghibli used CG was in "Pom Poko", in the scene where the camera panned the library shelves. Such a scene is very difficult and time consuming for animators to do, and yet, does not require creativity and therefore is boring for animators to do. "Whisper of the Heart" used digital composition in the fantasy scenes, meaning that elements (animated by traditional means) of a scene were composed using a computer, "On Your Mark" used some computer generated images, and "Mononoke Hime" used computers extensively. Ghibli bought several Silicon Graphics workstations and set up a CG Division.

Ghibli went full digital with the film "Yamada-kun". In short, the movie used use no traditional cels.

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Q: I heard that Miyazaki retired after Mononoke Hime. Is this true?

No, Miyazaki did not retire, at least not exactly. He is going to make short films to be screened at the "Ghibli Museum" (to be opened in October 2001) in Mitaka City in Tokyo. The films will be based on children's books. Ghibli's younger staff members are supposed to make these films, and production is supposed to start after they've taken a break following the completion of My Neighbors the Yamadas. Whether or not Miyazaki will direct these films is still unclear, although he has written storyboards for them.

At a press conference following the completion of Mononoke Hime, Miyazaki said "I think that [Mononoke Hime] will be the last [feature-length] movie that I make in this way." You have to understand what "this way" means.

Miyazaki is an animator, first and foremost. He personally checks almost all the key animation, and often redraws roughs when he thinks they aren't good enough or characters aren't "acting right." This isn't the typical way in which a director works. (For example, Mamoru Oshii doesn't even check key animation. He has a technical director to do that. Takahata checks key animation, but he tells the key animators to redraw the roughs.) Miyazaki feels this hands-on approach is the only way for him to make the films he wants to make.

However, Miyazaki felt he was getting too old. He said his eyes aren't as good as they used to be, and his hands can no longer move so quickly. And he felt that spending every day for more than two years working on Mononoke Hime took too much out of him. Hence, he said that he wouldn't direct a film in that way anymore. He also said that his career as an animator has ended.

Of course, most journalists in Japan didn't bother to check what he meant by "in this way," so they just wrote big headlines like "Miyazaki announced retirement!" Since then, this news has taken on a life of its own.

Miyazaki also said that he was leaving Ghibli to make way for young people. However, he also stated that he "may assist in some capacity in the future," such as producing and writing scripts. Sadly, judging from his eulogy for Yoshifumi Kondo, it seems that he was planning to write and produce another film for Kondo to direct, as he did with Whisper of the Heart.

Miyazaki formally quit Ghibli on January 14th, 1998. He built a new studio, "Butaya" (Pig House), near Studio Ghibli as his "retirement place." However, on January 16th, 1999, Miyazaki "formally returned" to Studio Ghibli as Shocho (this title means roughly "the head of office").

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Q. How many times has Miyazaki "retired"?

Several. After completing Mononoke Hime (noted in the previous question) he came back to direct Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi. Miyazaki annoucement his retirement from hands-on directing (again) soon after the completion of "Sen", but stepped up to direct Howl's Moving Castle after the original director left the project.

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Q: Can I write to them?

Yes. You can write a letter, or you can send them e-mail. However, they will not reply. They are busy making films, and they receive many mails. You can get Studio Ghibli's address here.

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Q: How can I see the Ghibli movies?

Please see the Shopping Guide as well as the Availability page for each film.

Many of the films are being shown at film festivals around the world.

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