This is a reformatted version of the "10 years of Ghibli" passage by Toshio SUZUKI that used to appear in Studio Ghibli's now-defunct English website. Its original location was http://www.ntv.co.jp/GHIBLI/history/history1e.html.
(1) Ghibli - Its Start
"Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind" was a great success both in terms of the box-office performance and in its achievement of a high quality work. This success triggered the founding of Studio GHIBLI in 1985 by Tokuma Shoten (Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co., Ltd), the publishing company that produced "Nausicaa." In the same year, the Studio produced a feature film called "Laputa: The Castle in the Sky." Since then, the studio has been specializing in producing theatrical animation films under the direction of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. For those who are not aware, the word "GHIBLI" means "hot wind blowing through the Sahara Desert," which was used during the World War II by Italian pilots referring to their scouting airplanes. Miyazaki, a craze for airplanes, knew this, and decided to take this word for the Studio name. "Let's blow a sensational wind into the Japanese world of animation!" was, I remember, the intention behind the naming of GHIBLI.
The presence of this Studio, I believe, is quite unique not only in the Japanese animation industry, but internationally as well, in that the Studio produces, in principle, only theatrical animation films (or feature films) based on original work. Because production of theatrical films entails too big a risk in that there is no guarantee for box-office success, it is common for most animation studios to work mainly on TV animations. This is also true in Japan and many of the animation studios rely on TV animations, producing only from time to time theatrical films, most of which are just theatrical versions of an already popular TV animation piece. Incidentally, more than 40 new animation TV series are being produced every week in Japan.
GHIBLI, of course, did not start out the way it is being run today. Let me explain the history of GHIBLI, including the stages that led to its start.
It was more than 30 years ago that Takahata and Miyazaki, now the 2 leading members of the Studio, met. Toei-Doga, the production studio to which both had belonged at that time, was producing only animation feature films. While they had participated in the production of some theatrical feature films in the beginning, they were caught in the current of time, and they had no choice but to make animations for TV. One of the TV series was "Heidi," aired in 1974, animated by Miyazaki and directed by Takahata, and which made a marked achievement in the world of TV animations. Many of you may have seen this because this was brought on TV in Europe and highly evaluated there too.
While creating such TV series, however, they were gradually coming to realize that it was impossible to achieve what they were truly after through a media called Television where budget was tight and time very limited. What they sought to achieve was animation that is real and of high quality, that probes into the depth of the human mind, and that illustrates the joys and sorrows of life as they really are. This was the motivation that led to the creation of the studio after completing the "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind." The idea was to dedicate full energy into each piece of work with sufficient budget and time, never compromising on the quality or content. Each film was to be directed by Miyazaki and Takahata, the directors taking command, their decisions having the priority. You may say that the ten years of Studio GHIBLI is a history that has overcome the difficult task of maintaining this posture and still being successful commercially and efficiently managing the studio, with of course the support of the hard working staff and outstanding creativity of the 2 directors.
To be honest, none of us thought that Studio GHIBLI would survive for this long a time. "Make one film. If that succeeds, make another. If that flops, that ends it." This is how we first started. So to keep the risk to a minimum, no full-time employees were hired. About 70 persons were temporarily hired to complete one film, and when the film was completed, the team was dismissed. The place was simply one rented floor in a building in Kichijoji in the a suburb of Tokyo. All these policies were implemented by Takahata. He was the one who produced the "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind," and it was his ability as a business manager that contributed so much to the start of the new studio. "Laputa: The Castle in the Sky" that followed was also produced by him and directed under Miyazaki. "Nausicaa," released in 1984, drew 915,000 people to the theater and "Laputa," released in 1986, brought in 775,000 people. Both received high acclaims. I believe many of you have seen those pictures. Let me take this opportunity to thank you once again.