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/history2e.html.
(2) Ghibli, Center of Attention in the Japanese Film Industry
The next 2 films that Studio GHIBLI produced were "My Neighbor Totoro" and "the Grave of the Fireflies." Directors were Miyazaki for "Totoro" and Takahata for "Fireflies." The same time release of two works by two of the most talented directors was quite a show, which would turn out to be the first and the last. The process in the making of these films was sheer chaos. The studio was making two long films all at one time, and none of their quality was to be sacrificed. It seemed almost impossible, but it was a chance that couldn't be missed. We knew that if we didn't go ahead now, we would never come across the chance to make them both. Having made that decision, we went ahead with what seemed to be an almost impossible project. To produce good pictures is what the studio is all about. Management and growth of the company come second. This is probably what distinguishes Studio GHIBLI from other studios and, without this policy, the production of these two films would not have been made possible.
In talking about the history of GHIBLI, one person we cannot forget mentioning is Yasuyoshi Tokuma, the president of GHIBLI. He is also the president of Tokuma Shoten Publishing Company, and, besides the main publishing business, he is widely involved in the development of other businesses as well. He is also the owner of Daiei film studio, famous for films directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.
Tokuma seldom visits the Studio, the reasons being that he basically leaves us alone, leaving the decision-making up to us. But when it comes to a time in need, he always comes up to the front line. It was he who made the decision to make Miyazaki's comic "Nausicaa" into a theatrical picture and it was he who established the Studio GHIBLI. It was not easy to realize the release of both "Totoro" and "Fireflies" because both films seemed rather quiet compared to the previous two films. It was then that Tokuma himself went to the distributors, campaigned for the two films, and successfully made an agreement with the distributors to make the release of the two films possible. If any one of his efforts had lacked, Studio GHIBLI would not exist now.
The box office performance of "Totoro" and "Fireflies" were not as good as expected due to the time lag in the release of the films, that is, they were not released during the summer season when a great many Japanese go to the theater. Yet, they received high acclaims from various fields for the superb quality of work. For that year, "Totoro" won most of the picture awards in Japan, including best photography. "Fireflies" was highly praised as a true literary art. With these two pictures, Studio GHIBLI became widely known in the Japanese film industry.
"Totoro" brought us an unexpected gain, too, and that is the big hit of the stuffed Totoro toys. I say "unexpected" because the stuffed toys were marketed nearly 2 years after the release of the film, and they were not intentionally created to promote box office performance. What actually happened was that a stuffed toy manufacturer ardently felt that Totoro was a character that deserved to be made into a stuffed toy and eagerly asked GHIBLI for its permission.
All in all, thanks to the sale of Totoro goods, it now became possible for GHIBLI to continually cover for any deficit in production cost. Totoro was even adopted as the company logo. A plan is under way now in GHIBLI to set up a department to promote the sale of character goods. Needless to say, there is no change in the policy that film productions come first and interest in merchandising come only as its result. We have not, and never will, decide on, or change any part of the picture based on the merchandising value.