Information

Studio Ghibli, Inc. (株式会社スタジオジブリ Kabushiki-kaisha Sutajio Jiburi), known simply as Ghibli, is a Japanese animation film studio, co-founded by Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki and Yasuyoshi Tokuma.

The company began operations on June 1985 as a subsidiary of Tokuma Shoten Co., Ltd. for the purpose of producing animated films directed by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. Initially based in Kichijoji, they built their own own studio at its current location on in August 1992. In June 1997, the company merged with Tokuma Shoten Co., Ltd. and became Tokuma Shoten Co., Ltd./Studio Ghibli Company (later Studio Ghibli Business Headquarters). In April 2005, Studio Ghibli Co., Ltd. started anew by becoming independent of Tokuma Shoten Co., Ltd.

The company's logo features the character Totoro from Hayao Miyazaki's film My Neighbor Totoro.

Several anime features created by Ghibli have won the Animage Anime Grand Prix award including "Laputa: Castle in the Sky" in 1986, "My Neighbor Totoro" in 1988, and "Kiki's Delivery Service" in 1989. In 2002, "Spirited Away" won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the first anime film to win an Academy Award.

Representatives

Activities

  • Planning and production of animated movies, TV commercials, TV movies, live-action movies, etc.
  • Various merchandising using characters appearing in animated movies, etc.
  • Videograms of animated films, TV shows, documentaries, etc.
  • Overseas sales, import, export and licensing of animated films.
  • Planning, editing, and production of publications.
  • Management and transfer of music copyrights, promote music, and manufacture and supply of record originals and master tapes
  • Supervising and management of "Ghibli Museum of The Mitaka Forest" (official name: Mitaka Municipal Animation Museum).
  • Exhibition of Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.
  • Operation of "Cafe" and "Shop" in "Ghibli Museum of The Forest of Mitaka".

Name

Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki, the principal founders of Studio Ghibli.

The name Ghibli derives from the nickname the Italians used for their Saharan scouting planes in the Second World War (and later for the AMX International AMX and Maserati Ghibli), which is derived from the Libyan word for hot wind blowing through the Sahara Desert (also known as sirocco).[1]

Though the Italian word is pronounced with a hard /g/, the Japanese pronunciation of the studio's name is [dʑíbɯɺi], as in with a "soft g". The theory behind the name was that the studio was blowing a new wind into the Japanese anime industry.[1]

History

Early Years

The office of Studio Ghibli (above) in 1985, at the 2nd Ino Building near Kichijoji Station. The building remains (below), along with the original coffee shop on the ground floor.

Founded in June 15, 1985, the studio is headed by Hayao Miyazaki along with Isao Takahata, as well as the studio's executive managing director and producer Toshio Suzuki. Its origins date back to 1984, with the film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which was popularized as a serialized manga in a publication of Tokuma Shoten's Animage magazine after the original screenplay was rejected. Suzuki, who worked as a tabloid reporter before working at Animage, was the lynchpin that helped convince Miyazaki to pursue his manga work for "Nausicaä" and eventually create its film adaptation. The film was eventually produced by Topcraft and the film's success spurred the formation of Ghibli. Much of Ghibli's works are distributed in Japan by the noted film distributor Toho. While some Ghibli films received distribution outside Japan, such as by Streamline Pictures, it was often without a wide theatrical release.

Tokuma / Disney Alliance

Hayao Miyazaki and his longtime composer, Joe Hisaishi.

Tokuma Shoten, the parent company of Studio Ghibli, has provided the Walt Disney Company with the video rights to all of Ghibli's output that did not have previous international distribution, including the global, non-Japan distribution rights to "Princess Mononoke" (1997), "Spirited Away" (2001), "Howl's Moving Castle" (2004), "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" (2008) and "The Wind Rises" (2013). Composer Joe Hisaishi has provided the soundtrack for all of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli films.

Ghibli's co-founder, Isao Takahata, on the other hand, would go on to direct more down-to-earth dramas and folktales such as "Grave of the Fireflies" (1988), a film focusing on the lives of two war orphans towards the end of the Second World War in Japan, "Only Yesterday" (1991), "Pom Poko" (1994), "My Neighbors the Yamadas" (1999) and "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" (2013). Many directors would also release works under the studio title, such as Yoshifumi Kondō's "Whisper of the Heart" (1995), Hiroyuki Morita's "The Cat Returns", Tomomi Mochizuki's "Ocean Waves" (1993) and Goro Miyazaki's "Tales from Earthsea" (2006), "From Up on Poppy Hill" (2011) and "Earwig and the Witch" (2020).

Yasuyoshi Tokuma and Toshio Suzuki were able to wrestle away the digital rights, which included DVD distribution, from the initial Disney contract.

A dinner at Hotel Okura was held to celebrate the conclusion of the contract and Disney and the Tokuma Group's historic alliance. Eight were present during the meeting, with the Disney side being Buena Vista president Michael O. Johnson, chief of staff Greg Probert, senior corporate laywer Brett Chapman, and Koji Hoshino, the head of Disney of Japan, while on the Tokuma there was its chairman Yasuyoshi Tokuma, Toshio Suzuki, a liaison who worked at Tokuma International Steve Alpert, and their translator, Haruyo Moriyoshi. The contract had gone through many challenges over the course of two years, often due to turnover of staff and disputes such as Disney demanding they hold the rights to Ghibli films for ten instead of five years. Some Disney executives even scoffed at having to deal with what they saw was a "small time publisher" like Tokuma Shoten.

Suzuki and Mr. Tokuma wisely held on to the digital rights, which included DVD distribution rights from Disney, as they were still bullish about the VHS home market and DVD had not taken ahold of the market at the time. This was partly to do with Mr. Shoten having a business relationship with Sony, who understood where the market was headed.[2]

The evening had gone well enough, until Mr. Tokuma gave a speech demanding a higher minimum guarantee for the distribution rights of "Princess Mononoke" (which had been the highest of any film at the time due to its prestige and reputation). This incensed Michael O. Johnson, who began ranting until he his chief of staff Probert advised him to work out the deal the day after with Suzuki. A day later, they worked out the contract to reflect Mr. Tokuma's demands of a higher minimum guarantee, but since he never read the fine legal print, his wishes were never really actually met. It turns out Mr. Tokuma had intentionally provoked the Disney executives so that he could boast to the press that he had "achieved victory" against Disney.

Yasuyoshi Tokuma, chairman of Tokuma Shoten, alongside Hayao Miyazaki and Walt Disney executives during the press conference announcing the Disney / Studio Ghibli alliance on July 23, 1997.

Disney would later renegotiate for the DVD and digital rights from Tokuma Shoten, and in exchange, Ghibli was able to get back the rights to films in countries where Disney had declined to release them. Ghibli was then free to seek out other distributors in those countries. For Ghibli's filmmakers, nothing was more important than having all their films seen in movie theaters. Hayao Miyazaki and all the Ghibli's directors and animators think themselves as theatrical filmmakers. They see their art as meant to be seen on the big screen, with a sound system that would allow the audience to hear the nuanced and carefully mixed soundtrack. Nobody at the time could have foreseen the importance of the DVD home market, except Mr. Tokuma and Suzuki.[3]

A press conference was held on July 23, 1996. A thousand guests were in attendance, many of whom were from the Japanese and American press (This was despite the on-going 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta). Buena Vista's president, Michael O. Johnson, was originally supposed to come to Japan to attend but couldn't due to an injury, and instead gave a statement via a satellite. Suzuki organized the event thinking, " I liked the idea of the press conference being held in Japan, and I wanted to make it the most amazing one. What is great is that, when it comes to what it means, these are our customers, including reporters. With that in mind, I'd like to have "1000" people come. This is the goal I have set."

Another effect Suzuki intended for such a large press event was to raise the profile of "Princess Mononoke" worldwide, which was set to be released internationally in 1997.[4]

Disney would also help financial support "My Neighbors the Yamadas" by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata.

Localization

"No Cut" policy

Toshio Suzuki brandishing a replica samurai sword he would eventually "gift" to Harvey Weinstein.

The company is well known for its strict "no-edits" policy in licensing their films abroad. This was a result of the dubbing of Miyazaki's "Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind" when the film was released in the United States as "Warriors of the Wind". The film was heavily edited and americanized, with significant portions cut and the plot rewritten.

The "no cuts" policy was highlighted when Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein suggested Neil Gaiman retouch the script to make "Princess Mononoke" more marketable. Steve Alpert recalls Suzuki's response in his autobiography, "Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli", by gifting an authentic katana to Weinstein personally and shouting "Mononoke Hime, NO CUT!"[5]

Before "Princess Mononoke" was released in theaters, Disney began localizing "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "Castle in the Sky" for a home video release. Early versions of both films were sent for approval to Studio Ghibli however, Steve Alpert noticed alterations such as new music and dialogue were made against the original "no cuts" policy. The issue led to both Ghibli and Disney executives meeting to discuss a possible breach in contract. After viewing the footage of the original and altered "Castle in the Sky" side-by-side, the changes were apparent.

The VHS release of "Kiki's Delivery Service" by Disney in 1998, featuring unauthorized new music and alterations. Even the cover art didn't escape scrutiny from Toshio Suzuki who questioned why Kiki was flying using her left arm as it was not her dominant hand.

Disney executives apologized and Michael O. Johnson, president of Walt Disney International, began berating the dub producer responsible for the mistake. Unfortunately, the altered version of "Kiki's Delivery Service" had already been delivered and scheduled for commercial VHS release, and pulling it out of retailers would have been too costly. Disney executives then promised that any future DVD release of "Kiki's Delivery Service" would remain unaltered, and Ghibli would have firsthand approval in any future localized releases.

Disney did have one request - they wanted to know if it were possible to hire composer Joe Hisaishi to create new music for "Castle in the Sky". Suzuki asked Miyazaki, who was receptive to the idea. Miyazaki clarified that when a movie is completed, he can only move on. He also noted that Disney would be footing the expense, and not Studio Ghibli.

Thus, one of the most recognized facets of the plans for Castle's American release was a top-to-bottom re-recording of the film's score. Hisaishi traveled to Seattle, Washington in 1999 to record the enhanced score with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

According to Hisaishi's official website, this was done to make the film more accessible to North American audiences that were "spoiled by surround sound," in the words of the afore-mentioned SakuraCon presentation.[6]

Spirited Away and beyond

In the United States, our works are handled and distributed by Pixar and Mr. John Lasseter. He is a person who has told me that he values my friendship and takes full responsibility for how our work is distributed. I trust him implicity, he is one of my greatest friends.
—Hayao Miyazaki

John Lasseter with Hayao Miyazaki. Lasseter became instrumental in promoting "Spirited Away" in the United States.

Upon its release in Japan on July 20, 2001, "Spirited Away" became a force to be reckoned with, becoming the highest-grossing film in the history of the Japanese motion picture industry. Dubbing was supervised by executive producer John Lasseter. Another example was the high quality of behind-the scenes talent. Kirk Wise, the director of the English dub, was a writer-director of several animated films made during the so-called "Disney Renaissance" of the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s. Donald W. Ernst, the producer of the English dub, had also produced Aladdin, one of the most famous films of the Disney Renaissance.

According to Online Ghibli, in order to remain true to the spirit of the film, as was John Lasseter's promise to his friend Miyazaki, Disney maintained a close dialog with Studio Ghibli. Two of the most known problems encountered by Disney in translating the film were related to a lack of understanding Japanese culture. For example, a set of hand motions called "Engacho" between Chihiro and Kamaji confused the staff at Disney. But, as English version co-writer Cindy Hewitt remarked in an interview for the "Spirited Away" DVD, Ghibli explained that "Engacho" was the Japanese equivalent to giving someone a cootie shot in the West.

Culturally specific things such as Zeniba's Seal proved challenging to translate for foreign audiences.

Another example is the "Golden Seal." In the film, Chihiro is asked to return a golden seal to its owner after it was stolen by Haku under orders of Yubaba. As the original Ghibli-created translation of the script omitted the word "golden," the team at Disney evidentially believed that "seal," in this case, referred to the animal.

As scholars of Japanese culture know, a seal (the golden, frog-headed device) is how people in medieval times signed their names to important documents-dip the device into ink or wax, press the device to the document and eureka!  As a result of this new knowledge, the writers added "golden" to the dialog about the seal to avoid any further confusion.

The completed English-dubbed version of Spirited Away made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2002. It then was released to various countries around the world, winning awards from many prestigious film festivals. One of these was its historic tie for the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear Award. These events have been documented in "Lasseter-San, Arigato!". The film later went on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

John Lasseter congratulating Hayao Miyazaki after receiving an Honorary Award at the 2014 Governors Awards. Miyazaki joked, “Somebody must have been pulling strings. Maybe John Lasseter.” Miyazaki infamously did not like attending award ceremonies, instead preferring accolades from his peers.

"Howl's Moving Castle" was released in America, Ghibli came very close to becoming a two-time Oscar-winner, but lost out this time to the Dreamworks-distributed claymation film Wallace and Gromit in "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." Toshio Suzuki happened to be a big fan of the series, and even helped distribute succeeding films in Japan via the Ghibli Museum Library.

"Tales from Earthsea", based on the "Earthsea" series by Ursula K. Le Guin, directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro Miyazaki, and released in Japan in 2007, immediately faced a roadblock to its US release due to legal issues with the Sci Fi Channel. Other films like "Ocean Waves" and Ghibli Museum shorts were excluded from the Tokuma / Disney deal.

One other issue involved music licensing. The theme song for "Only Yesterday" is a Japanese translation of the title song from the 1980 Bette Midler film "The Rose". So, as the theory goes, Ghibli and Disney would have to pay a fee to the music publishers and writers of "The Rose" in order to use it for a US version. Thankfully in January 2006, Disney granted permission for the American version of cable network Turner Classic Movies to show a subtitled version of "Only Yesterday" as part of TCM's salute to the works of Hayao Miyazaki (in honor of Miyazaki's 65th birthday) and Studio Ghibli as a whole. John Lasseter took part in introducing the importance of Ghibli films in film history.

Meanwhile, the English version of "Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea" had its English dub overseen by Oscar-winning producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy.

Miyazaki's protégé

Yasuyoshi Tokuma the chairman of Tokuma Shoten and "owner" of Studio Ghibli. Toshio Suzuki was considered his second-in-command during board meetings.

In June 1997, Studio Ghibli merged with Tokuma Shoten due in part to secure profits for Tokuma's deteriorating business. The name Studio Ghibli Co., Ltd. was dissolved as it became "Tokuma Shoten Co., Ltd. / Studio Ghibli Company".

In that same year following the release of "Princess Mononoke", Miyazaki announced his early retirement (first of many) and left the company. Yoshifumi Kondō, considered Miyazaki's protégé, had passed away from an aneurysm due to overwork. Toshio Suzuki revealed a conversation he had with Kondo, placing the blame on Isao Takahata, "When (Kondo) visited Sendai for the promotional campaign of his first and last movie as director, "Whisper of the Heart", he spoke to me about Takahata-san and couldn't stop. Takahata-san tried to kill me. When I think of him, even now my body starts to shake."[7]

The late Yoshifumi Kondō who died of an aneurysm due to overwork. His death may have led to Miyazaki's early retirement in the 90's.

Some disputed Suzuki's statement claiming Kondo's last project after "Whisper of the Heart" was animation director for Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke", a film that produced more than a 100,000 drawings, the highest ever for the studio. One of the animation encountered a motorcycle accident, thus adding pressure to Kondo's already extreme workload. Additionally, Miyazaki often took a six month break between projects, while Kondo never got time off after his first film. On top of that, Kondo had been hospitalized several times prior to his death.

Miyazaki recalls, "We had punctured (Kondo's) lungs several times before. And even though the doctors had told him he would die unless he was hospitalized. He always came back to work, managing the pain with acupuncture." In Kondo's funeral, Miyazaki remembered him fondly, "Kon-chan was a kind of person who loves the ship and the people on the ship, and chooses to go down with the ship." Regardless of the circumstance, Miyazaki left the company and took a trip to the Sahara desert with Hideaki Anno. These events are covered in the NHK special "Journey of the Heart, Hayao Miyazaki"

In 1999, Tokuma Shoten introduced the newly dubbed "Tokuma Shoten / Studio Ghibli Business Headquarters". That same year saw the return of Miyazaki as the director of Studio Ghibli. Subsequent releases such as "The Wind Rises" (2013) also were distribute by Walt Disney Japan.

Independence, retirement and revival

Miyazaki and his senior, Isao Takahata. Following the death of Kondo, attempts were made to train a new generation of animators and directors. They hired Yasuo Ōtsuka to help oversee this effort.

On September 20, 2000, Yasuyoshi Tokuma passed away. This would signal a sea change between the Tokuma Group's relationship with Studio Ghibli. On October 1, 2001, the Ghibli Museum opened to the public. Studio Ghibli's profile raised even further after Spirited Away became a massive critical and commercial success. By 2004, Tokuma Shoten and Studio Ghibli Business Headquarters split, with Studio Ghibli Co., Ltd finally becoming an independent studio.

In April 2005, due to the company's newfound independence, the organizational structure was changed from a limited company to a joint- stock company. Studio Ghibli Co., Ltd. inherited all operational aspects from Studio Ghibli Business Headquarters. Toshio Suzuki is appointed President, Hayao Miyazaki and Steve Alpert are appointed as directors.

On February 1, 2008, Toshio Suzuki stepped down from the position of Studio Ghibli president which he held since 2005, and Koji Hoshino (former president of Walt Disney Japan) took over. Suzuki said he wanted to improve films with his own hands as a producer, rather than demanding this from his employees. He reasoned that Takahata and Goro Miyazaki were developing several projects that he wished to oversee. Suzuki decided to hand over the presidency to Hoshino because Hoshino has helped Studio Ghibli sell its videos since 1996, as well as helped to release the Princess Mononoke film in the United States.[8]

Toshio Suzuki and Hayao Miyazaki about to take flight in California's wine country, as seen in the DVD special, "Lasseter-San, Arigato!".

In April 2009, a new studio called "West Ghibli" was established in the Toyota Motor Corporation office. However, a year later, the studio was closed.

On August 2014, With the release of "The Wind Rises" and Miyazaki announcing his retirement once again, Suzuki suspended the animation production department. All production department employees were forcibly retired by the end of the year.

However, May 19, 2017 saw the revival of the production department following Miyazaki then-unannounced film project. On November 28, 2017, Kiyofumi Nakajima (former director of the Ghibli Museum) is appointed as President and Representative Director of the company. The former president, Hoshino, became chairman of the board. In addition, he announced that he is currently producing two new feature-length anime movies - the first is Hayao Miyazaki's "How Do You Live?" and Goro Miyazaki's "Earwig and the Witch", a CG feature-length film. Toshio Suzuki revealed that "How Do You Live?" is a fantasy work, unlike the novel of the same name.

Netflix deal

Studio Ghibli and Wild Bunch International partnered to stream Ghibli films on Netflix.

Netflix has struck a deal with Wild Bunch International to stream 21 films from iconic Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli, globally outside the US, Canada and Japan. Available from February 1, the films will be subtitled in 28 languages and dubbed in up to 20 languages.

Toshio Suzuki said, “In this day and age, there are various great ways a film can reach audiences. We’ve listened to our fans and have made the definitive decision to stream our film catalogue. We hope people around the world will discover the world of Studio Ghibli through this experience”.

Wild Bunch International CEO, Vincent Maraval, said, “In finding the best digital partner for Studio Ghibli, our most valuable and faithful collaborators for 20 years, the Netflix team convinced us with their consistent love and energy for finding the best ways to promote the incredible and unique catalogue worldwide with respect to the Studio Ghibli philosophy”.[9]

Works

See List of Studio Ghibli's Films and Animes (include games)

Ghibli Library

Ghibli Academic Library

A label that sells documentary programs and non-fiction movies. Most of the works are produced by other companies. Projects include, "What Did Humans Eat?" (人間は何を食べてきたか , Produced by NHK), "The Story of Yanagawa's Canals" (a film directed by Isao Takahata and funded from the royalty revenue of "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind"), "Hotta Yoshie Jidai to Ningen" (堀田善衞 時代と人間, about novelist Yoshie Hotta, produced by NHK), etc.

Ghibli CINEMA library

A label that distributes films produced by other companies. Some works have been transferred to the "Ghibli Museum Library". Films include, "Dark Blue World" (directed by Jan Sverak, released in 2001) and "Kirikou and the Sorceress" (written by Michel Ocelot, released in 1998). They've also helped distribute "Shiki-Jitsu", a film directed by Hideaki Anno.

Music

Studio Ghibli Records

A label established in partnership with Tokuma Japan Communications that releases the soundtracks and theme songs of Studio Ghibli films. Ghibli previously released music via the "Animage Records" label. The theme song and single CD release from "Tales from Earthsea" in 2006 was transferred to Yamaha Music Communications (sold by Avex Entertainment) and in 2013, the "Wind Rises" theme song called "Hikuoki Gumo" or "Vapor Trails" by Yumi Matsutoya was released by Universal Music.

Publishing

Bunshun Bunko Ghibli

The monthly magazine "Bungeishunjū" was first published in April 2013. In addition to republishing works by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and new editions of books published by Tokuma Shoten's "Cinema Comics" and old editions of Animage Bunko works, they also distribute "Ghibli Textbooks" containing work theories, essays by the studio's filmmakers.

Clothing

Tailor Studio Ghibli

Primegate has signed a license agreement with Studio Ghibli to plan, manufacture and sell "GHIBLI" branded clothing and accessories. It is a men's brand that began in fall / winter of 2004 . The mascot of the label is Porco Rosso, the main character of "Porco Rosso" (1992). The target of the line are men in their 40's and above.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Birth of Studio Ghibli, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind DVD, Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2005.
  2. "Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli" by Steve Alpert, pp114.
  3. "Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli" by Steve Alpert, pp115.
  4. Ghibli report on Tokuma / Disney alliance.
  5. A god among animators by Xan Brooks, The Guardian 2005-09-14: There is a rumour that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the US release of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the post. Attached to the blade was a stark message: 'No cuts.' / The director chortles. 'Actually, my producer did that.' (accessed 2007-05-23)
  6. [https://www.onlineghibli.com/spe/disney-tokuma.php Online Ghibli on the Disney Tokuma deal.
  7. Ghibli Co-Founder Reveals Dark Side of Isao Takahata: He ‘Destroyed So Many People’, Cartoon Brew.
  8. スタジオジブリ社長に星野康二氏 2008-02-01 (in Japanese)
  9. https://www.screendaily.com/news/netflix-strikes-deal-for-studio-ghibli-films-outside-us-japan/5146314.article#:~:text=Netflix%20has%20struck%20a%20deal,in%20up%20to%2020%20languages. Netflix deal with Studio Ghibli.

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