The History of Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli is one of the most well-known animation studios in Japan, especially in the West. The name “Ghibli” is based on the Arabic name for the Mediterranean wind; this term was used by the Italians for their Saharan scouting planes during World War II. While Studio Ghibli is primarily known for producing theatrical films, the company also produced the 1993 television anime film, Ocean Waves, as well as a live-action documentary titled, The Story of the Yanagawa Canals. The company has also dabbled in producing music videos, commercials, and even co-producing a couple of video games.

Studio Ghibli was founded in June 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki in the wake of the success of the 1984 film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. When the studio was founded, Miyazaki and Takahata already had established careers in Japanese film and television animation; Suzuki, meanwhile, was an editor at Tokuma Shoten’s Animage manga magazine. Studio Ghibli and Animage have a close relationship, which has included exclusive articles about the studio and its films in the magazine. Studio Ghibli became a subsidiary of Tokuma Shoten in 1999, and this relationship lasted until 2005.

Studio Ghibli has primarily produced films directed by Miyazaki, and Takahata is the studio’s second most prolific director. Other directors have also directed productions for the studio, including Yoshifumi Kondo, Hiroyuki Morita, and Goro Miyazaki. In addition, Joe Hisaishi has provided the music for all of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films.

Studio Ghibli adopted a “no cuts” policy when their titles are licensed abroad. This policy was created after the original dub of Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was produced and released in America under the title Warriors of the Wind. The policy was strictly enforced when Studio Ghibli entered into a North American distribution agreement with the Walt Disney Company in 1996. Rumor has it that when Harvey Weinstein suggested making edits to Princess Mononoke to make it more marketable, the studio sent him an authentic katana with the message “No cuts.”

In October 2001, the GhibliMuseum opened in Tokyo. The museum features exhibits based on the studio’s films, and it also includes screenings for a number of exclusive Studio Ghibli shorts.

As of this writing, Studio Ghibli has produced the following theatrical films: Castle in the Sky (1986), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Only Yesterday (1991), Porco Rosso (1992), Pom Poko (1994), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Princess Mononoke (1997), My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), Spirited Away (2001), The Cat Returns (2002), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Tales From Earthsea (2006), Ponyo (2008), Arrietty (2010), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), and The Wind Rises (2013).

References

The Birth of Studio Ghibli, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind DVD, Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2005.

Brooks, Xan. “A God Among Animators.” The Guardian. September 14, 2005.

“Miyazaki Shorts Come to Carnegie Hall for One Day Only.” Asia Pacific Arts. March 4, 2011.

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