History of Studio Ghibli



Studio Ghibli has entertained audiences for decades.

Lilly Wolfe, Columnist

Studio Ghibli has released many high grossing films capturing the beauty of everyday life and the magic of childhood. Despite having started off in a competitive industry which was considered childish and immature, the studio still managed to rise to the top and is widely considered one of the best and most successful in the industry.

The creator and director behind it all, Hayao Miyazaki, started off in Bunkyo City, Japan. According to Britannica, his dad worked as the director of a company that made parts for Zero Fighter Planes. This led to an affinity for planes and is seen in his films, including “Pom Poko” (1994), and “The Wind Rises (2013). After Miyazaki graduated from university he got a job at Tōei Animation which was the biggest animation company in Japan at the time. After jumping back and forth from animation studios Miyazaki eventually started Studio Ghibli in 1985, with the help of long time friends and coworkers Takahata Isao and Toshio Suzuki. Ghibli is a Libyian Arabic word meaning ‘hot desert wind’ because the team wanted to blow new life into the anime industry.

Fittingly, the first film released by the company was “Nausicaa Valley of the Wind.” According to TokyoTreat, the film did pretty well in Japan. It was also released in the United States in hopes of a similar outcome but because of poor editing choices made by Disney, the dubbing made it underperform. The studio was reluctant to allow their films to be dubbed from there on out. After this incident they released more movies, including “Castle in the Sky” (1985) and “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988). The first movie to put them on the map was in 1989 called “Kiki’s Delivery Service” due to heavy advertisement. “Kiki’s Delivery Service” was a success but the company hadn’t become as widely international as we know it today.

“Princess Mononoke” (1989) was the key to success for the studio. The film had lots of advertising, big names, and a quality soundtrack. It was also the second Ghibli film to ever be dubbed into English. MangaTokyo writes, “more people started watching Studio Ghibli films without being anime fans. There were people who actually said, ‘I don’t watch anime but I watch Ghibli films.’” This rapidly expanding audience changed the legacy of the company forever. The film in total earned 19.3 billion yen or 185 million USD. Ghibli continued releasing hits from their own most notably “Spirited Away” (2001) which is currently the second most successful anime film ever made and was the first until the release of “Your Name” in 2017.

In 2013, Miyazaki announced his retirement from animation. The future of the studio remains unsure. Suzuki, along with Miyazaki’s son Goro, directed “Tales From Earthsea” in 2006. This was sort of a trial run for him and it didn’t go well. Hayao Miyazaki even walked out an hour in as captured in the documentary “Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki.” Other young directors have tried their hand including Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Hiroyuki Morita, but none have been as successful as the original three. 

The future does not look too promising for the company, but their legacy will remain longer than any one man. Despite this, the studio has released stills for their upcoming film “Aya and the Witch.” Throughout its life, Ghibli has explored themes that are still very relevant in 2020. If you are looking for some new movies to check out in quarantine, 21 of the Ghibli films have been released on HBO Max and one on Hulu.