The rumors cycled through the weekend and dismayed all of us. The word was that Studio Ghibli was dead, finally fallen victim to an indifferent public and slowly-diminished global interest in hand-drawn animation. Hayao Miyazaki's retirement from directing was hard enough – how would fans react to the loss of the studio who brought us My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and the recent Oscar nominee The Wind Rises?
Fortunately, reports of Studio Ghibli's death have been premature. Slashfilm has dug up a report from the Anime News Network correctly deciphering a message from Toshio Suzuki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli. What caused the rumors were Suzuki's words about the production side of Studio Ghibli, which would undergo a "restructuring" or "housecleaning" for the next generation of animators. Said Suzuki,
"On what to do with Studio Ghibli's future, it is by no means impossible to keep producing [movies] forever. However, we will take a brief pause to consider where to go from here."
Suzuki has served as a producer for several Studio Ghibli films over the years, and when Miyazaki stepped down he did as well, now serving as "general manager." These rumors have circulated as Studio Ghibli's latest film, When Mamie Was Here, debuted to slightly softer numbers than the studio anticipated. Of course, blaming the box office for Studio Ghibli's declining success might be folly. Many Studio Ghibli films perform weakly in the U.S. Last year's The Wind Rises earned a stateside release after the Oscar nominations, but despite a star-studded voiceover crew, the film only grossed $5.2 million in America. But around the world, that number rose to $112 million, which is in line with various Ghibli hits. 2012's The Secret World Of Arrietty was another smash, with $145 million in worldwide receipts. And 2009's Ponyo grossed $201 million. These movies make a ton of money.
Of course, economics are changing in regards to filmmaking, and it's difficult to notice that Studio Ghibli has never really re-approached the $275 million gross of Spirited Away from 2001. Animation is still an expensive medium when utilized in such a caring and delicate way as the films of Studio Ghibli. For years, they've been the worldwide leaders in quality hand-drawn animation, producing works of immaculate gravity with an intense respect for the viewers, whether they be child or adult. Here's a beautiful reel of Studio Ghibli's films prepared for the Toronto International Film Festival a couple of years back. Even if you don't know these films, or you aren't a fan of anime, I dare you to not smile as you watch this.
If you don't want to Netflix them, surely you can find some of the decorated films from Studio Ghibli at your local library. Hop to it, and witness the painstaking work of Miyazaki and his collaborators.