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Studio Ghibli to put film production on hiatus

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Published : 2014-08-04 20:59
Updated : 2014-08-04 20:59

One of the world’s top animated feature filmmakers Studio Ghibli ― creator of internationally acclaimed works including “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke” and the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away” ― has announced that it will put its production on a hiatus.
A scene from “My Neighbor Totoro.” (Studio Ghibli)

Suzuki Toshio, the general manager of the Tokyo-based animation studio, said it would stop making new films for the time being, instead focusing on “restructuring and rebuilding” during an appearance on Japanese MBS television show “Jounetsu Tairiku,” Sunday.

“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 said.

The studio will continue to manage its trademarks and copyrights on its existing portfolio of 20 feature films as well as oversee the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, functioning under a small staff.
A scene from “Spirited Away.” (Studio Ghibli)

The announcement follows recent reports that forecast the studio’s imminent shutdown. Last month, Japanese news portal Rakuten Woman revealed that “Ghibli is planning to close down its production studio after its most recent animated feature film ‘When Marnie Was There,’” which opened in Japan on July 19.

Financial difficulties stemming mostly from high labor costs and poor profits were the primary reason for the studio’s closure, according to a Ghibli official in the report.

Unlike other studios, Studio Ghibli does not hire subcontractors, but rather employs its own workforce for the entire production process.

Given that roughly 2 billion yen ($2 million) goes toward paying its employees every year, the studio needs approximately 10 billion yen annually to maintain its business.

However, the studio has been unable to maintain such high revenues in recent years ― “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” released in 2013 grossed only about 5.1 billion yen in profits.

Therefore, “the studio has no other choice but to halt its production, as it is unable to continue releasing a new film annually,” the studio official said.

Established in 1985 following the success of 1984 animated feature “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” Studio Ghibli became internationally famous for its morally complex yet widely appealing stories, popularizing the Japanese anime form.

It has produced several well-recognized animated films including “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988), “Princess Mononoke” (1997), “Spirited Away” (2001), which won the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2003, and “Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

Last year, Suzuki took over the day-to-day running of the studio after its most prolific filmmaker and co-founder Miyazaki Hayao retired with his last work “The Wind Rises.”

By Sohn Ji-young (jiyoung.sohn@heraldcorp.com)

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