When people talk about Japanese anime and manga, you think of series like Dragon Ball Z and Bleach. However, there is one studio that has repeatedly produced amazing animated films that have kept the world spellbound – its name is Studio Ghibli and its most famous animation, Spirited Away has captured the imagination of children and adults alike.
Based in Tokyo, the studio was founded in 1985 after the success of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – a film about the post-apocalyptic world.
The name ‘Ghibli’ is taken from an Italian word meaning a scirocco or Mediterranean wind – the idea being the studio would “blow a new wind through the anime industry.” It’s logo features the popular character Totoro from the studio’s film – My Neighbour Totoro.
Studio Ghibli is headed by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata together with the producer Toshio Suzuki. The two directors already had numerous film and TV credentials to their name whilst Suzuki had worked on a manga magazine.
So why are Studio Ghibli films so successful?
Other than being great storytellers and creating beautiful animation, their success lies in the fact that they have a recognisable formula that makes people feel at home with their films.
More often than not the lead in the film is a young girl, there’s usually some kind of talking animal such as a cat, a nice little old lady, creatures that change their appearance at the drop of a hat and so on.
Following some issues with their first film Nausicaa in the States, Studio Ghibli now insists on a no cuts policy so the films you see are identical to those released in Japan and not tweaked for foreign audiences.
The studio has become so popular, it even has its own museum in Tokyo which looks like it would be well worth a visit – http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/
It’s most recent film – Only Yesterday – was released this year and, as usual, was well received by both film goers and the critics.
Studio Ghibli highlights
- Studio Ghibli’s first major box office success grossing just over £14 million was Kiki’s Delivery Service in 1989
- Japan’s highest-grossing film of 1992 was Studio Ghibli’s Porco Rosso (£21.2 million in distribution income).
- Studio Ghibli film made use of computer graphics for the first time in 1992 with Pom Poko starring a group of tanuki – Japanese raccoon dogs.
- Miyazaki’s first film using computer graphics and the first Studio Ghibli film featuring digital coloring was the 1997 Princess Monoke. It was the highest grossing movie in Japan (overtaking E.T.) with £103.2 million in box office revenue until it was out-sailed by Titanic.
- Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away was the first film to gross £154 million worldwide even before opening in North America, eventually making about £212 million in total.
- It was the only anime film ever to win an Academy award for Best Animated Feature, and it took over Titanic (£103 million) at the Japanese box office, becoming the top grossing film ever in Japanese cinema.