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Japan’s Studio Ghibli Envisages Short Break, not Imminent Closure

Iconic anime producer needs to slim down since retirement of Hayao Miyazaki

TOKYO — Veteran Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki discussed the famed animation house’s future in a documentary broadcast by the TBS network on its “Jonetsu Tairiku” program on Sunday evening. 

Suzuki talked about the need for “big changes in all aspects of our operations.” One possibility he mentioned was a hiatus in the production department and taking what he described as a “short break” to assess the studio’s future. 

He added that it “would be possible for us to keep making films indefinitely.”

Such short breaks are common in the Japanese animation business, in which companies hire animators on a per-project basis and dissolve the production teams, save for a few key staff, when the project is completed.

Studio Ghilbi was unusual in retaining a large number of full-time staff by industry standards, with annual personnel expenses totaling nearly $20 million by one estimate. 

But with the retirement of studio maestro and co-founder Hayao Miyazaki (pictured) in September of last year, Studio Ghilbi lost his fabled box office clout. Its latest feature, Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s “When Marnie Was There,” is expected to finish with about $36 million, which makes it a solid hit, but Miyazaki’s films would routinely top the $100 million mark. His last feature prior to retiring, “The Wind Rises,” finished with nearly $120 million. So as Suzuki noted, the studio has to economize; now that it has become a more normal studio by local standards.

A post to an English-language blog subsequently picked up by other media, wrongly reported Suzuki as announcing Studio Ghibli’s closure and dissolution. The death of Japan’s most famous animation house, to paraphrase Mark Twain, has been greatly exaggerated.  

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