Kiki, Howl, Totoro and co. are on their way to HBO Max.
The forthcoming WarnerMedia streamer has secured the U.S. streaming rights to Studio Ghibli movies, meaning the entirety of the iconic Japanese animation studio’s collection will be available on HBO Max upon launch in spring 2020.
This marks the first time the likes of “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Ponyo,” “Castle in the Sky,” “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” and more have been licensed to a streaming platform. The historic deal, struck between HBO Max and American Studio Ghibli distributor GKids, signals the streamer’s intent to load up on premium animated content and compete with the the vast library coming to one of its streaming war rivals Disney Plus.
“Studio Ghibli films are visually breathtaking, completely immersive experiences” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max and president of TNT, TBS, and truTV. “Exciting, enchanting, and deeply humanistic, these wonderful films have captured people’s hearts around the world, and we are proud to showcase them in an accessible way for even more fans through HBO Max.”
The deal will come as a surprise to many, as Studio Ghibli co-founder and master animator Hayao Miyazaki has regularly expressed reticence at allowing his films to enter the U.S. streaming market.
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“We are excited to be working with HBO Max to bring the complete collection of Studio Ghibli films to streaming audiences in the U.S. As a premium content brand, HBO Max is an ideal home for our films,” said Koji Hoshino, chairman of Studio Ghibli in a statement. “Upon launch of the service this spring, existing Ghibli fans will be able enjoy their favorites and delve deeper into the library, while whole new audiences will be able to discover our films for the first time.”
Studio Ghibli’s journey began with “Castle in the Sky” in 1986, and since then, the studio has gone on to create a host of worlds populated with wildly colorful, creative characters. Under the discerning eye of Miyazaki, regular Studio Ghibli director Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki, the studio’s films have won countless international awards, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for “Spirited Away” in 2003, as well as four additional Oscar nominations for “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “The Wind Rises,” “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya,” and “When Marnie Was There.”
The studio has been on a five-year hiatus since “When Marnie Was There,” however, in 2017 Studio Ghibli reopened for business to produce “How Do I Live,” which will allegedly be Miyazaki’s final film (although that information is to be taken with a pinch of salt given that Miyazaki has cut short his retirement several times before).
In May, Studio Ghibli unveiled plans to build its first theme park outside the Japanese city of Nagoya, where fans will be able to explore multiple themed areas based on Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Princess Mononoke,” as well as other Ghibli films.
News of the deal comes only a couple weeks after HBO Max set its animation and kids programming executive team. On the animation front, HBO Max also has a revival of “The Boondocks” in the pipeline, while on the kids side of things, the streamer recently reached a deal to become the new home of “Sesame Street.”