A name familiar to many, bringing to mind titles such as Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle and the iconic My Neighbour Totoro, Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Suzuki Toshio following the success of a pre-Ghibli title Nausicaa: Of the Valley of the Wind. Named Ghibli after the desert wind, the concept was that the studio would blow a new wind through the tired Japanese animation industry. Since then the studio has gone from strength to strength, becoming Japan’s premier animation studio, and the most profitable outside of Hollywood.
Reflecting the studios work and popularity across the world Ghibli has received numerous accolades over the years. These include Golden Bears from Berlin, Anime grand Prix awards and an Oscar (Best Animated Picture) for Spirited Away, the only foreign animated picture ever to receive the award.
Admired for its stunning painterly visuals and originality in telling stories of an epic nature, Ghibli tests the boundaries of it's artists and animators skills to create beautiful, individual masterpieces.
Forest gods, dreamscapes, exuberant magical adventures, flying machines, the folly of war and emotional journeys are all common themes and motifs of Ghibli features. The films may vary in context but there is very much a sense of a singular world view. The epic plots of the films come from multiple sources ranging from poetry and novels to manga comics. The studio explores range animation styles which are always exquisitely beautiful and detailed. This attention to detail in their features results in a graphic personality in each film that breaks the traditional boundaries of both the anime and manga genres. The studio maintain that previous to Ghibli there was a monopoly by the anime/manga-style fantasy genre and by breaking the mould they could offer people something new and fresh. Often the films touch political or environmental themes but the studio never claims to have an agenda, instead it seeks to relate to more general issues about the value of life, death and hope in a context appealing to modern Japanese youth culture.
Distribution in the west has been complicated with some of their films. Ghibli worked with a US studio who, fearing how accepting western audiences would be of the films in their original form, cut and Americanized the films. When they suggested cutting Ghibli masterpiece Princess Mononoke, a Ghibli producer sent the company a Japanese sword with a small note saying “No cuts.” This anecdote is highly reflective of the creative ethos of Ghibli.
Today Ghibli can boast three features in the top-ten-grossing-non-English-language films of all time, with a company ethos of artistic integrity continually pushing animation to the limits of its medium and beyond, bringing out the child-like wonder in young and old alike.