Studio Ghibli's future has remained uncertain since director Hayao Miyazaki's retirement in 2013 following the completion of The Wind Rises. However, things have recently begun to look up for Studio Ghibli, as a new feature-length film to be directed by Hayao Miyazaki is on the way. So, let's take a look at why Studio Ghibli was forced to slow down, and how a new movie can help to breathe life back into the dormant studio.
Following Miyazaki's retirement, #StudioGhibli announced that it would be taking a break to restructure and consider its options on how to proceed without its founder and most prolific director. Though the studio remained active, it did not release any feature-length movies, and the three projects in development marked a slowing momentum and difference in direction for the studio.
In 2014, the studio released Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There, which failed to attract viewers to the box office and was considered a flop by Ghibli's standards in Japan. Studio Ghibli movies are expensive to make and require large profits to compensate, which the studio had been failing to achieving over its last few movies, including The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Clearly, changes needed to be made in the way Studio Ghibli created movies if it wished to remain open.
That same year the studio released the TV show Ronja, the Robber's Daughter directed by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki's son, which combined CGI characters with Ghibli's trademark hand-drawn backgrounds, marking a change in the way Studio Ghibli created movies. In 2016, the studio collaborated with Dutch director Dudok de Wit on the Oscar-nominated film The Red Turtle, which also blended computer and traditional animation.
These two projects revealed that Studio Ghibli was likely entering a new era, one that would embrace alternate methods of both animation and production. In an interview with LA Times back in 2014, Miyazaki, who previously stated that he hated CG animation, acknowledged that the future of animation would be different, saying:
"I do think the era of pencil, paper and film is coming to an end."
At the end of 2016, things began to look up for the studio, with Hayao Miyazaki announcing that he was coming out of retirement to work on a short film titled Boro the Caterpillar. In keeping with the shift in direction the studio had previously taken, it was announced that the film would be entirely CG animated. The short film was described by Miyazaki in Japanese media as:
“A story of a tiny, hairy caterpillar, so tiny that it may be easily squished between your fingers.”
Since then, the future has continued to look bright for Studio Ghibli, who recently announced it was officially back in production and hard at work on a feature-length film, likely an extended version of Boro the Caterpillar. It is slated for release in time for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
There's also the possibility that the film could be unrelated to Boro, but either way, it seems certain that there will be a new Studio Ghibli movie to look forward to. There is no concrete word yet on whether the feature will be traditionally or digitally animated, but there's a very strong chance the film will involve CG #animation.
Though it's sad to think that we've reached an age where — even for an iconic studio like Ghibli — traditional animation is no longer financially viable, the inclusion of GC animation in its repertoire is by no means a bad thing. In fact, CG animation is exactly the thing needed to keep the studio alive and allow it to continue flourishing. By keeping an open mind to new technologies, Studio Ghibli may appeal to new audiences and be able to produce films in a quicker, easier and cheaper way, making the studio less dependent on the box office.
Another excellent sign is the fact that the studio is in the process of hiring new animators to assist Miyzaki with his movie. Apart from Hayao Miyazaki and his son Goro, other Studio Ghibli directors have either retired (such as Isao Takahata) or moved on to new projects, as Hiromasa Yonebayashi did with Studio Ponoc. Miyazaki, who is now 76, isn't getting any younger, and if the studio wishes to continue producing movies, young, inspired and hardworking animators are crucial to its future. Hopefully, someone with both talent and vision will continue making movies under Studio Ghibli's name.
This upcoming movie — by pushing Miyazaki to study CG animation and requiring Studio Ghibli to hire new animators — seems to have opened the door to a new era for the studio, and it will be exciting to see what direction it will take in the years to come.
Do you think Hayao Miyazaki's upcoming movie will mark the start of a new golden age for Studio Ghibli? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!