Studio Ghibli is a world famous animation production studio founded in 1985 by the internationally renowned animators Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and the producer Toshio Suzuki. Miyazaki came up with the company’s name through his well known love of aeroplanes, in this case the Caproni ca.309 Ghibli and “ghibli” itself actually means the Sirocco or Mediterranean wind which blows in from the Sahara. He chose the name because they hoped to blow a new wind through the anime industry - an aim in which they clearly succeeded!
The company was created in the wake of the success of the Miyazaki helmed animation Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind in 1984 so the first official Studio Ghibli movie was Laputa: Castle in the Sky in 1986 (also directed by Miyazaki). Ghibli’s second effort came in the form of a double bill in 1988 which was comprised of Miyazaki’s now legendary My Neighbour Totoro paired with Takahata’s much more sombre look back at his wartime childhood in Grave of the Fireflies - surely one of the most heartbreaking animated features ever to be committed to celluloid.
17 more big screen outings would follow in quick succession beginning with 1989’s Kiki’s Delivery Service (Miyazaki), 1991’s Only Yesterday (Takahata), Porco Rosso in 1992 (Miyazaki), and Pom Poko in 1994 (Takahata). Whisper of the Heart, released in 1995, was the first Ghibli film to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki or Takahata as Yoshifumi Kondo sat in the director’s chair for the first and only time, though the script was provided by Miyazaki.
Miyazaki himself then released the much loved Princess Mononoke in 1997 while Takahata went in a different direction with My Neighbours the Yamadas in 1999. Studio Ghibli’s big international hit came with Miyazaki’s Spirited Away in 2001 which took a Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 75th Academy Awards as well as the prestigious Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival.
Hiroyuki Yoshida was the next new director to helm a Ghibli movie with 2002’s The Cat Returns (a loose follow up to Whisper of the Heart). Miyazaki bounced back with Howl’s Moving Castle in 2004 before his son, Goro Miyazaki, picked up the reins with Tales of Earthsea in 2006. Miyazaki then released the Little Mermaid inspired Ponyo in 2008 before Hiromasa Yonebayashi helmed his first movie for the studio with Arrietty which is an adaptation of the classic British children’s novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton.
Goro was given a second chance to impress with the nostalgic 1960s set From Up on Poppy Hill before his father revisited his childhood love of aircraft in his magnum opus The Wind Rises which was again nominated for an Academy Award. Not to be outdone, Isao Takahata finally came back with his own masterpiece in the form of the classic Japanese fairy tale, The Tale of Princess Kaguya which also received an oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Hiromasa Yonebayashi became the only other director to helm more than one effort for Studio Ghibli when he returned for what may be the company’s final production, When Marnie Was There - another adaptation of a classic British children’s story, this time by Joan G. Robinson.
Studio Ghibli also produced the TV anime movie Ocean Waves, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki in 1993, a TV anime series in 2014 Ronia the Robber’s Daughter (based on the book by Astrid Lindgren and directed by Goro Miyazaki), and a video game produced by Level-5, Ni no Kuni, as well as countless short films, advertising commercials and music videos but with the retirements of both Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata production of feature length animation appears to be over.
Studio Ghibli also produces a wide range of merchandise inspired by their movies which encompasses everything from home goods such as bedding, tableware, and electrical appliances to the more usual plushies, keychains, T-shirts and stationery many of which are specially produced for their Ghibli Museum located in Mitaka Forest near Tokyo which also houses a replica of the Catbus, a robot from Castle in the Sky, and special exhibitions dedicated to animation from around the world.