Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

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Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby Dan » August 3rd, 2014, 9:48 pm

Apparently there's conflicting reports about the fate of Studio Ghibli.

Kotaku is reporting that the initial announcement of the studio closing is false:
http://kotaku.com/studio-ghibli-is-not-dead-yet-1615520289

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby ohmahaaha » August 4th, 2014, 5:08 pm

Say it ain't so ... :(

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby GeorgeC » August 4th, 2014, 6:52 pm

I've read little tidbits about this online and browsed through one popular anime news website's forum and I came to one conclusion ---

--- many animation fans just aren't aware of the realities of feature animation production whether it's in Japan or the US.

With the exception of the Disney Studio until 2002, there was no feature animation studio in existence over 10 years that had a large long-term, contracted staff. Why? Because it costs a lot of money to retain several hundred people on the payroll when there are no projects in production AND if films fail to make money there's very little incentive to keep production teams together.

Most animation studios fail in well under 10 years because they just can't get enough contract work to stay in business OR their films flop again and again. Don Bluth, the pre-eminent Disney challenger until DreamWorks entered the scene in the mid-1990s, had at least three failed studios under his belt. He managed to produce/direct somewhere around a half-dozen features but he still couldn't establish a long-term, stable production team because those films failed to make enough money to keep the studios running.

The current Disney Studio is NOT the same entity that was founded by Walt Disney. It's a restructured, CG division that employs fewer permanent staff than the traditional feature studio which was shuttered in 2002. They bring in people under freelance contract for features but that additional staff gets discharged when feature films are completed. Likewise, even with the larger permanent staff at the original Disney (traditional animation) feature division, they contracted a lot of freelancers and subcontracted to smaller independent animation studios whenever additional animators were needed.

American CG films are very expensive to produce but they make those films with a smaller production unit than hand-drawn/traditional features. The prestige and continuing success of franchises and newer films like "Frozen" have allowed these films massive budgets in the $120-$150million range but even recent films have had budgets slashed as much as $20-$30million because of the uncertainty in the world economy.

For most animated films around the world, a production crew is assembled for one film and then afterwards that team disperses... People basically are freelancing from project (film) to project. A small number of people are actually retained full-time at many existing studios. For people who don't have the best drawing skills and/or can't network with other people -- you have to be able to network, period (!) --, the animation field is NOT a good sector to go into for long-term job stability. At any point that you enter, you are competing against an already over-crowded field with people who have 20 years of experience or more... Your art skills have to be top-notch and you have to be able to communicate and get along with people otherwise you won't last in the field. This goes for CG and traditional animation.

What doesn't get reported often enough in the US websites is the large turnover in animation artists in Japan. Lots of people try to enter the field but few people can make it work as a long-term career. For one, they don't get paid well unless they're higher level in the production staff, and two, the high cost of living in Japan means a lot of these guys have problems paying rent and buying food.

***************************************

What is happening with Ghibli happened with the Disney animated feature studio in 1966 after Walt Disney died. It was left without a leader with a clear vision but managed to survive because Walt Disney's brother Roy and other succeeding chairmen of the company wanted to keep Walt Disney's most visible legacy in existence. The surviving members of the animation staff Walt Disney worked with for over 30 years kept the budgets of the films down but did without a lot of the frills used in the earlier features. The films this group made in the 1970s and early 1980s films are considered run-of-the-mill by most people now BUT they still made money.
A lot of the classic Disney features (Pinocchio, Bambi, Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty) were box office failures in their original release. Dumbo was the only Disney feature released during World War II that made money despite the lack of overseas market because the production costs were kept under budget.
There was always talk of closing down the animated feature division when the company was in the red but Walt Disney's persistence and faith in the medium and policy of re-releasing films every 7 years meant that even films that originally bombed went on to make money in later re-releases. The Walt Disney Company was deeply in the red for most of the 1940s and into the mid-1950s. It was only the diversification of Disney in TV and live-action feature production as well as the original Disney theme park that brought the company out of what was considered deep debt back then. By today's standards, those debts (even adjusted with inflation) would be laughed at and few people today would lose sleep over it.
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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby Buzz Bumble » August 4th, 2014, 9:05 pm

What is happening with Ghibli happened with the Disney animated feature studio in 1966 after Walt Disney died. It was left without a leader with a clear vision but managed to survive because Walt Disney's brother Roy and other succeeding chairmen of the company wanted to keep Walt Disney's most visible legacy in existence.


Many people are saying the same about Apple after the death of Steve Jobs, although he reportedly left quite a clear roadmap for the next few years that the current CEO is still following (to some degree, it of course needs "course corrections" when other things happen in the industry).

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby GeorgeC » August 5th, 2014, 12:36 am

Walt Disney wasn't as engaged with the animation department the last 10 years of his life.
One thing that did change after the box office bust of Sleeping Beauty was that a lot of the frills from the earlier films were done away (colored ink lines, complicated special effects) to ease production and keep the films under budget. I don't personally like the introduction of Xerox'ing and the scratchy look of the post-Beauty films but the main problems with those pictures was bland characterizations and story issues. They still managed to make money which is bottom-line even for Disney.
The animators known as the Nine Old Men were running the animation department from the 1950s onward to the retirement of the last of these fellows in the 1980s. They still looked to Walt for okaying of projects and to help resolve story issues but a lot of Walt's attention was devoted to the Florida project which became Disney World and EPCOT as well as aiding the formation of CalArts and its animation program. Starting with the first Disney live-action feature (Treasure Island), his attention was drifting from animation to many other things. He just had too much on his plate the last decade of his life!

Walt Disney's function for the Disney classic features (1937-1959) was basically executive producer/executive story editor... he didn't draw these films himself or direct them. That's a huge difference from Miyazaki who wrote the script, storyboarded, directed, and did key animation frames for his films.

Comparing these guys is Apple's and Orange's. Same thing with the Steve Jobs/Apple situation. Totally different.
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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby droosan » August 5th, 2014, 4:00 am

GeorgeC is right; a studio like Walt Disney Animation -- chugging along, nearly fifty years after the death of its creative founder -- is the exception, not the rule.

Even Hanna-Barbera -- a cartoon factory with decades of experience and hundreds of TV cartoons (and even a few animated features) to its credit -- was dissolved and/or folded into Cartoon Network almost immediately after Bill & Joe had stepped down.

Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata set-up Studio Ghibli in the mid-1980s as an independent studio, in order to make the films they wanted to make. It was never very large; they rarely had more than 100 artists employed during the height of a given production .. and would sometimes shrink to a staff of 30 or less, between some films.

I did enjoy Goro Miyazaki's From Up On Poppy Hill (much moreso than his Tales from EarthSea) .. so it isn't as though Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata are the only directing talents capable of putting Ghibli to use.

But even if this current shuttering of the studio is merely a 'hiatus', Ghibli's future is still uncertain if its founding creative visionary has truly finally retired.

Consider that he has retired multiple times since 1992 .. only to return for "one more film".

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby Ben » August 5th, 2014, 4:53 am

So we're all glad that we didn't shutter George's forum membership, right!? :)


Personally on the Ghibli front, I wonder if this announcement, or at least rumors, are a way of showing Miyazaki what his studio would be like without him, as possibly a way to get him to come back for that "one more film".

I can see where they're coming from as well, though, since his name is as much a brand identifier as Ghibli's, and perhaps more so internationally where he's strongly connected with the company's films. It's a shame Goro isn't making more of a name for himself - not that a studio's running should be hereditary, but there would be a nice "passing of the torch" if that could happen...

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby GeorgeC » August 5th, 2014, 8:37 pm

Droo,

I liked From "Up on Poppy Hill", too.
Funny thing is how prominent the Disney brand name pops up in the opening credits! They obviously helped fund the film even though they didn't pick up distribution and video rights for the US market.
I read somewhere that "Princess Kaguya" was also picked up by the same video label that released From Up on Poppy Hill.
I guess besides "Grave of the Fireflies" (too sad and depressing for the Disney label) there were other Ghibli Disney did not want to take a chance on.
It's kind of easy to guess why they passed on "From Up on Poppy Hill." Won't mention that since it gives away the plot of the film to people who haven't seen it.
The one Ghibli feature under license I'm aware of that Disney's never released in the US was "Only Yesterday." It's been shown in festivals and was played ONCE on TCM around 9 years ago. It was subtitled since Disney never produced an English dub version. I wish I had taped it!
People are still going to have to wait an additional year to get the US releases of the Ghibli features on Blu ray... The US releases are staggered to prevent reverse importation of the American releases into the Japanese market. They had reverse importation issues on some earlier anime DVD releases that trickled back into Japan when the Japanese fans found out how much cheaper the US releases were... It affected sales on some series like Cowboy Bebop.
For people who complain about the high cost of the Ghibli features on Blu ray, there's usually at least one or two sales a year where you can get them for around $20 online... The Japanese costs for essentially the same discs is on average $70! I doubt you could find the Japanese Blu rays for much less than $65 online unless they're used...
Yeah, been there, done that importation thing during the laserdisc era! Skipped importing DVD's because of all the hassle with the region-coding and lack of subtitles on 99% of the releases and definitely passing on importing Blu rays because the cost is generally not worth it unless it's something you really want and know won't be released in the States.

**************************

Oh well, IF Ghibli closes for good they've at least had a good run of films that are never going to vanish from sight.
I think people will still be watching "My Neighbor Totoro," "Nausicaa," and "Spirited Away" well into the feature.
I just hope that the corporate entities who own these films doesn't hide them away from the public or do a poor job of promoting them.
There are lots of American AND European animated features that have basically dropped off the face of the Earth because the people who own these films don't care or just don't know what they have in their film vaults. The Fleischer features and most of the Hanna-Barbera films are unknown to several generations of kids because they haven't played widely on TV in years or have been out-of-print on home video for quite a while.
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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby Randall » August 5th, 2014, 9:24 pm

I really liked Poppy Hill as well, but can understand how a certain plot point might make Disney nervous. Still, odd that they did help finance it, but not distribute it anywhere. As investors, though, I guess they still stood to profit a little.

Both Only Yesterday and Ghibli's Ocean Waves openly discuss aspects of female biology, and I suspect that's why Disney hasn't handled them. I bought each on DVD from the UK. (Note that UK Blu-rays are much cheaper than Japanese versions, too.)

I do hope that Ghibli survives in some form. Someone needs to be the torchbearer for quality hand-animated features.

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby EricJ » August 5th, 2014, 9:42 pm

It's a silly comparison, as Apple Computers are clearly not going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
Ghibli was only "considering" dropping its features without Miyazaki's influence, but entertainment isn't a consumer shelf product--Apple isn't going to "consider dropping desktops", or "retire the iPad to respect Steve Jobs", just because they've lost their mentor; they happen to be sane.
If a director decides to produce no more films, there will be others to take his place.

As for Disney after Walt, Walt had different ideas from his animators, so they could only guess at what he was thinking, and their "guesses" ended up as remaking Jungle Book throughout the entire 70's. (Rather like Ghibli sinking into their post-Arietty "European children's-book" rut with Marnie and Ronja.)
A little shakeup in the brain trust for a new direction didn't hurt the company any, in fact it gave it a new direction.

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby Ben » August 6th, 2014, 4:18 am

From what I understand, Disney has an overall investment in Ghibli, where it part finances the actual studio, not each actual film, so it could be that they're credited on Poppy Hill with the other participants and essentially have a first-look deal to distribute in the US should they wish to pick that option up. In this case, they obviously didn't (just as the previous film, The Wind Rises, went out under the Touchstone banner), for whatever reasons.

Maybe they knew the relationship was coming to an end, maybe they couldn't see any commercial or creative reward in releasing this particular film, or maybe they just didn't connect with the final result, as happened with another current release, Earth To Echo, which was Disney developed, funded and made, but then sold to Relativity when the top brass decided it wasn't the kind of big tentpole they wanted to put out. Relativity did enhance some effects and add some scenes back in, but that's essentially a Disney movie in all but name.

Gnomeo & Juliet, too, ended up going out under the Touchstone brand when John Lasseter didn't want the Disney name on it (though Disney was canny there in not selling it off completely - to appease Elton John apparently - and didn't include it in their sale of Miramax titles, which held the copyright).

So there are exceptions to every "rule"... :)

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby droosan » February 25th, 2017, 12:47 am

droosan wrote:Consider that he has retired multiple times since 1992 .. only to return for "one more film".



And that film is The Red Turtle .. which is due for release in concert with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Don't ever change, Miyazaki-sensei. 8)
Last edited by droosan on February 25th, 2017, 2:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby EricJ » February 25th, 2017, 1:33 am

droosan wrote:
droosan wrote:Consider that he has retired multiple times since 1992 .. only to return for "one more film".

And that film is The Red Turtle .. which is due for release in concert with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.


Nnnnnno. What you read was:
During an a pre-Oscars interview with Toshio Suzuki for The Red Turtle, the producer apparently confirmed that, yes, Miyazaki is now working on a new feature film.

Meaning, they discussed his next film WHILE talking ABOUT The Red Turtle, which played arthouses back in January.

Other articles have said Miyazaki's "gotten back to work" (after finally learning to embrace computer-assisted animation) on his danged Caterpillar movie, and talked Ghibli into expanding it back into a feature.
We don't know for certain whether they said yes, because the parent company is playing silent about it, but yeah, like he's working on something else...

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby droosan » February 25th, 2017, 2:12 am

I did think that title sounded familiar. :oops: Thanks for the correction!

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Re: Conflicting reports on Studio Ghibli

Postby Ben » February 25th, 2017, 4:11 am

I thought the feature version of the Caterpillar movie was confirmed at the end of last year...?