Studio Ghibli, Japan’s most famous animation studio, responsible for hits such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, has announced plans to put film production on hold, though it is not closing its doors—despite reports to the contrary.
In an interview with Japanese TV program Jounetsu Tairiku Sunday night, Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki commented on plans to restructure the production company. Stills from Suzuki’s interview, as noted in Kotaku, were initially posted without translation on a Ghibli fan Tumblr under a heading which implied that the studio had plans to close permanently.
As Kotaku and other reports have made clear, however, such reports were exaggerated. Suzuki’s comments merely noted a pause in production for the studio to take stock of itself. Variety points out that these kinds of short breaks are common in Japanese animation industry, where staff are often hired on a per-project basis.
In fact, Ghibli had managed to avoid this sort of break—and maintain a large staff—for a long time due to the string of successful films by co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, who retired last year. Miyazaki’s work was highly regarded both in and outside of Japan, earning him two Oscar nominations (Howl’s Moving Castle in 2006 and The Wind Rises in 2014) and one win (Spirited Away in 2001) for best animated feature. This recognition translated to large audiences. Miyazaki’s films often made over $100 million, almost three times the gross of recent releases by other Ghibli directors. With Miyazaki gone, then, it’s reasonable that the studio would reconsider its business strategy.
American fans can expect to see two more films before this announced break. The first—The Tale of Princess Kaguya, directed by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata—will arrive in American theaters Oct. 17. The second—When Marnie Was There, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi—opened in Japan on July 19. A U.S. release date has not been announced.