Since last summer, producer Toshio Suzuki has been dropping hints that Studio Ghibli, the animation house he co-founded along with legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, might be restructuring. While the cagey veteran has avoided saying that Ghibli would be shutting down, he’s made several oblique references to “dismantling” its standing production team and taking a hiatus from creating feature films.
Still, the true Ghibli faithful have been holding out hope, clinging to the belief that it’s not over until the fat baby from Spirited Away sings. Hearing some of Suzuki’s recent remarks, though, it sounds like it’s going to be a very long wait until the next Ghibli film, as he described the production team’s current project as absolutely nothing.
The 66-year-old producer appeared at a promotional event on February 8 for the soon-to-be-released The Case of Hana and Alice, an anime movie (which is not produced by Ghibli) and prequel to 2004’s live-action teen romance Hana and Alice. Both films are directed by the prolific Shunji Iwai, who’s directed more than 30 theatrical features since 1991 debut, but is making his animated debut with The Case of Hana and Alice.
Iwai has been working frantically on the film, trying to prepare it for its February 20 release date. “I’ve hardly slept at all over the past few months,” he related, to which Suzuki jokingly quipped, “Shouldn’t you hurry up and head home, then?”
It’s not time for Iwai to take it easy, though, as he revealed that he’s still putting the finishing touches on The Case of Hana and Alice. “When I look at the posters that say it’s coming out on February 20, I break out in a cold sweat,” he told the audience at the event. Suzuki could sympathize, as he related that he and Miyazaki were still working on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the landmark 1984 film that served as a springboard for Ghibli’s formal foundation, up until four days before it premiered in Japanese theaters.
To the accomplished producer, though, that’s just the nature of impassioned filmmaking. “You can’t help yourself, because you’re doing something you love,” Suzuki told Iwai. That’s not to say that Suzuki feels compelled to be working on a film at all times, though. On the contrary, when speaking about what Studio Ghibli is up to these days, he described the organization thusly:
“I guess you could say Ghibli is still open, but not operating. We’re not really sure about what to produce next. Thinking about the state the world is in, it’s difficult to say what we should make.”
Thankfully, it doesn’t sound like Ghibli is throwing in the towel permanently. As he continued to pontificate on the nature of moviemaking, Suzuki mused, “This isn’t my first time to think this, but I sort of feel like it’s more fun to watch movies and comment on them than to make them. But even as I’m leaning that way, I feel a sense of pressure, like someone’s shouting, ‘Hey! What are you going to do?’ at me.”
Most encouraging of all was Suzuki’s hunch that eventually he’ll feel the creative spark again. “I might be overlooking a suitable theme for a movie that’s right under my nose,” he admitted.
So dry your tears with your Totoro handkerchief. Studio Ghibli still isn’t gone for good, even if it’s looking more and more like we’re in for a longer wait than the roughly two year gap between its films fans have become accustomed to since the company was founded.