Rumours were flying around the internet on Sunday that Japan's beloved Studio Ghibli – responsible for film classics like My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away – was closing down and would never make another film. Thankfully, rumours of Ghibli's demise were premature; for now, at least.
Anime News Network reports that Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki addressed the animation studio's prospects in a meeting with its board of shareholders on Japanese TV show Jounetsu Tairiku. Suzuki acknowledges that the animation studio is undergoing some big changes, particularly after the retirement of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki in 2013.
"On what to do with Studio Ghibli's future, it is by no means impossible to keep producing (movies) forever," Suzuki said. "However, we will take a brief pause to consider where to go from here."
He briefly raises the possibility that Studio Ghibli could dismantle its production department entirely, but says that the current emphasis is on "housecleaning" or restructuring to improve the studio for the next generation – hence the break in filmmaking.
So Ghibli's closure seems far from definite at this point, although it does make for sobering reading. After Miyazaki's departure last year, many questioned whether the studio could keep going without its inspired filmmaker at the helm. Its latest release, When Marnie Was Here, debuted with a weaker box office performance than expected. Miyazaki's final film, The Wind Also Rises, only grossed $5.2 million in America despite being nominated for an Oscar.
In July, a Ghibli insider told News Cafe that When Marnie Was Here would be the last Studio Ghibli release. Instead, it would only continue to exist as a rights management studio, making money off the anime it had produced so far.
Let's hope this isn't goodbye from Ghibli, though. We can think of one more animation studio that nearly packed it in after its visionary founder passed away in 1966. Thankfully, Disney decided to keep going after the successful release of the Jungle Book, and now owns a filmmaking empire in the form of Pixar and Marvel.
Fingers crossed Ghibli can turn things around in the same way.
If you need any more confirmation of the genius of Ghibli, just check out this highlights reel created for the Toronto International Film Festival a few years back:
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing