Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki Hayao’s Iconic Japanese Cartoon Home, Selling Controlling Stake to Nippon Television

Studio Ghibli, the iconic Japanese cartoon firm behind Miyazaki Hayao’s recent “The Boy and the Heron,” is selling a controlling stake to Japanese broadcaster Nippon Television (NTV). The companies said that Studio Ghibli will become a “subsidiary.”

Nippon Television is to buy shares in Studio Ghibli and become its largest shareholder with 42.3% of voting rights. Executives from NTV are expected to join Studio Ghibli’s management, the pair said on Thursday. Terms of the deal, including its valuation and timetable, were not disclosed.

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“At Studio Ghibli, director Miyazaki Hayao is now 82 years old, and producer Suzuki Toshio is also 75 years old, and the issue of succession has been a problem for a long time,” Studio Ghibli said in a statement. “Miyazaki Goro, the eldest son of founder Miyazaki Hayao and an animation film director himself, has been mentioned several times as the successor to Studio Ghibli. However, Miyazaki Goro himself firmly declined, believing that it would be difficult to carry Ghibli alone, and that it would be better to leave the future of the company to others.”

The two companies have known each other and worked together in what they describe as a respectful fashion for some three decades.

NTV was the Japanese broadcaster of Miyazaki Hayao’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” back in 1985. It continued to carry Studio Ghibli works through its movie program “Friday Road Show.” NTV was also an investor in another Miyazaki-directed film, the 1989 title “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and supported the establishment of the Ghibli Museum in Japan’s Mitaka, which opened in 2001.

Moves to fix succession problem began in earnest last year with Studio Ghibli’s producer Suzuki and Nippon Television’s chairman and executive officer Sugiyama Mikuni meeting at a hot spring resort.

“At that time, Suzuki asked, ‘In order for Ghibli to continue to focus on making movies, would you be willing to help Nippon Television with its management?’ In response, Sugiyama promised to consider this matter positively, saying, ‘If it means continuing to support Ghibli’s works and protecting the environment in which Ghibli can continue to make movies’,” said Studio Ghibli.

“Because Nippon Television has maintained a long-standing relationship with Studio Ghibli while respecting its values, we were confident that we could permanently protect Studio Ghibli’s ‘manufacturing’ and brand value,” the two companies said.

Studio Ghibli also thanked spectators who have turned out for “The Boy and the Heron,” which was previously titled “How Do You Live.”

The film went straight to commercial release in Japan on July 14, with almost no publicity effort or press screenings, with Suzuki apparently taking the attitude that the release of Miyazaki’s final feature would be event enough to bring out the crowds. That tactic has been a qualified success. The film has had less than rave reviews and had gross earnings of $57.4 million (JPY8.16 billion) achieved from 5.46 million ticket sales.

That places it a lowly 79th on the all-time box office chart in Japan, including local and overseas titles. Three other Studio Ghibli titles remain in the all-time top ten: “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” To move up the Studio Ghibli ranking, “The Boy and the Heron” will have to overtake 59th placed “Arietty” with JPY9.25 billion.

The film is only just beginning its international career. It was recently set as the opening film of the Toronto International Film Festival and will next play at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Other scheduled festival stops include the New York, Chicago and BFI London events. It is set for commercial release in the U.S. through Gkids on Dec. 8.

Miyazaki was given an honorary award at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards in 2014. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures paid tribute to his artwork with a special exhibit when the museum opened in September 2021.

Studio Ghibli last year opened a theme park based on Miyazaki’s works, which features rides and attractions inspired by films such as “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Princess Mononoke.” A “My Neighbor Totoro” stage adaptation by the Royal Shakespeare Company also opened in London, U.K.

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