Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki has announced that the acclaimed Japanese animation house is set to close down and dismantle its animation feature film department.
The company will remain, but what's left will essentially be a handful of staff to handle its licensing of brands, and to manage its trademarks and copyrights according to news reports out of Japan (via Oh Totoro and Catsuka). Employees working in other departments (such as TV/music video production) will now be employed as freelancers, reportedly many of them already are.
Aside from maybe Disney/Pixar, Ghibli has arguably been the most acclaimed animated film production studio on the planet. A year ago came word that the company's co-founder Hayao Miyazaki was set to retire from filmmaking with last year's "The Wind Rises" being his final work.
The company's first post-Miyazaki work, "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," has proven a rare box-office dud. The recently released in Japan ghost story "When Marnie Was There" looks likely to be the company's final feature film.
Ghibli was founded in June 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki following the success of Miyazaki's "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" which many consider the real first 'Ghibli' film even if it was made for other companies and released before the studio's official founding.
The company produced some of the most internationally beloved traditionally animated films over the course of the next three decades, quite a few of which are often considered amongst the greatest films of all time including the Oscar-winning "Spirited Away," the astonishing "Princess Mononoke," the harrowing "Grave of the Fireflies," the adventurous "Castle in the Sky," and the delightful "My Neighbor Totoro".
Other great film efforts from the company include "Howl's Moving Castle," "Ponyo," "Whisper of the Heart," "Porco Rosso," "Kiki's Delivery Service," "Pom Poko," "Only Yesterday," "The Secret World of Arrietty," "Pom Poko," "From Up on Poppy Hill," "The Cat Returns," "Tales from Earthsea," "My Neighbors the Yamadas" and the telemovie "Ocean Waves".
The company has also scored much acclaim for its music video and short film efforts, along with its work on the 2011 video game release "Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch".