The iconic Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli, which created internationally beloved films including “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away,” has been sold to Nippon TV after failing to find a successor for its legendary co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki.
The two companies’ board of directors met on Thursday and approved a resolution for Nippon TV to acquire shares of Studio Ghibli, making it a subsidiary of the television network, the companies said in a joint statement. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“With director Hayao Miyazaki now 82 years old and producer Toshio Suzuki also 75, Studio Ghibli has long been struggling with the issue of their successors,” the statement said.
Nippon TV will “permanently protect Studio Ghibli’s ‘craftsmanship’ and brand values,” and “intends to honor Studio Ghibli’s autonomy” so it can “focus on filmmaking.”
It added that Miyazaki’s eldest son, himself an animation film director, had been “repeatedly” suggested as a possible successor to his father — but he had “declined the idea, claiming that it would be difficult for him to take over Ghibli on his own and that it would be better to leave the future of Ghibli to someone else.”
The future of the studio has been an open question for many years, with Miyazaki announcing his retirement in 2013 — prompting Suzuki, also a co-founder, to say at the time that the firm needed a transformation.
Miyazaki is regarded by many as one of the world’s greatest animators and an icon of Japanese popular culture, with his films having shaped the animation industry and won critical acclaim globally.
He recently re-emerged from retirement for his final film, “The Boy and the Heron,” which was released earlier this year.
The film took seven years to create, the companies said in the joint statement, adding that they were “deeply grateful” to audiences and for the positive reviews so far.
Still, Studio Ghibli said, the question of a successor was an issue, and it considered “many different candidates.” The search led to discussions with Nippon TV, with Suzuki spending “some time” with the Nippon TV CEO at a hot spring resort last year, where they agreed to the partnership.
Nippon TV and Studio Ghibli have long worked together, with the former broadcasting Ghibli films on air, investing in Ghibli movie productions, and even helping fund the Ghibli Museum, the statement said.
Under the new arrangement, Nippon TV will become the largest Ghibli shareholder with 42.3% of the voting rights.
Since its founding in 1985, Studio Ghibli has been known for its hand-drawn animation, sticking to old-school, painstaking frame-by-frame methods.
Each of its hits, from “The Wind Rises” (2013) to “Princess Mononoke” (1997) and “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004), features delicately rendered characters, exquisitely crafted environments and an effortless sensation of movement.
At the helm through it all, Miyazaki has made numerous movies that fuse wild fantasy with more serious issues including environmentalism, feminism and anti-war messaging.
His 2001 epic “Spirited Away” brought him international fame, grossing a record-breaking $274 million worldwide and winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.