40 Whimsical Facts About Studio Ghibli

November 10, 2017 | Mathew Burke

40 Whimsical Facts About Studio Ghibli

“Life is a winking light in the darkness”  —Hayao Miyazaki

Charming and enchanting children and adults alike for more than three decades, Studio Ghibli has been responsible for some of the most beautiful, bold, and empowering animated films in history. From modest beginnings to adoration and success, let’s all hop on the Catbus and take a good, long look at one of the most beloved creative entities in the world.

Studio Ghibli Facts

40. The Legendary Trio

Studio Ghibli was founded in June 1985 in Tokyo, Japan by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

Toshio Suzuki and Hayao Miyazaki

39. So It Begins

The studio was founded following the success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, a 1984 feature film produced by Takahata and directed by Miyazaki.

Studio Ghibli FactsNausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Topcraft

38. Manga First, Movie Later

Nausicaä was adapted from two volumes of a serialized manga written by Miyazaki himself and published in Animage magazine in 1982.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr

37. Namedrop

Nausicaä’s titular character was inspired by Homer's Phaeacian princess in the Odyssey.

Studio Ghibli FactsWikimedia Commons


36. Environmentalist Through and Through

Much of the inspiration for the polluted world of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind came from the mercury poisoning of Minamata Bay and how nature responded and thrived in a toxic environment. This staunch environmental focus has become a staple of Miyazaki’s work.

Studio Ghibli FactsNausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Topcraft

35. Not Quite Ghibli

Though often included in collections of the Ghibli’s work and widely considered to be the studio’s first production, Nausicaä was actually a co-production between Tokuma Shoten, Hakuhodo, and Top Craft. Studio Ghibli was not formed until the following year.

Studio Ghibli FactsShutterstock

34. So it Begins. Again.

Released in 1986, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is technically the first film created and released by Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr

33. Another Namedrop

“Laputa” is a direct reference to the floating Island from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr


32. Socially Conscious

Miyazaki has visited Wales several times, and witnessing the 1984 Miners' Strike there greatly influenced the direction of Castle in the Sky, which is partially set in a mining town.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr


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31. What’s in a Name?

The name Ghibli refers to the Arabic name for the sirocco, also known as the “Mediterranean Wind” or “Hot Sahara Wind.” It was the studio’s intention to “blow new wind through the anime industry.”

Studio Ghibli FactsShutterstock


30. Soft “G”

In Japan the name is usually pronounced "jiburi" whilst in the West it is more commonly pronounced "geeblee" or "giblee" with a “J” sound, as in “giraffe.”

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr

29. Paying Homage

The name "Ghibli" also pays homage to an Italian scouting plane used during WWII, which was nicknamed Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli FactsWikipedia

28. Like Clockwork

Miyazaki sticks to a rigid schedule while working at Studio Ghibli. He arrives at the studio at 11 am sharp and leaves at 9 pm. He works six days a week, and often cleans the river down the street from him on his day off.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

27. Double Feature

The production of Takahata’s harrowing war drama Grave of the Fireflies and Miyazaki’s heartwarming My Neighbour Totoro paralleled each other, and the films were released in theatres as a double feature in 1988. Despite showcasing the vast potential of Japanese animation to transcend the pulpy thrills often associated with the genre, neither movie was a box office success.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr

26. Animated Icon

Probably Ghibli’s most iconic creation, Totoro became something of a mascot for the company. The creature has had cameos in a number of Ghibli’s subsequent films, and is featured in the studio’s logo.

Studio Ghibli FactsPixabay

25. Spot the Spirit

Totoro can be seen in Pixar’s Toy Story 3 among Bonnie’s toys, a nod to the immense respect and admiration the company has for Miyazaki and his studio.

Studio Ghibli FactsToy Story 3, Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar



24. Fourth Time’s a Charm

Ghibli’s first real box office success was their fourth film, Kiki’s Delivery Service. It was the highest grossing film of 1989 in Japan.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr

23. You’ve Got a Friend In Me

Miyazaki and Pixar’s John Lasseter have been longtime friends. Lasseter has served as executive producer on several of Miyazaki's films for their release in the US and has overseen the translation and dubbing of their English language soundtracks.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

22. Inspiration

For Lasseter and Disney/Pixar, Miyazaki’s artistic influence runs particularly deep. Lasseter has stated, “Whenever we get stuck at Pixar or Disney, I put on a Miyazaki film sequence or two, just to get us inspired again.”

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

21. In Safe Hands

Disney acquired worldwide distribution rights to Studio Ghibli’s films in 1996.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images


20. Something Beautiful

2013’s The Wind Rises is a fictionalised biopic of aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982). Miyazaki, who wrote and directed the film, was inspired to make it after reading a quote from Horikoshi: "All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful."

Studio Ghibli FactsThe Wind Rises, Studio Ghibli

19. Just When He Thought He Was Out...

Following the release of The Wind Rises, Miyazaki—not for the first time—announced his retirement from feature films. However, he returned to work on a new feature in 2016, titled Kimitachi wa Dou Ikiru ka or “How Do You Live?” It’s said to be 3-4 years away from completion.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images


18. Staying Out of It

Neil Gaiman adapted the script for the English version of Princess Mononoke, and throughout the process he received notes from both Miramax and Studio Ghibli. What they wanted from him were so different that he ended up writing a draft for each, telling them to fight it out amongst themselves.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

17. Iceberg Ahead

Released in Japanese theatres in 1997, Princess Mononoke became Japan’s highest grossing film at the time, taking in 18.25 billion yen (about $134 million) at the box office. It was surpassed only a few months later by Titanic.

Studio Ghibli FactsPrincess Mononoke, Studio Ghibli


16. Small Beginnings

Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso, released in 1992, was originally planned to be a short in-flight film for Japan Airlines based on his manga The Age of the Flying Boat, but it grew into a feature-length film.

Studio Ghibli FactsPorco Rosso, Studio Ghibli

15. Prestige

Spirited Away is also the only non-English language film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

14. Animal Analogies

For a scene in Spirited Away when Chihiro pushes her hand into Haku the dragon’s mouth to feed him some medicine, the animators recorded a vet opening a dog's mouth as a reference.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr

13. First of its Kind

2006’s Tales From Earthsea, directed by Miyazaki’s son Goro, received a PG-13 rating for some violent images, and was the first animated film distributed by Disney to be given this rating.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

12. Long Time Coming

2009’s The Secret World of Arrietty was based on Mary Norton’s The Borrowers from 1952. Miyazaki co-wrote the screenplay, and he and Takahata had been considering an adaptation of the book for around 40 years.

Studio Ghibli FactsThe Secret World of Arrietty, Studio Ghibli

11. The World That Never Was

The main town in Kiki's Delivery Service is modelled after a number of different cities, including San Francisco, Stockholm, Paris, and some places in Ireland and Italy. To create the setting, Miyazaki imagined the world in the '50s if the war had never happened.

Studio Ghibli FactsKiki

10. Under the Sea

2008’s Ponyo, a movie about a goldfish who wants to become human, is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

9. A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

Miyazaki opts for lengthy storyboarding instead of traditional screenwriting, and he storyboards everything himself. Production usually begins before his storyboarding has finished, so no one on the crew, Miyazaki included, knows how the film will end when they begin making it. He says “It's not me who makes the film. The film makes itself and I have no choice but to follow.”

Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies FactsGetty Images


8. Quiet Protest

Miyazaki refused to attend the 2003 Oscar ceremony as a protest against the US invasion of Iraq.



Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images

7. Massage Day

Working as an animator in Japan usually means long hours and low pay, but Ghibli has tried to make things sail a little smoother for its employees. Every Saturday, massage therapists come in to give the staff a well-deserved break.

Studio Ghibli FactsShutterstock

6. Equal Opportunity

The male to female ratio at the studio is almost equal.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg FactsShutterstock

5. Box Office Giants

Seven of Ghibli's films are among the 15 highest-grossing anime films of all time, with Spirited Away the highest of the Ghibli films at number two.

Studio Ghibli FactsGetty Images


4. No Cuts

Thoroughly dissatisfied with the theatrical version of Nausicaä in the US, re-titled Warriors of the Wind and heavily edited, Miyazaki adopted a strict “no edits” policy for future foreign releases of his films.

Studio Ghibli FactsFlickr

3. NO. CUTS.

Upon hearing that Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein had been planning to edit Princess Mononoke to make it more marketable, Studio Ghibli sent Miramax a samurai sword with a simple message enclosed: “no cuts.”

Studio Ghibli FactsShutterstock

2. Ghibli Museum

In October 2001, the Ghibli Museum opened in Mitaka, Tokyo. As well as exhibits based on Studio Ghibli films and shows, the museum contains a number of short Studio Ghibli films not available elsewhere.



Studio Ghibli FactsShutterstock

1. Choose Your Own Path

The museum has no set path or order for viewing. Fittingly, its slogan is "Let's Lose Our Way, Together."

Studio Ghibli Facts


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