The rumours are true: following the departure of legendary animator, director, producer and screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's beloved Studio Ghibli -- of "My Neighbour Totoro" fame -- has announced that it is considering ceasing production of feature films after 29 years. The announcement comes from the studio's general manager, Toshio Suzuki, on Japanese television.
Studio Ghibli won't be closing entirely, but restructuring -- it will maintain a small staff for managing its trademarks and the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, as well as its freelance division for producing advertisements and music videos. With Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata both retired -- whose films were expensive, but profitable -- the studio can no longer afford to pay staff.
The studio's new model -- freelance projects -- would operate in the same way the studio worked before the release of Porco Rosso in 1992, reports say -- although, since it had still been making films between 1985 and 1992, obviously there will be some key differences.
Miyazaki's final film, "The Wind Rises", a fictional biography of Japanese aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi, was released in Japan on 20 July last year to widespread critical acclaim. Takahata's final film, "The Tale of Princess Kaguya", based on a Japanese folktale, was released in December last year. It was well reviewed, but cost ¥5bn to make and brought in just ¥2.5bn at the Japanese box office.
The studio's putative final film, "When Marnie Was There", based on the novel of the same name by Joan G Robinson and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, was released in Japan on 19 July.
Update, 11:26 a.m. AEST: The reports coming in from Japan may have been mistranslated or misunderstood, but news of this nature has been expected for quite some time. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
Update, 1:36 p.m. AEST: A better translation reveals that the studio is indeed restructuring, taking a break from films while it considers how to proceed in the future.