It's interesting. Everyone is kvetching about Studio Ghibli closing its doors, and when I announce that there may be another movie in the works...crickets. Hayao Miyazaki's last feature film plays in US theaters...crickets. Isao Takahata's last feature also plays in theaters...crickets.
And then there's the curious fact of Goro Miyazaki's Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, and Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There. Absolutely no buzz for either of those. It's a safe bet that Marnie won't even make a million dollars in its upcoming US theatrical run. From Up on Poppy Hill and Tales of Earthsea didn't.
And don't even get me started on the pre-Ghibli films now available on DVD: Horus, Lupin III, Panda Go Panda, Sherlock Hound. Have any of those home video releases sold over a thousand copies? Over a hundred?
Exactly where are these Ghibli fans I keep hearing about? Were they really only Spirited Away fans, or Totoro fans? The whole scene appears to have peaked in 2011, when Arrietty was released in the States, and support has melted away ever since.
I've had this theory that Japanese animation came into vogue in the 1980s because American animation, and particularly Disney, was sorely lacking, leaving a void to be filled. With the success of Pixar, the Disney renaissance, and the dominance of Hollywood studios, that void no longer exists. People aren't looking for alternatives anymore. They might consider something different, animated movies from Japan or Asia or Europe or the UK, only as long as they fit into the existing Disney/Pixar paradigm. If not, no thanks, not interested.
I have to say that I'm a bit surprised by this. I had expected a sizeable Studio Ghibli fan community by now. Most of the studio's major films are available on home video, as well as much of the pre-Ghibli Miyazaki-Takahata catalog. And yet, nobody is biting. Very strange, and I don't have an easy answer to explain it.
Maybe it's just the warm weather outside. But it does feel like the end of the party. Perhaps my "Conversations on Ghibli" book(s)* will serve as the final capstone of the era, a chronicle for future generations. Oh, well. If so, it was a great party. We had fun.
*I've been working to translate the Ghibli Blog essays and reviews into book form, which keeps growing and growing. We might end up with two books by the time we're done. And there's a stack of manuscripts to work on after that's done. Whee! Can I have a grant?