Studio Ghibli's success is thanks largely to one man. Its co-founder and main film-maker, Hayao Miyazaki, is regarded as one οf the greatest animation directors in the world. His fans include the Aardman director Nick Park and the Pixar supremo John Lassiter, who says οf Miyazaki's work: "His worlds are the most magical, special, unusual places you have ever seen." The company, founded in 1985, takes its name from the word that Italian pilots in Libya at the beginning οf the Second World War gave to a hot Saharan wind. Miyazaki was quoted as saying that he wanted to "blow a hot wind through the world οf Japanese animation".
Japanese animation was previously the domain οf pre-teen Pokemon fans and οf antisocial adolescent boys who revelled in the more unsavoury fringes οf anime - the Urotsukidoji films, with their eroticised demon rape sequences, are a particularly unpleasant example. But Ghibli quickly rose to be the dominant force in Japanese animation; the company is so well loved in Japan that there is a six- month waiting list to secure entry tickets to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. But while Studio Ghibli has long been a cultural phenomenon in Japan, its elevated profile overseas is due largely to the success οf two films: Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
In recent years the studio has developed a strong relationship with US studio Pixar. Before the latter's recent corporate break from Disney, Toy Story director John Lasseter helped to finesse a US distribution deal for Ghibli at the Mickey Mouse giant. But despite Ghibli's increasing profile in the West, Suzuki insists the studio still makes films only for Japanese audiences.