*UPDATE* Studio Ghibli May Cease Making Feature Films

 *UPDATE* So now Anime News Network is reporting Studio Ghibli general manager Toshio Suzuki is saying the company may "restructure" rather than shut down outright. Either way, some serious changes are in the works for the legendary animation house. *

Over the last couple of years there has been a quiet rumor that simply wouldn't go away, suggesting that legendary animation house Studio Ghibli would cease making movies at some point. With co-founder Hayao Miyazaki retiring last year after completing The Wind Rises, those rumors started to gain a little bit of traction even though many hoped they would turn out to be false. Unfortunately, general manager Toshio Suzukihas announced on Japanese television that Studio Ghibli will cease production of feature films.

The animation house won't be shutting its doors for good, instead maintaining a small staff to manage Miyazaki's many trademarked properties. They've also left the door open to doing some freelance work so we may see a Ghibli project somewhere down the line. Their final movie will be When Marnie Was There, a ghost story released in Japan last month and with no current plans for a U.S. run.

Studio Ghibli has produced some of the most cherished animated films in cinematic history, always preferring story and rich characters to flashy animation. But despite numerous classics such as Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, and Spirited Away, the studio has been struggling to make ends meet with their most recent slate. This comes at a time when their films have actually been performing better here in the U.S., thanks to a distribution deal with Disney. What it sounds like is the loss of Miyazaki has had such a dramatic impact it has forced the company to revert back to their old freelance system, which is what they were doing before Porco Rosso became such a huge hit.

This is incredibly sad news. It's safe to say that Studio Ghibli was one of the few studios that treated animated movies with a certain level of maturity, while also keeping them fun for all ages to enjoy. Only Pixar comes close to matching them in that regard, and now there is a huge gulf of such films that will need to be filled. Hopefully the staff that Studio Ghibli will be forced to cut can begin something new and keep producing such films. [Catsuka]