Studio Ghibli has been notoriously resistant to streaming — until three months ago, when HBO Max scooped up the U.S. streaming rights to all of the classic anime films from Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and more. But what about the Studio Ghibli movies streaming rights for everywhere else? Netflix, ever the opportunist, has snapped up those global streaming rights, debuting all 21 Ghibli features on its streaming service this February in every country except the U.S., Canada, and — ironically — Japan.
Variety broke the news that Netflix has won the global Studio Ghibli streaming rights, officially putting an end to the studio’s long-held policy that it would not release its beloved animated films for streaming. That policy was already broken back in October, when HBO Max became the first-ever platform to gain the streaming rights to Studio Ghibli films, which include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away as well as other classics like Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. But not to be one-upped, Netflix has snapped up the global streaming rights and will debut all 21 Ghibli films on its service in February, with the exception of the U.S., Canada, and Japan.
It is a little ironic that the home country of Ghibli is the only one without the means to stream its movies, but Ghibli has long championed a strategy of maintaining the theatrical experience — one that is likely easier in Japan where Ghibli films, museums, and merchandise (and soon, theme parks) are more readily available. But worldwide, Ghibli’s infamously hard-to-see films will be more readily available than ever. American and Canadian subscribers won’t be able to see Ghibli films on a streaming platform until HBO Max launches in May 2020, but fans can buy them on all major digital platforms — another first for Ghibli pioneered by the U.S. theatrical distributor GKIDS. But international Netflix subscribers probably have it best, getting all of Ghibli’s classic films in their native Japanese with subtitles just next month.
“In this day and age, there are various great ways a film can reach audiences. We’ve listened to our fans and have made the definitive decision to stream our film catalogue. We hope people around the world will discover the world of Studio Ghibli through this experience,” Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki said in a statement.
But now this competing ownership of the Studio Ghibli streaming rights puts into question who will get to debut Hayao Miyazaki’s upcoming film How Do I Live?, the first Ghibli film since 2014’s When Marnie Was There and Miyazaki’s supposed final film. It’s unclear for now, but the wonderful news to come out of this is that more people around the world will finally be exposed to the weird, whimsical magic of Studio Ghibli films.
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