In other words, forget about the critical acclaim? Forget about the longtime support of John Lasseter, now chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, which distributes Studio Ghibli films in the U.S.? Miyazaki says that Studio Ghibli's president is making a dissolution program in the event that they stop film production. He makes it sound as though it's all dependent on how well 'The Borrower Arrietty' (pictured) and the film after that do in the U.S. Based on 'The Borrowers,' a book by Mary Norton which was turned into a 1997 live-action feature starring John Goodman, the Japanese version features a 14-year-old girl who lives with her parents under the floorboards of an old house. They're all "tiny people" and are perfectly happy until the girl is seen by a full-size teenager. Their burgeoning friendship eventually puts the entire family in danger.
As with nearly all Studio Ghibli productions, 'The Borrower Arrietty' scored well at the Japanese box office after its recent release, but it's not yet been confirmed that it will receive a theatrical release in the U.S.
Studio Ghibli's 'Tales From Earthsea,' which finally got a very limited U.S. release this summer, received little publicity and earned less than $50,000, compared to $68 million in worldwide grosses. The previous year, Miyazaki's 'Ponyo' made more than $15 million in the U.S., the studio's best performance to date, yet made more than $185 million worldwide. In 2005, 'Howl's Moving Castle' earned less than $5 million in the U.S. versus more than $230 million worldwide. In 2002, 'Spirited Away,' which was the beneficiary of a big publicity push, still made barely $10 million in the U.S., compared to nearly $265 million worldwide.
In other words, Studio Ghibli's earnings from the U.S. have been only a small percentage of the worldwide gross. So what, exactly, is Studio Ghibli expecting from their next release? It's understandable that the studio may be disappointed that the films have not penetrated mainstream consciousness in the U.S., but something is seriously wrong if they're banking on a windfall that, based on the evidence of the past eight years, may never happen.