Why You May Never See Studio Ghibli Movies On Any Streaming Service

When Disney+ announced the mountain of titles it would make available upon the streaming service's launch, fans were quick to notice that the works from Studio Ghibli, the most prolific animation studio outside of Disney and Pixar, were missing. And Disney+ is not the only service to not feature any of the masterworks from the Japanese animation studio: you won't find any Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata films on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or any forthcoming service.

But that's not an oversight: GKIDS, the indie animation distributor that took over the distribution rights to Ghibli films from Disney in 2017, says it doesn't have any plans to bring Ghibli films to any streaming service in the foreseeable future. And there's a very specific reason for that.

Hayao Miyazaki hasn't had the best relationship with Hollywood over the years. His breakout film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was butchered by U.S. distributors, who cut 20 minutes from the film and released it with the kid-friendly title Warriors of the Wind. Then there's the infamous kerfuffle with Harvey Weinstein over edits to the American release of Princess Mononoke (which, that being said, ended up with a pretty good English dub) that lead to Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki to send the now-disgraced producer a katana with the note "no cuts."

The 1996 deal with Disney would yield much better results, with former Pixar CEO John Lassetter, who had an obvious reverence for all of Miyazaki's works, leading the charge in the the theatrical distribution and dub of Ghibli's releases. But following the release of Miyazaki's "last" film The Wind Rises, Disney let the rights lapse and GKIDs earned sole stewardship of Ghibli's catalogue in 2017. And to do justice by Miyazaki and his long, troubled history with Hollywood distributors, GKIDs said that it will not be releasing any Ghibli on any streaming service.

A GKIDs representative told Polygon:

"Studio Ghibli does not make their films available digitally, whether for download or streaming, anywhere in the world. They continue to believe that presentation is vital and particularly appreciate opportunities for audiences to experience the films together in a theatrical setting."

GKIDs has done a bang-up job of bringing Hayao Miyazaki's masterpieces, including the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, to theaters in limited theatrical runs every few months, and has been releasing special Blu-ray editions of classics like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. And looking back at how Miyazaki has been screwed over by various major Hollywood studios (Disney not included, though they really dropped the ball on Ghibli films not directed by Miyazaki) it makes sense that both GKIDs and Ghibli would be wary of the newfangled streaming phenomenon taking over the industry. That GKIDs wants to preserve the theatrical experience for Ghibli films and protect them from the dreaded "autoplay" function is fair. Miyazaki's gorgeous, elegiac, melancholic films should never be background noise.

It's only a little limiting for families who can't buy the entire collections of Ghibli films to expose their children to these paragons of animation. But perhaps getting out of the house to see them — you can see the full schedule of GKIDs' Fathom Events screenings of films like Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya here — will make the experience of seeing those films all the more special. As they should be.