studio ghibli streaming

If we have learned anything over the years, it’s to never take a Studio Ghibli declaration at face value. Hayao Miyazaki has fooled us several times over with his “retirements.” And now we learn that, contrary to reports from just two days ago that Studio Ghibli films would never appear on any streaming service, HBO Max has acquired the Studio Ghibli streaming rights. This marks the first time in history that the venerated animation studio’s films will be available to stream.

Maybe (anime) streaming wasn’t a mistake after all. Two days after GKIDs, the Stateside distributor for Studio Ghibli films, claimed that it had no plans to make Ghibli films available for streaming, HBO Max announced that it would be bringing the Japanese animation studio’s entire slate to its forthcoming service. The films, which include Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away, as well as beloved classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, Castle in the Sky, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and more, will be available to stream when HBO Max launches in the spring of 2020.

The announcement flies in the face of a recent GKIDs statement that steadfastly declared the distributor had no plans to bring Ghibli films to streaming, based on the wishes of the animation studio to preserve the theatrical experience. But according to a GKIDs representative, that was an old sentiment that has since changed and the New York-based distributor signed a deal with HBO Max to bring the stunning, essential anime classics to the streaming service.

“Studio Ghibli films are visually breathtaking, completely immersive experiences,” said Kevin Reilly, Chief Content Officer of HBO Max, said in a statement. “Exciting, enchanting, and deeply humanistic, these wonderful films have captured people’s hearts around the world, and we are proud to showcase them in an accessible way for even more fans through HBO Max.”

“HBO Max is an ideal home for our films,” added Koji Hoshino, Chairman of Studio Ghibli. “Upon launch of the service this spring, existing Ghibli fans will be able enjoy their favorites and delve deeper into the library, while whole new audiences will be able to discover our films for the first time.”

This is a historic day. With HBO Max’s acquisition, it marks the first time that Studio Ghibli films will be licensed to a streaming platform ever. Studio Ghibli films have been notoriously hard to see if you don’t have access to a theater where GKIDs makes its theatrical re-runs or a Blu-ray or DVD release. Some of the lesser-known Ghibli films, aka anything not directed by Miyazaki, are even more difficult to acquire on home video. And while I have mixed feelings about how streaming could lessen the impact of Ghibli’s beautiful and elegiac films (HBO Max better not have that annoying autoplay function), it is heartening to know that thousands more people could be exposed to the otherworldly wonders of a Ghibli film.

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