Ghibli Co-Founder Toshio Suzuki Retires as Producer
posted on by Egan Loo
65-year-old producer Toshio Suzuki is voluntarily stepping down from his position at Studio Ghibli, although he will assume the new title of "general manager." Yoshiaki Nishimura will instead be the studio's producer for Ghibli's films going forward. Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi is adapting Joan G. Robinson's English children's novel classic When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Marnie) for release this summer.
Suzuki co-founded Studio Ghibli with directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and he served as its president. Former Walt Disney Japan president Koji Hoshino succeeded Suzuki as Ghibli's president in 2008, although Suzuki remained as producer for all of Ghibli's feature films until last year. Thanks to Suzuki's frequent television appearances and his Sunday radio program Suzuki Toshio no Ghibli Asemamire, the Sports Hochi newspaper describes him as the "face of Ghibli."
Suzuki's successor Nishimura made his debut as a producer on Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which opened last November. Suzuki was credited for just "project planning" on The Tale of Princess Kaguya, as he devoted himself to producing Miyazaki's final feature film The Wind Rises.
For When Marnie Was There, Suzuki's only roles were selecting the original work and main staff, and then deciding the budget and schedule. Nishimura is handling the actual day-to-day producing at the studio.
Miyazaki, Suzuki's colleague for three decades, also retired from making feature films last September, although he is drawing a samurai manga on his own free time. Suzuki emphasized that his own decision to retire was not linked to Miyazaki's. Instead, he hoped to step aside and boost the new era of Ghibli with "young strength" such as 36-year-old Nishimura and 40-year-old Yonebayashi.
Suzuki was born in Aichi Prefecture on August 19, 1948. He graduated from Keio University with a bachelor of arts degree in 1972 and then joined the publisher Tokuma Shoten. He worked at the Weekly Asahi Geinō magazine before he helped launch Animage magazine and served as its second editor-in-chief.
In fact, Suzuki was editing Animage when Miyazaki started serializing the landmark Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga in its pages. Suzuki served as Tokuma's production committee member on the subsequent Nausicaä anime film, and then participated in the founding of Studio Ghibli in 1985. He officially moved from Tokuma Shoten to Studio Ghibli in 1989 to produce all of its films ever since. He began serving as the studio's president, in addition to his other duties, in 2005.
Suzuki attended the Academy Awards ceremony last weekend on behalf of Ghibli and The Wind Rises, which had earned a Best Animated Feature Film nomination. He appeared at a symposium with the other Animated Feature nominees in a traditional Japanese happi coat. There, he said that Miyazaki wanted to make "Ponyo Part II," but Suzuki asked the director to adapt his own manga Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) instead.
Suzuki just accepted The Wind Rises' Japan Academy Prize for Best Animated Feature Film on Friday. In his acceptance speech, he drily observed that he learned his lesson — his studio should not make two films in the same year.
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