Studio Ghibli hires male directors because they tend to have a “more idealistic” approach to fantasy than women.
Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura attempted to explain the Japanese animation studio’s lack of women when asked whether it will ever shake up its gender balance during a Guardian interview.
“It depends on what kind of a film it would be,” he said. “Unlike live action, with animation we have to simplify the real world. Women tend to be more realistic and manage day-to-day lives very well. Men on the other hand tend to be more idealistic - and fantasy films need that idealistic approach. I don’t think it’s a coincidence men are picked.”
Despite such gender stereotyping, Studio Ghibli is known for pushing complex and inspiring female characters to the forefront of its movies. Latest release When Marine Was There follows the story of an androgynous 12-year-old girl who is brilliant at drawing and has never ‘fitted in’ while San, the lead character of the classic Princess Mononoke, was raised by wolves to become a powerful female warrior. Then of course there was the fierce princess Nausicaa from 1984’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
The studio’s legendary director Hayao Miyazaki retired in 2014 but made his attitude towards female characters clear in 2013. “Many of my movies have strong female leads - brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart,” he said. “They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a saviour. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”
Perhaps it’s time that Miyazaki’s successors, including Nishimura and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, had similar faith in women working in film, although with Studio Ghibli struggling financially with the cost of making hand-drawn animation it sadly remains to be seen whether there will be any new directors at all.
“The slim-down process has begun,” Nishimura said. “There is no in-house production at the moment.”
When Marnie Was There arrives in UK cinemas on 10 June.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies