In news that will hit like a punch in the guts to film fans, legendary Japanese animation production company Studio Ghibli could be about to call it a day. The producer of much beloved films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbour Tortoro, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle among many, many others is rumoured to be moving towards scaling back its operations, with the biggest casualty of this being ceasing producing feature films.

The move comes on the heels of the retirement of studio co-founder and director of much of its output Hayao Miyazaki from feature films. Though he’s toyed with the idea of retirement many times in the past, it appears this time he’s serious, with last year’s The Wind Rises being his last film. In addition, fellow studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki also stepped down from producing films, moving into the role of studio General Manager.

Now with Ghibli preparing to release its latest film When Marnie Was There, unconfirmed rumours are surfacing that it might be the studio’s last. The rising cost of animation production is cited as a leading cause for the move, with Ghibli’s dogged stance of maintaining a locally focused production unit, rather than outsourcing animation overseas like most feature animation products do, contributing greatly to how much it costs to make a Ghibli film.

The scuttlebutt seems to be that Studio Ghibli will drastically wind back its operations, giving up production of new material and moving more into a copyright protection agency that will manage the money made from its pre-existing properties (i.e. the films that already exist).

Though one positive in all this is that Miyazaki’s son Goro Miyazaki is directing Ghibli’s first foray into television in Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, which is a co-production with Polygon Pictures and is expected to debut before the end of the year.

Though the rumours are unsubstantiated at this stage, it’s certainly troubling times for one of the world’s most important and wholly unique production houses.

via Kotaku.