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Exporting Studio Ghibli: The Road to Worldwide Recognition

Time & Location

May 27, 2pm EDT


Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki can now be considered household names around the world, but it was not always that way. In the early days of global distribution with 1997’s Princess Mononoke, major companies like Disney and Miramax were reluctant to take risks on a then-largely unknown animation studio. Various dramas took place between the unbending integrity of Miyazaki and those companies while deciding how to “westernize” the very Japanese style of Ghibli works.

How did Studio Ghibli find the balance of localization and the original work?

For the second episode of our special Studio Ghibli series, we will take a closer look at the early days of Ghibli’s global distribution which were crucial to setting the tone for many subsequent releases of Miyazaki’s works. This event will be moderated by Dr. Rayna Denison who will also be giving us a short presentation about Studio Ghibli’s marketing strategies and will also be joined by Steve Alpert who was the “resident foreigner” in the offices of Ghibli and its parent company Tokuma Shoten as the head of the international division for 15 years.

Alpert joined Studio Ghibli in 1996, one year prior to the release of Princess Mononoke in Japan, and played a central role when Miyazaki’s films were starting to take off in international markets. His main role was to sell the international rights to the studio’s films and products, but also served as an intermediate between Miyazaki and distributors, helping to protect Ghibli’s works at the front line in the process of localization. In practice, he was also closely involved with everything from public relations to the translation of the films into English. He even helped as a voice actor and character reference for the louche spy Castorp in The Wind Rises.

In this session, Alpert and Dr. Denison will discuss how Studio Ghibli created its current international presence and share some of the behind-the-scenes at Studio Ghibli as described in Alpert’s book, Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man.

The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A. If you have any questions about the localization of Studio Ghibli’s works and the inner workings of the studio, now is your chance to ask the experts. Please ask your question when you register for the event via Eventbrite. Live commentary will also be enabled on the YouTube stream, so you can participate in the Q&A session on-air as well.

This event is free. Registrants will receive the link to the stream via email.


Steve Alpert
Steve Alpert had lived in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Taipei for a combined total of over thirty-five years and now lives in Connecticut. In 1996, he was working at the Disney Tokyo office and was offered a job by the producer and marketing strategist of Studio Ghibli, Toshio Suzuki, and was brought on as the head of the international division to develop Studio Ghibli’s international presence. Between 1996 and 2011, Alpert helped orchestrate Ghibli’s ascent to global stardom. He is the author of Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man, where he details what it was like to work for Japan’s premiere animation studio, Studio Ghibli, and its reigning genius Hayao Miyazaki and long-time producer, Toshio Suzuki.
> Official website

Dr. Rayna Denison
Dr. Denison’s research and teaching focus on Japanese and Asian media. Using her background in Japanese Studies, she has made Japanese cinema a central research and teaching focus, writing extensively about contemporary Japanese anime and film. She specializes in local and transnational studies of Asian media industries, particularly investigating aspects of popular cinema and television. She is the author of Anime: A Critical Introduction (Bloomsbury, 2015) and co-edited the Eisner Award-nominated Superheroes on World Screens (University of Mississippi, 2015) collection, as well as publishing in a wide range of academic journals, including Cinema Journal, the International Journal of Cultural Studies, and Velvet Light Trap. She has an interest in a variety of texts including anime, Japanese cinema, comic book movies, and children’s film and television, especially animation.
> Official website

Previous Sessions

EP1: Roundtable: Why Do We Study Anime and Manga?
EP2: Through a Glass Darkly: Identity Crises in Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion
EP3: The Power of Music in Anime
EP4: Satoshi Kon: Tracing the Legacy of an Anime Giant
EP5: Sailor Moon: How These Magical Girls Transformed Our World
EP6: Anime Takes the Stage: The Rise of 2.5-Dimensional Musicals and Beyond
EP7: Hayao Miyazaki: Children Entrusted with Hope

Watch all the episodes on YouTube.

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