The Walt Disney Company is in preliminary talks with Studio Ghibli to buy the Japanese animation studio, acquiring the rights to the studio's movie catalog and its wealth of characters. This comes on the heels of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise.
Furthermore, this transition is set to begin after completion of Ghibli's two major productions, Hayao Miyazaki's Kaze Tachinu and Isao Takahata's Kaguya Hime no Monogatari, in 2014. As is widely expected, both films are intended to be the final farewell by the famed directors, who wanted to pass the torch to the next generation.
Finally, both Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki will retire once the transition into Disney's hands is complete. This should occur through the end of 2014. Goro Miyazaki will succeed his father as head of Studio Ghibli in Japan, and no major personnel changes are yet expected.
Details of the merger are not yet fully revealed, but it is expected that Studio Ghibli will retain its autonomy in Japan, and continue to produce their own films with Disney's help. In the United States, Disney will proceed with an aggressive, new push to bring Ghibli to mainstream audiences. This includes quick rollout of DVD and Blu-Ray, merchandising items (yes, kids, we're getting stuffed Totoros!), and, most of all, new direct-to-video spinoff movies featuring your favorite Ghibli characters.
Honestly, I'm stunned. I'll have more to say about this later tonight, once I can pull my jaw off the floor. Still, we probably should have seen this coming, right? Disney bought The Muppets, then Marvel, then Lucasfilm. Miyazaki and Takahata are nearing the end of their long and storied careers, and Ghibli has struggled to find suitable successors for the Ghibli studio.