Disney's 2001 film Recess: School's Out, based on the TV series Recess, seems like it would be the last thing that could be remotely be related to the renowned Studio Ghibli. However, Toshio Suzuki, the co-founder and former president of Studio Ghibli, is listed as a producer on the film. There isn't any other Studio Ghibli credit on the film aside from Suzuki, so don't go back to it thinking there's some added Ghibli magic you just forgot about. Still, the question remains: how did Suzuki get involved in the first place?
The Ghibli-Disney History
Disney's history with Studio Ghibli goes back to the mid-'90s when Disney gained the rights to dub and distribute most of Ghibli films internationally. While Disney helped to bring Ghibli to international audiences, the relationship between the studios has had its fair share of ups and downs. Disney did make changes to Ghibli releases such as adding music to Kiki's Delivery Service, and it refused to distribute Only Yesterday. However, upholding the integrity of Ghibli's films is absolutely something Toshio Suzuki deserves credit for. After all, he is the one who famously sent producer Harvey Weinstein a samurai sword and a note saying "No cuts" when Miramax got the rights to Princess Mononoke.
Suzuki was absolutely instrumental in the founding of Studio Ghibli. He was the one who pushed Hayao Miyazaki to turn his manga of Nausicaä into a movie and then go on to create the studio we know and love. Since Ghibli's inception in 1985, Suzuki has been been involved with every single production at the studio. 2001 was a particularly busy year for Ghibli: the beloved Spirited Away was released in July, the Ghibli Museum opened and The Cat Returns was being prepared for release in 2002. Somewhere amidst all this, Suzuki also found time to produce Recess: School's Out.
Not much is known about Suzuki's particular involvement in the film, but perhaps his involvement is connected to the film's production manager Eric Garcia. Not only was Garcia a writer for Recess, but he also worked on the English adaptions of Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky and (years later) My Neighbors the Yamadas. This seems like the clearest explanation for any Ghibli-Recess connection.
Just from looking at his impressive body of production work and his dedication to Studio Ghibli, it goes without saying that Suzuki is responsible for so many of the movies that have brought the studio worldwide adoration. Without his fervent efforts, there's a chance that these movies we've come to love might not exist, at least not in the way that we know them now. Suzuki has strived to uplift good stories, and with his name quietly attached to the Recess movie, perhaps that fact alone might inspire you to revisit it.