Study Guide

Seven Samurai Production Studio

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Production Studio

Toho Studios

Chances are, you've probably heard of them. In fact, Toho Studios may be one of the only movie companies outside of Hollywood that Westerners can spot. That's because they specialized in releasing Japanese films to a worldwide market, and when you look at the movies they've done, it's not hard to see why they're so good at it.

They begin in 1932, calling themselves the staggeringly boring Photo Chemical Laboratory. They were interested in producing new technology for sound film, and after merging with a Tokyo theater company and a number of other companies, started making movies themselves.

After the war, Toho looked to move their movies to an international audience, or as their official website puts it "giving birth to many of Japan's most representative films." Those ranks start with someone a lot bigger than any Hollywood movie star… literally. Godzilla, originally released the same year as Seven Samurai, became the kind of franchise that even Marvel execs look at with naked envy. Sixty years later, it's still going strong (even with occasional bumps in the road like that 1998 Roland Emmerich unpleasantness).

If the King of the Monsters isn't enough to impress you with their output, then take a gander at animation master Hayao Miyazaki, creator of such brilliant little numbers as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro. Studio Ghibli produced them, but Toho got them out there, thanks to its amazing distribution abilities.

Go to a shabbier animation neighborhood and you find the troublingly large number of Pokemon movies from the early 2000s, also Toho-released joint-projects bringing the magic of children's fantasy cockfighting to the whole world. We concede this may not be their finest moment, but you have to admit, a whole lotta people were into Pokemon at one point.

And oh yes, there's still their shining jewel: Akira Kurosawa, who worked under them for most of his career and who became as linked to the studio as Clint Eastwood was linked to Warner Bros. He's so important to Toho that they actually have a giant mural of Seven Samurai up on one of their shooting stages (source).

Yeah, they knew how big this movie was… and the guys who brought us Godzilla know a thing or two about big.

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