Ghibli Studios Opens Long Awaited Theme Park in Japan

The dedicated fans of Studio Ghibli fans are celebrating  as a new theme park opened based on the studio’s animated hit films.

Ghibli Park opened on Nov. 1 in Aichi prefecture, less than an hour by train from the major city Kyoto. The park brings to life characters and scenes from films like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro in a facility built inside the Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park, the former site of Expo 2005.

“In the past three years, we have been in a very difficult situation due to COVID-19, but there was a great joy even in the midst of it,” said Studio Ghibli president Koji Hoshino. “I feel that the opening of this exhibition at this time, when we are firmly facing and overcoming COVID-19, has a heavy meaning.”

Studio Ghibli is hugely popular in Japan and has a large and dedicated fan base throughout the world, to the extent it’s considered that country’s equivalent of Disney Studios. Many of its most popular films were created by the visionary director Hayao Miyazaki, while others were helmed by Isao Takahata.

The studio was founded on June 15, 1985, after the successful performance of Topcraft‘s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). It has also collaborated with video game studios on the visual development of several games.

Five of the studio’s films are among the 10 highest-grossing anime feature films made in Japan. Spirited Away is second, grossing 31.68 billion yen in Japan and over US$380 million worldwide; and Princess Mononoke is fourth, grossing 20.18 billion yen. Many of their works have won the Animage Grand Prix award. Four have won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. Five of their films have received Academy Award nominations, and Spirited Away won the 2002 Golden Bear and the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Construction on the park began in 2020, and now that it’s open, fans of the Japanese animation studio’s works can look for ‘soot spirits’ at Satsuki and Mei’s home from “My Neighbor Totoro” or sit quietly on a train next to the famous river spirit No Face from the film “Spirited Away.”

But if Studio Ghibli is the Disney of Japan in terms of animation studios, it takes a very different approach to its theme park. In fact, the park’s website even warns visitors that “there are no big attractions or rides in Ghibli Park.” The park really is just that: a park filled with attractions that evoke the feeling of the films, and where guests are encouraged to “take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders.” In a way, it’s more art museum than theme park.

“While I hope that the park will open soon, I’m also worried about whether people will really come and enjoy it,” said director Goro Miyazaki, son of Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki.

The company says the park is opening with the first three of five planned areas, with a large indoor village that spans 17.5 acres, filled with streets, exhibits and famous scenes from Studio Ghibli’s films including the Robot Soldier from “Castle in the Sky” and a life-sized Catbus from “Totoro.”

A cinema plays shorts that are exclusively available in the new park and at Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. There are also kid’s playrooms, retro streets, gift shops and two cafes.

The second area now open to visitors is the Hill of Youth, where guests can find the antique shop from “Whisper of the Heart,” a romantic musical, and its spinoff film “The Cat Returns.” It’s also a vantage point offering a panoramic view of the park.

The third region in the park is Dondoko Forest and is dedicated to “My Neighbor Totoro.” It features the house from the film and a Totoro-themed playground.

Studio Ghibli is still working on two more areas. The first is Mononoke Village, referencing the movie “Princess Mononoke” and her adventures among large forest animal gods, and Valley of Witches, which will include some parts from “Howl’s Moving Castle,” about a young milliner who accidentally gets caught up in a war, and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” about an earnest and hardworking young witch.

According to Ghibli Park officials, both Mononoke Village and the Valley of Witches will open in 2023.

PHP Code Snippets Powered By :