The Oscar award-winning Studio Ghibli is set to open an environmentally conscious theme park in Japan that will provide an enchanting haven for visitors to be "spirited away” into the magical realms of the studio’s beloved animated films, where they will discover a place of tranquillity, history and childlike delight that encourages joy for both children and adults alike.
In a joint venture by Studio Ghibli and Aichi Prefecture, the Studio Ghibli Theme Park will be located at the Aichi Commemorative Park in Nagakute City, a 494-hectare block of land that hosted the 2005 World Expo. The landscape’s rolling hills, lakes, rivers and forests will provide the perfect location for a park that will not be just a place for amusement activities but will encourage a sense of leisure and an exploration of history and culture.
The award-winning Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli, was founded by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata in 1985 and is famous for creating feature-length animated films, most of which have been redistributed by Disney for English-speaking audiences. The studio is best known for Spirited Away (2001), which won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003 and is the second highest grossing animated film.
"Witch Valley" features Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service themed attractions
From the moment visitors enter the park they are whisked away into a world of wonder and enchantment. The park’s entrance will be a large gatehouse – called the Elevator Building – that is inspired by the fantastical 19th-century designs of Howl’s Moving Castle (2005). The Elevator Building will be surrounded by an "Earth Shop" that is embedded into the ground in order to accommodate for the sloping landscape of the park and is a replica of the charming antique store featured in Whisper of the Heart (1995).
The park’s buildings will draw upon the bright and colourful European architectural designs that appear in a majority of the studio’s films.
“Princess Mononoke Village” inspired by Princess Mononoke
The park will feature various themed areas and buildings. The "Big Ghibli Warehouse" will feature exhibitions, play areas and a cinema. It is speculated that the cinema will play never-before-seen movies and clips, much like the Studio Ghibli Museum, which is famous for its exclusive short films that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.
"Princess Mononoke Village" will take advantage of the landscape’s rolling hills and lakes to recreate Ashitaka’s rural village, inspired by Princess Mononoke (2001), while "Witch Valley" will feature attractions surrounding the magical movies Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).
"Satsuki and Mei’s House” built for the 2005 World Expo
Further adding to the mystical enchantment of the park, a new walking path will be designed to traverse through the forest, leading to "Satsuki and Mei’s House"; a recreation of the enchanting forest house featured in My Neighbour Totoro that was originally built for the 2005 World Expo and currently experiences an average of 1.5 million visitors annually. The forest will be named the "Dondoko Forest Area", a reference to the famous dondoko dance the girls do with Totoro in the movie.
Sculptures of the animal spirits from the films will be displayed throughout the park, such as the wolf goddess, the boar god, soot sprites, Totoro and more.
Witch Valley features Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service themed attractions
The park is unique in that it will be constructed to seamlessly integrate with the area’s natural landscape and environment, showcasing the love and care that will be placed into the project. Representatives from the Aichi Prefecture government stated that the park will be constructed “without impairing the natural environment” and that the building process will make “effective use of unused land and existing facilities”, while still respecting the site’s heritage. Existing flora and fauna will be preserved as much as possible, and the forest trees will be spared from any felling in order to maintain the natural landscape and show care for the land.
Hideaki Omura, governor of the Aichi Prefecture, stated that the site was chosen with special care as, “Studio Ghibli’s films have love toward living creatures and [the] Earth, which fits the concept. I would like to pass down this idea to future generations.”
The initial plans for the park were announced in May 2017. Previously expected to be unveiled to the public in 2020, the Studio Ghibli Theme Park will now be opened in 2022.
It is hoped that the park will become a “one-of-a-kind park that is loved by everyone” and will be a safe haven for children and children-at-heart to find joy, tranquility and magic in a location that celebrates Japan’s natural landscape.