Spirited Away: Ghibli theme park prepares for visitors
NAGAKUTE – Beyond the gates, a whimsical world awaits, complete with a fluffy Catbus, the toothy grin of Totoro and a life-sized No-Face seated on a train: welcome to Ghibli Park.
On Wednesday, media got a sneak peek at the highly anticipated new theme park from Studio Ghibli, creator of beloved titles like My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Oscar-winning Spirited Away (2001).
Ghibli Park will open its doors to visitors on Nov 1, though only three of the five sections of the site in central Japan’s Aichi region will be accessible at first.
Among the three areas that will open next month is the Hill Of Youth, the gateway to the park and featuring an elevator tower inspired by several Ghibli films including Castle In The Sky (1986) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).
Elsewhere, Dondoko Forest evokes the retro peace of My Neighbor Totoro, with bucolic walking paths, playground equipment and an enormous Totoro figure.
A major draw will be the Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, the hangar-like indoor portion of the park with various attractions, including 14 sets from 13 Ghibli classics.
Visitors can stroll along an alley designed to look like the opening scene of Spirited Away, or perch on the red velvet-covered train seat in a carriage next to the movie’s instantly recognisable No-Face character.
Built at a cost of 34 billion yen (S$332.6 million), the park is expected to become a major tourist draw for Aichi, drawing 1.8 million visitors annually once all five areas are open from next year.
Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by animators Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, and has captivated fans around the world with works blending nostalgia, courage, greed and interaction with the natural world.
Miyazaki’s son Goro told reporters on Wednesday that the park was originally conceived as a way to leave Studio Ghibli’s works to future generations, in anticipation of his father’s expected retirement.
“We didn’t want people to forget Ghibli’s works,” he said.
“But we were betrayed again,” he added with a laugh. “He’s making a feature film now.”
Studio Ghibli already operates the hugely popular Ghibli Museum on the outskirts of Tokyo, which offers tickets only at the beginning of each month, regularly selling out within hours. - AFP