A little bad news, but plenty of good news too as two more Ghibli anime are getting attractions at the theme park.

So there’s good news and bad news about Ghibli Park, the anime theme park currently under construction near Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. The good news is that three of the park’s areas are still on track to make their opening date this November. The bad news, though, is that the opening for one of the remaining areas, the one where fans can visit Howl’s Moving Castle, is being delayed.

To quickly review, Ghibli Park, in its final form, is going to consist of five sections, all located inside Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park in the town of Nagakute. Three of those sections, Dondoko Forest (a.k.a. the My Neighbor Totoro area), Hill of Youth (drawing inspiration from Whisper of the Heart), and Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, are set to open on November 1. The two remaining sections, though, Mononoke Village (based on Princess Mononoke) and Witch’s Valley (featuring locations from Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service), were originally scheduled to open a year later, in the fall of 2023.

▼ Interior entryway design for Howl’s castle at Ghibli Park

Mononoke Village is still sticking to that timetable, but the opening of Witch’s Valley is being pushed back. While that’s sure to make fans sad, they can at least take solace in the fact that the delay is happening because of a very Studio Ghibli-like attention to artistic details.

Within the anime themselves, the settings of Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service aren’t explicitly stated to be anywhere specifically in the real world, but both films have heavily European aesthetics. Because of that, Ghibli Park’s planners are adamant about using traditional European building materials and architectural techniques for the structures in Witch’s Valley, such as a recreation of Kiki’s home and bakery and Sophie’s hat shop from Howl.

▼ Kiki’s bakery

The designers feel that broad-leaf hardwood, such as oak, chestnut, ash, and zelkova are the best artistic match for this purpose, but unfortunately hardwood panels from those trees aren’t commonly sold in the Japanese market, Ghibli Park’s planners say.

The lumber itself can be sourced from within Japan, with available sources in Aichi, Gifu, Hokkaido, Nagano, and Yamanashi Prefectures. It will take time to log, dry, and cut, though, and that means the opening of Witch’s Valley is going to be pushed back until March of 2024.

▼ Kiki’s childhood home

To soften the blow, the planners have released a new batch of concept art for the Witch’s Valley attractions, as seen throughout this article.

▼ Kiki’s attic and childhood rooms

And in a surprise twist, the new batch of preview images for Witch’s Valley includes concept artwork for something called the “Witch’s House”…

…which it turns out is a recreation of the home of Bella Yaga from Earwig and the Witch, Studio Ghibli’s first all-CG anime.

▼ Witch’s House potion workshop

That’s not the end of the good news either. Ghibli Park’s planners also revealed that they’re building a maze, slide, and “tarzan rope” play area modeled after the settings of The Cat Returns, the side-story/semi-sequel to Whisper of the Heart.

So where are the Cat Returns attractions going to be? Next to Mononoke Village. Yes, next to Mononoke Village, not inside of it, because they’ll be in a public section of Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park that anyone can access, even if they haven’t purchased a ticket to Ghibli Park.

▼ The Cat Returns play area is scheduled to open in summer of 2023.

It’s a thoughtful and generous decision, and another example of how Ghibli Park is trying to keep things affordable for fans.

Source: Aichi Prefecture (1, 2)
Top image: Aichi Prefecture/Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Aichi Prefecture/Studio Ghibli (1, 2)
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