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Studio Ghibli President Toshio Suzuki Sees His Anime Come to Life at Ghibli Park

by Richard Eisenbeis,

Toshio Suzuki at Ghibli Park on March 16, 2024
Richard Eisenbeis
At a press event last month, ANN, along with other members of the press, was able to talk with Studio Ghibli President Toshio Suzuki about the new "Valley of Witches" area at Ghibli Park, his recent Academy Award win, and legendary director Hayao Miyazaki.

Ghibli Park, located in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, is a theme park unlike any other. Opened back in 2022, the park is focused on Studio Ghibli-themed experiences rather than rides. The newest (and largest) area of Ghibli Park is called "Valley of the Witches," and it opened on March 16, 2024. This area includes explorable replicas of Howl's Moving Castle from the film of the same name, both Kiki's house and the bread shop from Kiki's Delivery Service, and Baba Yaga's house from Earwig and the Witch. The day before its grand opening, Studio Ghibli President Toshio Suzuki sat down with press members after exploring the new area himself.

While Suzuki is the head of Studio Ghibli, the man behind Ghibli Park is Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki and director of Studio Ghibli films Tales from Earthsea, From Up On Poppy Hill, and Earwig and the Witch. Suzuki reminisced about his long time knowing the man, "I have known Goro-kun since he was in junior high school. At the time, I didn't think I would ever work with him, but we have since worked together on the Ghibli Museum, films, and Ghibli Park—so I was deeply moved when seeing Valley of Witches today."


While known abroad mainly for his work as a director, Suzuki believes that Goro Miyazaki was the perfect person to bring Ghibli Park to life. "Movies, as you all know, are two-dimensional things, right? At Ghibli Park, we deal with three-dimensional objects. Goro-kun's original career involved working with three-dimensional objects [as a landscape architect]," Suzuki explained. "[After exploring Valley of Witches,] I once again realized that Goro-kun loves movies and shows his true potential when you let him create with three-dimensional objects. I think Goro-kun must be really satisfied. When I looked around Valley of Witches, that's my main impression. It makes me a bit happy."

Suzuki is also satisfied with how Valley of Witches has turned out—especially with how real everything is. "In your usual theme park, you have a steel frame inside your 'wooden' support beams—it's just made to look like it's wood. I think there is a big difference between that and the real thing. Everything Goro-kun has created this time is real."

Yet, though this aspect was vitally important to Suzuki, Goro Miyazaki didn't have such strong opinions. "I asked Goro-kun which was superior, doing it with real or fake wood. And he said, 'It's about the same no matter how you do it.' So I guess we have different ways of thinking about this stuff."

Ghibli Park's various areas are located across the giant Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, the site of World Expo 2005. This makes it a short train ride from Suzuki's hometown, which made him hesitant to build the theme park there. "To tell you the truth, when we decided to do Ghibli Park here, I didn't like the idea at first. I'm from Nagoya, so I kept thinking I wouldn't be able to escape doing interviews," Suzuki joked. "There were many potential locations. But when Goro-kun chose this site—the former site of the World's Fair—out of all the offers, I thought, 'Maybe it's just another twist of fate.' Regardless, it turned out for the best."


As with most things related to Studio Ghibli, the conversation inevitably shifted its focus to Suzuki's long-time friend and collaborator, world-famous director Hayao Miyazaki. When asked if Miyazaki had come to tour Valley of Witches as Suzuki had, Suzuki told a brief yet heartfelt story. "He hasn't come to see 'Valley of Witches' yet, but he came [to Ghibli Park] once before incognito. A lot of people know him, so I asked him to disguise himself a little. I thought it would be better that way." Suzuki explained. "All he said about the experience was, 'It was well done,'—he was giving his son a bit of praise."

As for whether Miyazaki will be coming to check out the park again in the future, Suzuki had this to say—revealing a bit more about Miyazaki's personality through his comments. "I don't know yet whether he'll come and see Valley of Witches. He probably wants to see it but also doesn't want to see it. If you see something, you're going to want to talk about it. I mean, he's not a person who can just stay quiet. Honestly, people like that can cause problems for others. I think that's probably why he's holding out on coming for now."

Of course, just because he hasn't visited the park in a while doesn't mean Miyazaki is completely unrelated to the goings on in the park. "Goro-kun asked Hayao Miyazaki to make something for Ghibli Park. We meet every day, so I know what he is making—I mean, it's only natural that I do. But it's still a secret."


As this interview occurred mere days after The Boy and the Heron won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Suzuki talked about how he and Miyazaki reacted to the news. "We met right after the press conference [on March 11] and chatted about nothing in particular," Suzuki began before reminiscing. "I never thought he'd announce his retirement, then retract it, and then start working on movies again."

"We were never thinking about the Academy Awards. We're just too old for that stuff. I thought we might die while making it!" The 75-year-old Suzuki laughed. "Miyazaki told me he was delighted that he made it to the end of the film's production."

"But we didn't talk about the Academy Awards in person," Suzuki said, returning to the original topic. "That would be too embarrassing, you know? At this age, I don't want to be face-to-face and say, 'We did good, you know?'" Suzuki laughed, adding, "So we have that kind of conversation over the phone."

Ghibli Park, including Valley of Witches, is open seven days a week. Visitors may purchase tickets outside of Japan from the park's official website.

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