Lilian Min
September 03, 2015 2:07 pm

Fans of Western animation are all super familiar with the  Walt Disney canon, but those of us who grew up with Eastern-inspired cartoons treat another name with the same kind of hallowed reverence: Hayao Miyazaki. The Oscar-winning animator and his stable of films, all released through Studio Ghibli, feature certain trademarks: An engagement with Japanese mythology, strongly-developed female characters, playful but emotional storytelling, and utterly gorgeous representations of and moving engagements with the natural world. Just look at some of the imagery from his films:

The filmmaker’s love of the natural world is so legendary that other people organized the Totoro Forest Project to preserve the real-life forest that inspired Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro. But now, the man himself is doing the most “of course” thing ever: Creating a nature preserve for children, so that future generations will be able to bathe in the beauty of the natural world.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the now-retired director spent $2.5 million of his own money to create what’s essentially the most environmentally conscious sleep-away camp ever. Located on a remote island and featuring a dorm set-up for around 30 kids, the reserve will ostensibly teach kids about the outdoors, provide a tech-free environment outside of an increasingly digitized world, and communicate with forest spirits. (JK on that last part but also… not really.)

In a review of an art book based on one of his films, the Japan Times says this about Miyazaki: “Nature for Miyazaki is also about power. This is also apparent in the background art of the forests, where the ancient trees dominate the frame, dwarfing the humans and stretching on endlessly upward, their trunks playing host to entire intricately detailed ecosystems of plant, animal and spirit life.” That complexity is at the heart of all of his films, but more importantly, it’s also an ethos which unfortunately isn’t easy to carry out.

Here’s to Miyazaki and his nature preserve endeavor, which is expected to open in 2018. You have until then to figure out how to successfully petition him for a spot and/or become a child again.

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Images courtesy of Studio Ghibli and from here, herehere.

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