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Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ Will Become a Lion King-style Theater Production

This could be amazing.

Studio Ghibli

Theatergoers can expect to be spirited away when a stage adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s animated family classic Spirited Away opens next year in Japan. Tony and Olivier Award-winning director John Caird, whose credits include Les Misérables, and Nicholas Nickleby, will both write and direct the adaptation.

The original film, an utterly magical experience that was fantastical, heartfelt and a bit scary, too, was directed the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and released in 2001. It followed the adventures of a 10-year-old girl, Chihiro, and her parents, who come upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. There, after her father and mother are transformed into giant pigs, Chihiro learns that the park is actually a resort for supernatural beings seeking a respite from their time on Earth. Chihiro then races the clock save her parents and escape.

Miyazaki brought the story to life with his trademark blend of vivid characters (both the heroes and villains) and sweeping, immersive visuals. It’ll be fascinating to see how the team behind the stage version translates the animated elements into live-action, but as proven by Disney’s successful renderings of The Lion King and Aladdin, anything is possible wen the right creative forces tackle the challenge.

“I feel so excited and privileged to be working on the first-ever stage adaptation of Sen to Chihiro,” Caird said in a statement. “I have for many years now regarded Miyazaki Hayao as one of the pre-eminent geniuses of world cinema and the greatest ever proponent of the anime form.”

“We, Hayao and I, both liked John’s vision. He is a person we can trust,” said Studio Ghibli’s Toshio Suzuki, who produced the original film. “I am looking forward to seeing Chihiro grow on stage under his direction.”

The stage version of Spirited Away will debut in February 2020 at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo before going on the road throughout Japan. Interestingly, Spirited Away won’t be the first-ever live-action stage adaptation of a Studio Ghibli family film. That distinction belongs to another classic, Princess Mononoke, which ran in London’s West End in 2013.