The World of Ghibli is the latest exhibition held at the Shanghai World Financial Center. Running from July 1 to October 7, it's the first time Mainland China gets to host an official Studio Ghibli event. Despite the absence of the studio's works in our cinemas since the early 90s, Studio Ghibli is still a household name here. Their official shop Donguri Republic made headlines when it opened in Shanghai around two years ago, but World of Ghibli arrives with much better timing: My Neighbor Totoro is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Although the size of the exhibition isn't on a par with the ones held in Japan or Indonesia, it offers plenty for Ghibli nerds. If you purchase the 160rmb joint ticket, the guides will first take you to the Castle in the Sky-themed exhibition on the 94th floor, instead of the main exhibition area on the 4th floor (it's not really the ideal order, more on that later).
Here they introduce all the intricate flying machines from the film, with the principles of flying in graphics and text-heavy description -- no English translation, by the way. In fact, the whole exhibition is catering to the Chinese-speaking crowd.
This part of the exhibition is very "hard sci-fi" in general, with a bit of Shanghai and China history facts thrown in. Plus a small gift shop. There are a couple of ingenious designs in the installations if you pay attention, but it the visitors seemed more into the city landscape visible through the windows than the 8-meter-long, animated (as in 'moving') airship over their heads.
On a weekday evening, the main exhibition area on the 4th floor was surprisingly quiet and empty. It's a medium-sized space that offers viewers a glimpse of Ghibli's creative process. Starting from the introductions of the three masterminds, Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki, you are presented with drawings, concept art, and storyboards from all of Ghibli's movies -- a rich and whimsical animation history where strong female leads and spectacular natural environments play critical roles. It's all copyrighted materials, so taking photos is prohibited in this area, even with your phone.
Those who want to bring a memento of the experience home can take their time and play around with selfie angles at the My Neighbor Totoro recreation area: lots of greenery, alongside life-sized Catbus and Totoro. The incredibly realistic house where the lead characters live is definitely the highlight.
And, of course, there's another gift shop. The price range is just as vast as the products they're selling: from 45rmb thumbnail-sized pins to 7,000rmb limited-edition robot soldier figurines. There's also a small room where they just show a half hour of movie trailers. Yes, trailers. That's all we can get of the Ghibli cinematic experience. At least for now.
Tips: There are three types of tickets available at the box office, same prices as the ones sold online: 120rmb for the World of Ghibli exhibition exclude the Castle in the Sky-themed area, 160rmb for the 4th and 94th floors, and 320rmb for the 4th, 94th, and 100th floors, which also includes a postcard set. Ideally, you want to ignore the guides and visit the 4th floor first, as the 94th one has seating and a cafe, plus the observatory.