Nizo Yamamoto, who in his tenure at Japan’s acclaimed Studio Ghibli has served as art director on iconic films like Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies, is planning to spearhead a new animated film to be titled Kibou no Ki (The Tree of Hope) to support areas affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, according to Cinema Today.
The film is based on the inspirational story of the lone survivor of the Takata-Matsubara pine tree grove in Iwate prefecture. What had been a two kilometer stretch lining the coastline with about 70,000 trees was reduced by the disaster to one pine left standing, which became a symbol of hope for the nation’s recovery. Though the tree eventually died due to excess salt from sea water encroaching on the soil, it was molded into a monument that now stands on the site.
Further inspiration was drawn from the photobook of the same name by Man Arai, a well-known songwriter who will serve as scriptwriter for the film as well as being in charge of its music. Early concept images from the film’s website (www.kibounoki.com, Japanese only) by Yamamoto reveal the main characters will be a young man named Upashi and the female spirit of the pine tree, Layla.
Yamamoto is raising money for the film through crowdfunding site WESYM—as of today, the project has received 60,450 “SEEDs” (each one is equivalent to one yen or approximately one U.S. cent) out of a 47,150,000 SEED goal (47.15 million yen, or $467,200-some USD). The funding campaign will be up for another 123 days. Tree of Hope Production Committee hopes to release the film in theaters next year.