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Disney Has a New Competitor Charging Half as Much For Tickets

Your next family vacation could be delightfully magical (AND a lot cheaper).

While it's easy for most people to agree that visiting a Disney (DIS) - Get Free Report park is a delightful experience for both children and adults alike, there's one small detail that dulls the sparkle of the whole adventure: the swiftly rising price of admission.

An adult ticket for one of the four Disney World theme parks currently costs $109-$159 (Disney uses variable pricing based on demand), which Disney has not increased since before the pandemic. That's just for one day inside one park. Add in tickets for the rest of your family for multiple days, the Park Hopper add-on, Genie+, Lightning Lanes, hotel and food costs, and--well, let's say that unless you're rolling in literal mountains of money in your free time, you better enjoy your charming frolic in Disney's magical streets because it's likely the only one you can afford this year.

Disney has been able to charge higher prices because consumers have been willing to pay them. That's partly because most of its competitors -- with Comcast's CMCS Universal Studios being a possible exception -- don't offer a comparable experience.

It's possible that a new player in the space may be changing that.

A Magical New Park Opens Soon

Studio Ghibli Theme Park Lead

Concept art of Studio Ghibli's upcoming theme park

For those who are weary of ponying up higher prices on an annual basis, an excellent alternative is opening in November. Studio Ghibli, the Oscar award-winning Japanese animation studio often called "The Disney of Japan," is slated to open its own long-anticipated theme park on November 1 right outside Nagoya in Aichi Commemorative Park in Nagakute, Japan.

The park will feature five lands themed on beloved locations from Ghibli's films, including a life-sized replica of Howl's Moving Castle from the movie of the same name and a playground themed after the 1988 classic "My Neighbor Totoro."

My Neighbor Totoro Lead

Magical forest creature Totoro gets an umbrella from his friend Satsuki.

Even more exciting is the recent announcement that park tickets will be 4000 yen (roughly $35) to explore the full park. It's notable that this is less than half the price of a visit to Tokyo Disneyland ($68.66 U.S.) or Universal Studios Japan ($73.01 U.S.). And of course, it's a mere fraction of a visit to a stateside Disney park. In fact, you could visit all three for just a bit more than the cost of a one day ticket to Walt Disney World.

Why This Can't Happen in the U.S.

While Disney's focus is on adding new attractions to continually hike its revenue, Studio Ghibli's park is taking a very different approach. Much like its films, Ghibli's park will have a focus on magical atmosphere rather than big rides. "Take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders," its official website promises.

The Studio Ghibli park is also a joint venture between Ghibli and Aichi Prefectural Government, meaning its goals are very different than Disney's. Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki told Yahoo News Japan in a 2019 interview that he felt reserved about too much growth, saying that he felt it would turn Ghibli's beloved characters into "cheap commodities."

Despite the popularity of Disney parks in America, the animation behemoth clearly sees Ghibli as a competitor in the field. Its deal to distribute the company's films in America was a big deal back in 1996. But the relationship was rumored to be a contentious one, and in 2017 Disney handed off the rights to U.S.-based distributor GKIDS.

Studio Ghibli may not be able to launch U.S. competition for Disney, but its efforts in Japan could be a model for other markets around the world. That's likely not something that's keeping Disney CEO Bob Chapek up at night, but a competitor with global reach that's looking to lower prices, could ultimately become at least a small problem for Disney.