Dōbutsu no Mori (Japanese: 劇場版 どうぶつの森, Hepburn: Gekijōban Dōbutsu no Mori, lit. "Animal Forest: Theater Version") is a 2006 Japanese animated film directed by Jōji Shimura and based on the Animal Crossing video game series, especially Wild World. It was produced by OLM, Inc. and distributed by Toho in association with Nintendo. The film opened in theaters in Japan on December 16, 2006, where it went on to earn an estimated ¥1.7 billion (approximately $16,216,000) at the box office.
The film retains the theme of the video games, and centers on a 11-year old girl named Ai who moves into a village populated with animals where she works to make new friends and find her own dreams. Dōbutsu no Mori was not released outside Japan, and Nintendo of America has no plans for an English release.
The film opens with Ai, a 11-year old young girl, moving into the Animal Village during the summer. After being put to work by Tom Nook to deliver goods, Ai befriends four of the village's residents: Rosie, Margie, Alfonso, and Yū, participating in several activities. Ai begins to find a series of anonymous messages in bottles that state that a miracle will occur during the upcoming Winter Festival if pine trees are planted in specific points of the village. Ai complies with the messages and begins planting the trees, half-believing that the messages may have been placed by aliens.
During autumn, Rosie scolds Ai for not attending Margie's farewell party, which comes as a big surprise. Ai becomes heartbroken, learning that Sally has moved away to embark on a career in fashion design. Ai ends up at the museum café, and ends up crying when K.K. Bossa plays (a song that reminds her of Margie). Bianca scolds Ai, and tells her that she should be happy as a friend for Sally. Ai then responds by saying that she is happy, but she is instead sad that Margie never told her anything, and leaves the café. Margie sends a letter of apology to Ai, explaining that a goodbye would have been too upsetting, and encourages her to embark on her own personal journey. Bouquet apologizes to Ai for her harsh reaction.
Winter comes, and all the pine trees that Ai has planted have fully grown and are decorated with Christmas lights. A spaceship crash-lands in the middle of the forest, and Gulliver, a seagull, emerges. Gulliver, who had planted the bottles in order to make an entrance dressed as an alien, asks the villagers to help locate some of the pieces that broke off his ship during the descent. Ai, Rosie, Yū, and Alfonso head towards a cave, where Yū claims to have seen one of the pieces fall. The entrance, though, is blocked up by a large boulder (from a recent event). Though the team tries to move the boulder, it eventually turns out it is too heavy for them to move. Margie then appears and helps unseal the cave.
The five retrieve the missing piece and return to Gulliver, who they discover had already obtained them all. The missing piece turns out to be an injured UFO, one of a larger group that was attracted to the village due to the pattern formed by Ai's lit-up pine trees. The injured UFO reunites with its group, and as they depart, create a constellation in the night sky resembling Ai. Ai then wins the Winter Festival contest for the best decoration, leaving her feeling for the first time as a true member of the village.
Dōbutsu no Mori was first announced in a May 2006 issue of the online Japanese magazine Hochi Shimbun, with a theatrical release date set for the following December. The movie entered production due to the success of Animal Crossing: Wild World, released for the Nintendo DS the previous year, which had shipped over 3 million copies in Japan alone. Jōji Shimura was attached to direct, having previously worked on manga-to-film adaptations such Shin Angyo Onshi and Master Keaton. Some of the Animal Crossing series staff assisted with production, and worked to give the movie the same wide audience appeal as the video games themselves.
Those who ordered advance tickets before the film's debut were eligible to receive vouchers which could be redeemed for hard-to-obtain gold tools in Animal Crossing: Wild World. In October 2007, Nintendo of America made a statement that they had "no plans" to bring the film to North America.
Music for Dōbutsu no Mori was contributed by Animal Crossing series composer Kazumi Totaka and arranged by Tomoki Hasegawa, with the film featuring numerous themes from the games. The film's official theme song is "Mori e Ikō" (森へ行こう, Let's Go to the Forest) by Taeko Onuki, which plays over the end credits. An official soundtrack album was released in Japan on December 13, 2006 by VAP containing 46 tracks from the movie along with five bonus songs from Animal Crossing: Wild World.
Dōbutsu no Mori was released on region 2 DVD in Japan on July 25, 2007 by VAP. First-print copies also included an Animal Crossing-themed carrying pouch.
Dōbutsu no Mori debuted in Japanese theaters as the third highest-grossing film of its opening weekend behind Letters from Iwo Jima and Eragon, earning approximately ¥246 million ($2,085,729). By the end of 2006, the movie had a total revenue of ¥1.526 billion ($12,915,432), becoming the 30th highest-grossing film that year in the region. The film had lifetime earnings of approximately ¥1.7 billion ($16,216,731) by the end of its theatrical run in 2007, making it the 17th highest-grossing film of that year when combining it with its December 2006 box office total.