Monday, April 26, 2010

The History of Totoro

Once while my family was watching My Neighbor Totoro, the awesome animated film about a magical forest spirit that only children can see, my wife remarked to our kids, "But I think your dad can see Totoro, too." The fourth feature film by Studio Ghibli, it tells the story of a family that moves to rural Japan to be near the hospital where their mother is recuperating from tuberculoses, and the magical creatures Satsuki and Mei encounter. Totoro is a combination cat, owl and tanuki -- a kind of Japanese badger often thought to be magical -- who guards the forest and all who live there, not unlike a Japanese version of Dr. Seuss's Lorax. In the story it's indicated that Totoro gets his name from the Three Billy Goats Gruff, when Mei mispronounces the word "troll," although in reality Totoro's name came about when the daughter of a friend of Miyazaki mispronounced the city of Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture as "Totorozawa." Originally planned as a short film to be released as a double feature with Grave of the Fireflies since the producers were sure that no one would want to see a movie about two girls and a monster in rural Japan, Totoro went on to define Studio Ghibli more than any other work. True Totoro fans planning a trip to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo should time their visit to coincide with the showing of Mei and the Kittenbus, the "sequel" to Totoro which gives additional insight into the world of Totoro and the Cat Bus. A brief check of the movie schedule for this year (which frustratingly is in Japanese only) indicates the short film can be seen from 5/22~5/31, 7/16~7/31, 9/16~9/30 and 11/1~11/8. If you're looking for awesome Totoro products, you can browse all of them here, or view the top 50 Totoro products by order of popularity.
Can you see Totoro? According to my wife, I can.