My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro (Japanese: となりのトトロ, Hepburn: Tonari no Totoro) is a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten. The film—which stars the voice actors Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, and Hitoshi Takagi—tells the story of a professor's two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in post-war rural Japan. The film won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize and the Mainichi Film Award and Kinema Junpo Award for Best Film in 1988. It also received the Special Award at the Blue Ribbon Awards in the same year.
|My Neighbor Totoro|
|Hepburn||Tonari no Totoro|
|Directed by||Hayao Miyazaki|
|Written by||Hayao Miyazaki|
|Produced by||Toru Hara|
|Edited by||Takeshi Seyama|
|Music by||Joe Hisaishi|
|Box office||$41 million|
In 1989, Streamline Pictures produced an exclusive dub for use on transpacific flights by Japan Airlines. Troma Films, under their 50th St. Films banner, distributed the dub of the film co-produced by Jerry Beck. This dub was released to United States theaters in 1993, on VHS and laserdisc in the United States by Fox Video in 1994, and on DVD in 2002. The rights to this dub expired in 2004, so it was re-released by Walt Disney Home Entertainment on March 7, 2006 with a new dub cast. This version was also released in Australia by Madman on March 15, 2006 and in the UK by Optimum Releasing on March 27, 2006. This DVD release is the first version of the film in the United States to include both Japanese and English language tracks.
My Neighbor Totoro received critical acclaim and has amassed a worldwide cult following in the years after its release. The film and its titular character, Totoro, have become cultural icons. The film has grossed over $41 million at the worldwide box office as of September 2019, in addition to generating approximately $277 million from home video sales and $1.142 billion from licensed merchandise sales, adding up to approximately $1.46 billion in total lifetime revenue.
My Neighbor Totoro ranked 41st in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010 while Totoro was ranked 18th on Empire's 50 Best Animated Film Characters list. A list of the greatest animated films in Time Out ranked the film number 1. A similar list compiled by the editors of Time Out ranked the film number 3. My Neighbor Totoro was also the highest-ranking animated film on the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of all-time greatest films. The character made multiple cameo appearances in a number of Studio Ghibli films and video games and also serves as the mascot for the studio and is recognized as one of the most popular characters in Japanese animation. Totoro was ranked 24th on IGN's top 25 anime characters.
In 1950s Japan, university professor Tatsuo Kusakabe and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, move into an old house to be closer to the hospital where the girls' mother, Yasuko, is recovering from a long-term illness. The house is inhabited by tiny creatures called susuwatari—small, dark, dust-like house spirits seen when moving from light to dark places.[note 1] When the girls become comfortable in their new house, the soot spirits leave to find another empty house.
One day, Mei discovers two small spirits who lead her into the hollow of a large camphor tree. She befriends a larger spirit, which identifies itself by a series of roars that she interprets as "Totoro". She falls asleep atop Totoro, but when Satsuki finds her, she is on the ground. Despite many attempts, Mei is unable to show her family Totoro's tree. Tatsuo comforts her by telling her that Totoro will reveal himself when he wants to.
One rainy night, the girls are waiting for Tatsuo's bus, which is late. Mei falls asleep on Satsuki's back, and Totoro appears beside them, allowing Satsuki to see him for the first time. Totoro has only a leaf on his head for protection against the rain, so Satsuki offers him the umbrella she had taken for her father. Delighted, he gives her a bundle of nuts and seeds in return. A giant, bus-shaped cat halts at the stop, and Totoro boards it and leaves. Shortly after, Tatsuo's bus arrives.
A few days after planting the seeds, the girls awaken at midnight to find Totoro and his colleagues engaged in a ceremonial dance around the planted seeds and join in, causing the seeds to grow into an enormous tree. Totoro takes the girls for a ride on a magical flying top. In the morning, the tree is gone but the seeds have indeed sprouted; it is left unclear whether the girls were dreaming.
The girls find out that a planned visit by Yasuko has to be postponed because of a setback in her treatment. Mei does not take this well and argues with Satsuki, later leaving for the hospital to bring fresh corn to Yasuko. Her disappearance prompts Satsuki and the neighbors to search for her. Desperately, Satsuki returns to the camphor tree and pleads for Totoro's help. Delighted to help, he summons the Catbus, which carries her to where the lost Mei sits and the sisters emotionally reunite. The bus then whisks them over the countryside to see Yasuko in the hospital. The girls overhear a conversation between their parents and discover that she has been kept in hospital by a minor cold but is otherwise doing well. They secretly leave the ear of corn on the windowsill, where their parents discover it, and return home.
Eventually, Yasuko returns home, and the sisters play with other children, while Totoro and his friends watch them from afar.
Animism is a large theme in this film according to Eriko Ogihara-Schuck. Totoro has animistic traits and has kami status according to his surroundings and being referred to as "mori no nushi," or "master of the forest". Totoro lives in a camphor tree in a Shinto shrine surrounded by a Shinto rope, these are all characteristics of a kami. Moreover, Ogihara-Schuck writes that when Mei returns from her encounter with Totoro her father takes Mei and her sister to the shrine to greet and thank Totoro. This is a common practice in the Shinto tradition following an encounter with a kami.
Art director Kazuo Oga was drawn to the film when Hayao Miyazaki showed him an original image of Totoro standing in a satoyama. The director challenged Oga to raise his standards, and Oga's experience with My Neighbor Totoro jump-started the artist's career. Oga and Miyazaki debated the palette of the film, Oga seeking to paint black soil from Akita Prefecture and Miyazaki preferring the color of red soil from the Kantō region.: 82 The ultimate product was described by Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki: "It was nature painted with translucent colors."
Oga's conscientious approach to My Neighbor Totoro was a style that the International Herald Tribune recognized as "[updating] the traditional Japanese animist sense of a natural world that is fully, spiritually alive". The newspaper described the final product:
Set in a period that is both modern and nostalgic, the film creates a fantastic, yet strangely believable universe of supernatural creatures coexisting with modernity. A great part of this sense comes from Oga's evocative backgrounds, which give each tree, hedge and twist in the road an indefinable feeling of warmth that seems ready to spring into sentient life.
Oga's work on My Neighbor Totoro led to his continued involvement with Studio Ghibli. The studio assigned jobs to Oga that would play to his strengths, and Oga's style became a trademark style of Studio Ghibli.
In several of Miyazaki's initial conceptual watercolors, as well as on the theatrical release poster and on later home video releases, only one young girl is depicted, rather than two sisters. According to Miyazaki, "If she was a little girl who plays around in the yard, she wouldn't be meeting her father at a bus stop, so we had to come up with two girls instead. And that was difficult." The opening sequence of the film was not storyboarded, Miyazaki said. "The sequence was determined through permutations and combinations determined by the time sheets. Each element was made individually and combined in the time sheets...": 27 The ending sequence depicts the mother's return home and the signs of her return to good health by playing with Satsuki and Mei outside.: 149
The storyboard depicts the town of Matsuko as the setting, with the year being 1955; Miyazaki stated that it was not exact and the team worked on a setting "in the recent past".: 33 The film was originally set to be an hour long, but throughout the process it grew to respond to the social context including the reason for the move and the father's occupation.: 54 Eight animators worked on the film, which was completed in eight months.
Miyazaki has said that Totoro is "not a spirit: he's only an animal. I believe he lives on acorns. He's supposedly the forest keeper, but that's only a half-baked idea, a rough approximation.": 103 The character of Mei was modeled on Miyazaki's niece.
After writing and filming Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and Castle in the Sky (1986), Hayao Miyazaki began directing My Neighbor Totoro for Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki's production paralleled his colleague Isao Takahata's production of Grave of the Fireflies. Miyazaki's film was financed by executive producer Yasuyoshi Tokuma, and both My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies were released on the same bill in 1988. The dual billing was considered "one of the most moving and remarkable double bills ever offered to a cinema audience".
In Japan, My Neighbor Totoro initially sold 801,680 tickets and earned a distribution rental income of ¥588 million in 1988. According to image researcher Seiji Kano, by 2005 the film's total box office gross receipts in Japan amounted to ¥1.17 billion ($10.6 million). The film has received international releases since 2002. Overall, the film has grossed $30,476,708 overseas, for a total of $41,076,708 at the worldwide box office.
30 years after its original release in Japan, My Neighbour Totoro received a Chinese theatrical release in December 2018. The delay was due to long-standing political tensions between China and Japan, but many Chinese nevertheless became familiar with Miyazaki's films due to rampant video piracy. In its opening weekend, ending December 16, 2018, My Neighbour Totoro grossed $13 million, entering the box office charts at number two, behind only Hollywood film Aquaman at number one and ahead of Bollywood film Padman at number three. By its second weekend, My Neighbor Totoro grossed $20 million in China. As of February 2019, it grossed $25,798,550 in China.
In 1988, US-based company Streamline Pictures produced an exclusive English language dub of the film for use as an in-flight movie on Japan Airlines flights. Due to his disappointment with the result of the heavily edited English version of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki would not permit any part of the film to be edited out, all the names had to remain the same (with the exception being Catbus), the translation had to be as close to the original Japanese as possible, and no part of the film could be changed for any reason, cultural or linguistic (which was very common at the time) despite creating problems with some English viewers, particularly in explaining the origin of the name "Totoro". It was produced by John Daly and Derek Gibson, with co-producer Jerry Beck. In April 1993, Troma Films, under their 50th St. Films banner, distributed the dub of the film as a theatrical release, and was later released onto VHS by Fox Video.
In 2004, Walt Disney Pictures produced an all new English dub of the film to be released after the rights to the Streamline dub had expired. As is the case with Disney's other English dubs of Miyazaki films, the Disney version of Totoro features a star-heavy cast, including Dakota and Elle Fanning as Satsuki and Mei, Timothy Daly as Mr. Kusakabe, Pat Carroll as Granny, Lea Salonga as Mrs. Kusakabe, and Frank Welker as Totoro and Catbus. The songs for the new dub retained the same translation as the previous dub, but were sung by Sonya Isaacs. The songs for the Streamline version of Totoro were sung by Cassie Byram. Disney's English-language dub premiered on October 23, 2005; it then appeared at the 2005 Hollywood Film Festival. The Turner Classic Movies cable television network held the television premiere of Disney's new English dub on January 19, 2006, as part of the network's salute to Hayao Miyazaki. (TCM aired the dub as well as the original Japanese with English subtitles.) The Disney version was initially released on DVD in the United States on March 7, 2006, but is now out of print. This version of the film has since been used in all English-speaking regions.
The film was released to VHS and LaserDisc by Tokuma Shoten in August 1988 under their Animage Video label. Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan (now Walt Disney Japan) would later reissue the VHS on June 27, 1997 as part of their Ghibli ga Ippai series, and was later released to DVD on September 28, 2001, including both the original Japanese and the Streamline Pictures English dub. Disney would later release the film on Blu-ray in the country on July 18, 2012. The DVD was re-released on July 16, 2014, using the remastered print from the Blu-ray and having the Disney produced English dub instead of Streamline's.
In 1993, Fox Video released the Streamline Pictures dub of My Neighbor Totoro on VHS and LaserDisc in the United States and was later released to DVD in 2002. After the rights to the dub expired in 2004, Walt Disney Home Entertainment re-released the movie on DVD on March 7, 2006 with Disney's newly produced English dub and the original Japanese version. A reissue of Totoro, Castle in the Sky, and Kiki's Delivery Service featuring updated cover art highlighting its Studio Ghibli origins was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on March 2, 2010, coinciding with the US DVD and Blu-ray debut of Ponyo, and was subsequently released by Disney on Blu-Ray Disc on May 21, 2013. GKIDS re-issued the film on Blu-ray and DVD on October 17, 2017.
In Japan, the film sold 3.5 million VHS and DVD units as of April 2012, equivalent to approximately ¥16,100 million ($202 million) at an average retail price of ¥4,600 (¥4,700 on DVD and ¥4,500 on VHS). In the United States, the film sold over 500,000 VHS units by 1996, equivalent to approximately $10 million at a retail price of $19.98, with the later 2010 DVD release selling a further 3.8 million units and grossing $64.5 million in the United States as of October 2018. In total, the film's home video releases have sold 7.8 million units and grossed approximately $277 million in Japan and the United States.
My Neighbor Totoro received widespread acclaim from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 94% of critics gave positive reviews, with an average rating of 8.41/10 based on 53 reviews. The website's critical consensus states, “My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming, sentimental masterpiece that captures the simple grace of childhood." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average rating of 86 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". It is listed as a "must-see" by Metacritic. In 2001, the Japanese magazine Animage ranked My Neighbor Totoro 45th in their list of 100 Best Anime Productions of All Time. My Neighbor Totoro was voted the highest-ranking animated film on the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of all-time greatest films.
Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times identified My Neighbor Totoro as one of his "Great Movies", calling it "one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki". In his review, Ebert declared "My Neighbor Totoro is based on experience, situation and exploration—not on conflict and threat", and described its appeal:
... it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls.... It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need.
The 1993 translation was not as well received as the 2006 translation. Leonard Klady of the entertainment trade newspaper Variety wrote of the 1993 translation, that My Neighbor Totoro demonstrated "adequate television technical craft" that was characterized by "muted pastels, homogenized pictorial style and [a] vapid storyline". Klady described the film's environment, "Obviously aimed at an international audience, the film evinces a disorienting combination of cultures that produces a nowhere land more confused than fascinating." Stephen Holden of The New York Times described the 1993 translation as "very visually handsome", and believed that the film was "very charming" when "dispensing enchantment". Despite the highlights, Holden wrote, "Too much of the film, however, is taken up with stiff, mechanical chitchat."
Matthew Leyland of Sight & Sound reviewed the DVD released in 2006, "Miyazaki's family fable is remarkably light on tension, conflict and plot twists, yet it beguiles from beginning to end... what sticks with the viewer is the every-kid credibility of the girls' actions as they work, play and settle into their new surroundings." Leyland praised the DVD transfer of the film, but noted that the disc lacked a look at the film's production, instead being overabundant with storyboards.
Phillip E. Wegner makes a case for the film being an example of alternative history citing the utopian-like setting of the anime. The film was ranked at number 3 on the list of the Greatest Japanese Animated Films of All Time by film magazine Kinema Junpo in 2009.
Awards and nominationsEdit
|1989||My Neighbor Totoro||Kinema Junpo Awards||Kinema Junpo Award – Best Film||Won|
|Readers' Choice Award – Best Japanese Film||Won|
|Mainichi Film Award||Best Film||Won|
|Ōfuji Noburō Award||Won|
|Blue Ribbon Awards||Special Award||Won|
|Animage Anime Awards||Grand Prix prize||Won|
|1995||Saturn Awards||Best Genre Video Release||Nominated|
My Neighbor Totoro set its writer-director Hayao Miyazaki on the road to success. The film's central character, Totoro, is as famous among Japanese children as Winnie-the-Pooh is among British ones. The Independent recognized Totoro as one of the greatest cartoon characters, describing the creature, "At once innocent and awe-inspiring, King Totoro captures the innocence and magic of childhood more than any of Miyazaki's other magical creations." The Financial Times recognized the character's appeal, commenting that "[Totoro] is more genuinely loved than Mickey Mouse could hope to be in his wildest—not nearly so beautifully illustrated—fantasies." Totoro and characters from the movie play a significant role in the Ghibli Museum, including a large catbus and the Straw Hat Cafe.
The environmental journal Ambio described the influence of My Neighbor Totoro, "[It] has served as a powerful force to focus the positive feelings that the Japanese people have for satoyama and traditional village life." The film's central character Totoro was used as a mascot by the Japanese "Totoro Hometown Fund Campaign" to preserve areas of satoyama in the Saitama Prefecture. The fund, started in 1990 after the film's release, held an auction in August 2008 at Pixar Animation Studios to sell over 210 original paintings, illustrations, and sculptures inspired by My Neighbor Totoro.
Totoro has made cameo appearances in multiple Studio Ghibli films, including Pom Poko, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart. Various other anime series and films have featured cameos, including one episode of the Gainax TV series His and Her Circumstances. Miyazaki uses Totoro as a part of his Studio Ghibli company logo.
A main-belt asteroid, discovered on December 31, 1994, was named 10160 Totoro after the film's central character. Totoro makes a cameo appearance in the Pixar film Toy Story 3 (2010) but did not make a appearance in Toy Story 4 due to licensing; the film’s art director Daisuke Tsutsumi is married to Miyazaki's niece, who was the original inspiration for the character Mei in My Neighbour Totoro.
In 2013 a velvet worm species Eoperipatus totoro discovered in Vietnam was named after Totoro: "Following the request of Pavel V. Kvartalnov, Eduard A. Galoyan and Igor V. Palko, the species is named after the main character of the cartoon movie "My Neighbour Totoro" by Hayao Miyazaki (1988, Studio Ghibli), who uses a many-legged animal as a vehicle, which according to the collectors resembles a velvet worm."
A four-volume series of ani-manga books, which use color images and lines directly from the film, was published in Japan in May 1988 by Tokuma. The series was licensed for English language release in North America by Viz Media, which released the books from November 10, 2004, through February 15, 2005. A 111-page picture book based on the film and aimed at younger readers was released by Tokuma on June 28, 1988 and, in a 112-page English translation, by Viz on November 8, 2005. A 176-page art book containing conceptual art from the film and interviews with the production staff was released by Tokuma on July 15, 1988 and, in English translation, by Viz on November 8, 2005. A hardcover light novel written by Tsugiko Kubo and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki was released by Viz in 2013.
Mei and the Kittenbus (めいとこねこバス, Mei to Konekobasu) is a thirteen-minute sequel to My Neighbor Totoro, written and directed by Miyazaki. Chika Sakamoto, who voiced Mei in Totoro, returned to voice Mei in this short. Hayao Miyazaki himself did the voice of the Granny Cat (Neko Baa-chan), as well as Totoro. It concentrates on the character of Mei Kusakabe from the original film and her adventures one night with the Kittenbus (the offspring of the Catbus from the film) and other cat-oriented vehicles.
Originally released in Japan in 2003, the short is regularly shown at the Ghibli Museum, but has not been released to home video. It was shown briefly in the United States in 2006 to honor the North American release of fellow Miyazaki film Spirited Away and at a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser a few days later.
The Tonari no Totoro Soundtrack was originally released in Japan on May 1, 1988 by Tokuma Shoten. The CD primarily features the musical score used in the film composed by Joe Hisaishi, except for five vocal pieces performed by Azumi Inoue. For the film, Inoue performed the original songs "Stroll", "A Lost Child", and "My Neighbor Totoro". It has since been re-released twice, once on November 21, 1996, and again on August 25, 2004. It was preceded by the Image Song CD, released in 1987, which contains some songs that were not included in the film.
Numerous licensed merchandise of Totoro have been sold in Japan for decades after the film's release. Totoro licensed merchandise sales in Japan grossed ¥10.97 billion in 1999, ¥56.08 billion during 2003–2007, at least ¥4.1 billion in 2008, and ¥19.96 billion during 2010–2012. Combined, Totoro licensed merchandise sales have grossed at least ¥91.11 billion ($1,142 million) in Japan between 1999 and 2012.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to My Neighbor Totoro.|
- My Neighbor Totoro (film) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
- My Neighbor Totoro at IMDb
- My Neighbor Totoro at AllMovie
- My Neighbor Totoro at Rotten Tomatoes
- Mei and the Kitten Bus (2002) at IMDb
- Mei and the Kittenbus at Nausicaa.net
- Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
- Joe Hisaishi's Soundtrack for My Neighbor Totoro, book by Kunio Hara, 33-1/3 Japan Series, Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781501345128