18 things you didn’t know about My Neighbor Totoro
It is possible that many of you have already seen the film, but surely you did not know many of the details that surrounded the production and subsequent distribution of the film, or the level of influence it has had at almost all levels.
That is why we have compiled a good handful of details and data that you may not know about My Neighbor Totoro. Attentive:
Based on real events
Hayao Miyazaki’s mother was hospitalized and bedridden for several years (from 1947 to 1955), suffering from tuberculosis, and ended up being treated at her home. In My Neighbor Totoro, the girls’ mother has a mysterious illness that she never talks about. However, everything indicates that it was tuberculosis, a disease that Miyazaki knew well, unfortunately.
According to the novelization of My Neighbor Totoro, the hospital they go to is called Shichikokuyama, which was a real hospital specializing in treating tuberculosis, which would be a compelling reason for the family to move to that location. This is supported by the fact that in the novelization they state that the house was bought from a man whose wife had tuberculosis…
What does Totoro mean?
We all know what a Totoro is like, but nevertheless you don’t know where his name comes from. It is actually a modification of the word troll (yes, the monster from Scandinavian mythology that you have seen in multiple literary or audiovisual works). In Japanese it would be pronounced ‘to-ro-ru’ and it is the girl Mei who calls it that at first during the film. That is, Totoro is a full-fledged troll, and not one of those that swarm the internet.
In the 2006 version an extra line was included that explained it. Also, at the end of the movies the girls are reading a book with their mother. If you look at the cover of that book, it is The Three Macho Gruff Goats. It is a Norwegian tale about three goats passing over a bridge guarded by a troll. What do you see on that book cover, under the bridge? to Totoro. So mystery solved.
What is a Totoro?
The previous point would make it clear what it is… However, not even Hayao Miyazaki is completely clear about it. The director of the film has only said that “it’s not a spirit, it’s just an animal”, although it is always called the “spirit of the forest”. He has also said “I think he lives on acorns. He’s supposedly the protector of the forest, but it’s just a half-baked idea, an approximation.”
Design-wise, however, Totoro seems to be inspired by various animals, including tanukis and cats. The flight scenes and when Satsuki and Mei play the Ocarinas at night suggest that Totoro is also inspired by owls.
In the beginning there was only one protagonist
Most Studio Ghibli films have a single central character, around whom the entire story that each work presents revolves. Initially My Neighbor Totoro was going to have the same structure, with a single protagonist. However, as the film progressed, Hayao Miyazaki came to the conclusion that a couple of main characters allowed for more dynamism… And thus the sisters Satsuke and Mei were born.
Part of the fun of My Neighbor Totoro is the interactions between these two girls. In addition, it would be impossible to have done the same thing in the film with only one character, since the search for one is what motivates the other. That is, the study took the right path on time.
Inspired by Alice in Wonderland
There are obvious parallels with Alice in Wonderland. From the outset, Mei meets a chibi-Totoro, as she happened to Alicia with the white rabbit. In both cases they end up falling towards a new unknown land. There are lots of other small parallels, but we are left with the resemblance of the Catbus with the Cheshire Cat… Although it could also be said that Totoro himself and the aforementioned cat have a certain resemblance… That is, it is more than likely that Miyazaki was partially inspired by the immortal work of Lewis Carroll.
Set in a real city
Both the town of Matsugou – where Satsuki and Mei move – and Ushinuma, which appears as the destination of the Catbus, are real locations that can be found in the city of Tokorozawa, in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo.
In fact, there is a real forest that Miyazaki took inspiration from for the location of My Neighbor Totoro. Industrialization and lack of land in Japan have made it almost disappear, but you can still visit it.
There is a theory that My Neighbor Totoro is inspired by the Sayama Incident, in which a girl was killed by a man who has always said that she was innocent… Said girl had an older sister who committed suicide soon after. Pay attention that curves are coming.
Sayama is next to Tokorozawa City… Hence it’s ‘My Neighbor’. In addition, the dust sprites are beings from Japanese mythology that only those who are about to die see. To this is added that only girls see Totoro -which would be a kind of God of death-. That is to say, the little girl would be the murdered one, the older one the one who would go looking for her after her (and commits suicide). All this would be endorsed by various details throughout the film, culminating in the fact that at the end of the film the girls have no shadow… And only the dead have no shadow.
However, Ghibli has debunked this theory with an official statement saying that the girls do not have a shadow because the animators did not think it necessary at the time. I mean, the girls aren’t dead.
As you just read, the girls didn’t have shadows because they didn’t… And it seems that this wasn’t the only license taken by the Studio Ghibli animators. There is another scene where Grandma takes Satsuke to school, and Mei follows them. While she is waiting she draws a Totoro in her notebook. Well, that drawing appears different almost in each scene.
We see a similar oversight in the scene where the girls are in the rain, sheltered in a sanctuary. There a neighbor gives them an umbrella that changes color in each scene, and when they get home Mei falls and gets mud on her skirt, although the mud does not appear until a couple of scenes later.
And despite everything we love the animation of this film.
Meaning of the names
The two girls who star in My Neighbor Totoro have a strangely similar name… They are called Satsuke and Mei. Satsuke means May, the month. On the other hand, Mei is pronounced the same as the month of May in English… What did you want to tell us, Hayao?
It premiered at the same time as Grave of the Fireflies
My Neighbor Totoro was released on April 16, 1988, at the same time as another Studio Ghibli film, the great Grave of the Fireflies, composing a brutal double film session. The first was directed by Master Hayao Miyazaki, the second by Isao Takahata, who died last year. It is curious that at that time, and for quite some time, My Neighbor Totoro was the ugly duckling of the pair, garnering a worse reputation than the much darker Grave of the Fireflies.
A failure until…
As we have said, My Neighbor Totoro was not a great success. However, years later someone at Ghibli decided that the film had the potential to sell tons of merchandise of all kinds. It was when these stuffed animals hit stores that the movie exploded, becoming a real commercial success.
There will never be a sequel
Studio Ghibli does not bend to the modern fashions of taking advantage of the pull of old myths and continues to move forward to create more and more completely original works. The best example is My Neighbor Totoro, which was created as a single movie and will not have a sequel. However, its success has permeated other studio films and even popular culture, keeping this work alive.
In this way, we can see cameos and details of Totoro everywhere or, for example, we find the Catbus himself in real size in the Studio Ghibli museum in Japan… Although only boys and girls of a maximum of 12 years old can upload .
The closest thing to the sequel is precisely in the Studio Ghibli museum, where you can see a short film with Mei and Totoro lasting approximately a quarter of an hour. And that’s where this fascinating story ends. Do not expect to see more.
Totoro in other works
In this way Totoro has appeared in other audiovisual works of all kinds and lineage. Here are a few: It appears several times in South Park, in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, in an episode of the anime Kare Kano, Toy Story 3, four times in the Cartoon House series, SpongeBob, Samurai Jack, Bob’s Burger…
In addition to other media, characters from My Neighbor Totoro also appear in other Studio Ghibli films. For example, Pompoko, Nicky the Witch’s Apprentice, Whispers of the Heart… And the Dust Goblins appear in My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.
Pixar <3 Totoro
John Lasseter, a founding member of Pixar and the mind behind the Toy Story series (for example), is a fan of Studio Ghibli and has befriended Hayao Miyazaki. In his early years he traveled to Japan and was even able to see original drawings of My Neighbor Totoro. From then on, he has always recognized the influence of the work of this Japanese studio in his own films, and has even helped Studio Ghibli films cross the border of the country of the rising sun.
It’s not just Lasseter, as other Pixar insiders have stated the importance of My Neighbor Totoro and other Studio Ghibli works to Pixar, including lead animator Peter Docter.
totoro is in heaven
Since December 31, 1994 Totoro is also in heaven… And not because he has passed away. That day Takao Kobayashi discovered a large asteroid and decided to name it after our neighbor, that is, Totoro. The current official name is Totoro, although until 2002 it was simply called 1994 YQ1
and on earth
In the year 2007 P.V. Kvartalnov, E.A. Galoyan and I.V. Palko found the first known specimen of a new species of velvety worm, which they asked to name Eoperipatus totoro because of its resemblance to a certain animal that uses multiple legs to move and appears in the film (ie the Catbus).
Shintoism is a religion native to Japan, and largely revolves around the worship/preservation of nature. It is evident at various points in the film, for example when Mei and Satsuke’s family enter a temple, or when they stand in front of the small shrine in the rain, but it goes further. The entire film revolves around this Shinto idea of coexistence, launching a message that is very much in keeping with Japanese culture and religion.
After 30 years he arrives in China (and triumphs)
More than 30 years have passed since the original release of My Neighbor Totoro. That is the time that the inhabitants of China have been resisting the desire to see this work by Studio Ghibli legally (we have no doubt that they will have seen it by downloading or importing DVDs). However, the wait ended just a few weeks ago, when My Neighbor Totoro was officially released in cinemas in that country. It is also the studio’s first film to come to China, which has a very limited quota of foreign films in the country.
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