My Neighbor Totoro

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My Neighbor Totoro

Japanese theatrical poster
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toru Hara
Written by Hayao Miyazaki
Starring Chika Sakamoto
Noriko Hidaka
Hitoshi Takagi
Tanie Kitabayashi
Shigesato Itoi
Sumi Shimamoto
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography Hisao Shirai
Editing by Takeshi Seyama
Distributed by Toho (Japan)
Troma Films - 1993 dub (USA)
Disney - Disney dub (USA)
Release date(s) April 16, 1988 (JAP)
November 4th, 1988 (Streamline Dub)
Fox Dub:
1993 (USA)
Disney Dub:
March 7, 2006 (USA)
Running time 86 min.
Language Japanese

My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ Tonari no Totoro?), is a 1988 Japanese anime film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. The film follows the two young daughters of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in postwar rural Japan. The movie won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1988. The movie was originally released in the U.S. in VHS format with the title, My Friend Totoro.[1]

Troma Films, under their 50th St. Films banner, produced a 1993 dub of the film co-produced by Jerry Beck. It was released on VHS and DVD by Fox Video. Troma's and Fox's rights to this version expired in 2004. The film was re-released by Disney on March 7, 2006.[2] It features a new dub cast. This DVD release is the first version of the film in the United States to include both Japanese and English language tracks, as Fox did not have the rights to the Japanese audio track for their version.



In 1958, a university professor and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, move into an old house in rural Japan to be closer to the hospital where his wife is recovering from an illness. The daughters find that the house is inhabited by tiny animated dust creatures called soot sprites — small house spirits seen when moving from light to dark places. When the girls become comfortable in their new house and laugh with their father, the soot spirits leave.

While she is playing outside one day, the younger daughter, Mei, sees two white, rabbit-like ears in the grass. She follows the ears under the house where she discovers two small magical creatures, who lead her through a briar patch, and into the hollow of a large Camphor Laurel tree. She meets and befriends a larger version of the same kind of spirit, which identifies itself by a series of roars she interprets as "Totoro" (in the Japanese original dub it stems from Mei's mispronunciation of the word for "troll", tororu).[3] Her father later tells her that this is the "keeper of the forest".

One rainy night the girls are waiting for their father's bus and grow worried when he does not arrive on the bus they expect him on. As they wait, Mei eventually falls asleep on Satsuki's back and Totoro appears beside them, allowing Satsuki to see him for the first time. He only has a leaf on his head for protection against the rain, so Satsuki offers him the umbrella she had taken along for her father. Totoro is delighted at both the shelter and the sounds made upon it by falling raindrops. In return he gives her a bundle of nuts and seeds. A bus-shaped giant cat halts at the stop, and Totoro boards it, taking the umbrella. Shortly after, their father’s bus arrives.

The girls plant the seeds. A few days later they awaken at midnight to find Totoro and his two miniature colleagues engaged in a ritual dance around the planted nuts and seeds. The girls join in, whereupon the seeds sprout and then grow into an enormous tree. Totoro takes his colleagues and the girls for a ride on a magical flying top. In the morning, the tree is gone, but the seeds have indeed sprouted.

Mei, believing her mother's condition has worsened, sets off on foot to the hospital and gets lost. Desperate to find her sister, Satsuki returns to the camphor laurel tree and pleads for Totoro's help. Delighted to be of assistance, he summons the Catbus, which rescues Mei, then whisks her and Satsuki over the countryside to see their mother in the hospital. The girls perch in a tree outside of the hospital to discover that she is doing well. They deliver an ear of corn that Mei believes will speed her mother's recovery, and then return home on the Catbus. When the Catbus departs, it fades away from the girls' sight.

The closing credits show Mei and Satsuki's mother returning home and feature scenes of Satsuki and Mei playing with other human children, with Totoro and his friends as unseen observers.

Voice cast

Character Original Japanese version Streamline English version Disney English version
Satsuki Kusakabe Noriko Hidaka Lisa Michelson Dakota Fanning
Mei Kusakabe Chika Sakamoto Cheryl Chase Elle Fanning
Tatsuo Kusakabe (father) Shigesato Itoi Steve Kramer Timothy Daly
Yasuko Kusakabe (mother) Sumi Shimamoto Alexandra Kenworthy Lea Salonga
Kanta Toshiyuki Amagasa Kenneth Hartman Paul Butcher
Nanny Tanie Kitabayashi Natalie Core Pat Carroll
Totoro Hitoshi Takagi N/A Frank Welker
Catbus Hitoshi Takagi N/A Frank Welker


The art direction of My Neighbor Totoro was performed by Kazuo Oga. The art director was drawn to the film when Hayao Miyazaki showed him an original image of Totoro in a satoyama. The director challenged Oga to raise his standards, and Oga's experience with My Neighbor Totoro jump-started the anime 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. The ultimate product was described by Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, "It was nature painted with translucent colors."[4]

Oga described his approach to painting background art, "I appreciate my role and I draw with the feeling that if I don't make a good effort, I will be somehow punished." 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.[5]


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".[6]

In 1993, 20th Century Fox released the first English-language version of My Neighbor Totoro, produced by John Daly and Derek Gibson (the producers of The Terminator) with co-producer Jerry Beck. Fox and Troma's rights to the film expired in 2004. Disney's English-language version 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 released on DVD on March 7, 2006.

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.

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 87% of critics gave the film positive write-ups, based upon a sample of 23, with an average score of 7.9/10.[7]

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". Ebert reviewed the film, "My Neighbor Totoro is based on experience, situation and exploration—not on conflict and threat," and described its appeal: " 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."[8]

Leonard Klady of the entertainment trade newspaper Variety wrote 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."[9]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times described My Neighbor Totoro 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."[10]

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.[11]

Cultural impact

My Neighbor Totoro helped bring Japanese animation into the global spotlight, and its set 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.[12] 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."[13] The Financial Times recognized the character's appeal, "[Totoro] is more genuinely loved than Mickey Mouse could hope to be in his wildest—not nearly so beautifully illustrated—fantasies."[12]

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.[14] 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.[15]

A main-belt asteroid was named 10160 Totoro after the film's central character Totoro.[16]

Totoro has made cameo appearances in multiple Studio Ghibli films, including Pom Poko, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart. Additionally, various other anime series and films have featured cameos, including one episode of the Gainax TV series His and Her Circumstances; director Hideaki Anno worked as a key animator on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984 and considers Miyazaki a mentor.[17][18] Totoro has also had cameo appearances in various non-Japanese works, including on Comedy Central's Drawn Together and in the Imaginationland episodes of South Park as a background character, in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Brief Lives in which Delirium blows bubbles into a number of impossible shapes, including a Totoro holding an umbrella. Miyazaki also uses Totoro as a part of his Studio Ghibli company logo. Volume 9 of the Gin Tama manga has a spoof of the film entitled "My Neighbor Pedro". Also, the episode of Samurai Jack entitled "Jack and the Creature" pays homage to this film.



A four-volume series of ani-manga books, which use color images and lines directly from the film, were published in Japan in May 1988 by Tokuma.[19][20] 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.[21][22]

A 112 picture book based on the film and aimed at younger readers was released by Viz on November 8, 2005.[23] On the same day, Viz released a 176 page art book containing conceptual art from the film and interviews with the production staff.[24]

Anime short

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.[25] Chika Sakamoto, who voiced Mei in Totoro, returned to voice Mei in this short. Hayao Miyazaki himself did the voice of the Neko Ba-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 (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,[26] 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 [27] and at a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser a few days later.[28]


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.[29] It has since been re-released twice, once on November 21, 1996 and again on August 25, 2004.

  1. "Stroll (The Opening Theme Song)" (さんぽ Sanpo?) (Azumi Inoue)
  2. "The Village in May" (五月の村 Gogatsu no Mura?)
  3. "A Haunted House!" (オバケやしき! Obakeyashiki!?)
  4. "Mei and the Traveling Soot" (メイとすすわたり Mei to Susuwatari?)
  5. "Evening Wind" (夕暮れの風 Yugure no Kaze?)
  6. "Not Scared" (こわくない Kowakunai?)
  7. "Let's Go to the Hospital" (おみまいにいこう Omimai ni Ikō?)
  8. "Mother" (おかあさん Okaasan?) (Inoue)
  9. "A Little Monster" (小さなオバケ Chiisana Obake?)
  10. "Totoro" (トトロ Totoro?)
  11. "The Huge Tree in the Tsukamori Forest" (塚森の大樹 Tsukamori no Taiju?)
  12. "A Lost Child" (まいご Maigo?) (Inoue)
  13. "The Path of Wind (Instrumental)" (風のとおり道 Kaze no Torimichi?)
  14. "A Drenched Monster" (ずぶぬれオバケ Zubunure Obake?)
  15. "Moonlight Flight" (月夜の飛行 Tsukiyo no Hikō?)
  16. "Mei is Missing" (メイがいない Mei ga Inai?)
  17. "Catbus" (ねこバス Nekobasu?)
  18. "I'm So Glad" (よかったね Yokattane?)
  19. "My Neighbor Totoro (The Ending Song)" (となりのトトロ Tonari no Totoro?)
  20. "Stroll" (さんぽ(合唱つき) Sanpo?) (Inoue and Suginami Children's Choir)


  1. ^ Ellis-Christensen, Tricia. "Who is Hayao Miyazaki?". Retrieved on 2008-02-18 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  2. ^ My Neighbor Totoro, (1998), Hayao Miyazaki, notes from: DVD. Walt Disney Home Entertainment, (2006).
  3. ^ "What is Totoro (Totoro info on". Retrieved on 2009-02-27 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  4. ^ Kikuchi, Yoshiaki (2007-08-04). "Totoro's set decorator". Daily Yomiuri. 
  5. ^ "When Studio Ghibli is mentioned, usually the name of its co-founder and chief director Hayao Miyazaki springs to mind. But anyone with an awareness of the labor-intensive animation process knows that such masterpieces as Tonari no Totoro...". International Herald Tribune-Asahi Shimbun. 2007-08-24. 
  6. ^ McCarthy, Helen (1999). Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation. Stone Bridge Press. pp. 43,120–121. ISBN 1880656418. 
  7. ^ "My Neighbor Totoro Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (2001-12-23). "My Neighbor Totoro (1993)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on 2008-09-30. 
  9. ^ Klady, Leonard (1993-05-06). "My Neighbor Totoro". Variety. Retrieved on 2008-09-30. 
  10. ^ Holden, Stephen (1993-06-14). "Review/Film; Even a Beast Is Sweet as Can Be". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Leyland, Matthew (June 2006). "My Neighbour Totoro". Sight & Sound 16 (6): 89. 
  12. ^ a b Pilling, David (2007-09-15). "Defining Moment: My Neighbour Totoro, 1988, directed by Hayao Miyazaki". Financial Times. 
  13. ^ Forbes, Dee (2005-11-07). "Analysis Cartoons: Toontown's greatest characters". The Independent. 
  14. ^ Kobori, Hiromi; Richard B. Primack (June 2003). "Participatory Conservation Approaches for Satoyama, the Traditional Forest and Agricultural Landscape of Japan". Ambio 32 (4): 307–311. 
  15. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (2008-08-27). "'Neighbor' inspires artists". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on 2008-09-30. 
  16. ^ "10160 Totoro (1994 YQ1)". Solar System Dynamics. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  17. ^ Team Ghiblink. "Miyazaki's Colleagues: Who's Who". Nausicaä.net. Retrieved on 2008-10-03 {{{accessyear}}}. "Anno...considers Miyazaki his mentor." 
  18. ^ Studio Ghibli. "A Dream World That Hasn't Forfeited its Goal". Retrieved on 2008-10-03 {{{accessyear}}}. "By the way, Mr. Miyazaki Hayao and Mr. Itano Ichirou are those I consider my teachers." 
  19. ^ "My Neighbor Totoro 1" (in Japanese). Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  20. ^ "My Neighbor Totoro 4" (in Japanese). Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  21. ^ "My Neighbor Totoro, Volume 1". Viz Media. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  22. ^ "My Neighbor Totoro, Volume 4". Viz Media. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  23. ^ "My Neighbor Totoro Picture Book". Viz Media. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  24. ^ "The Art of My Neighbor Totoro". Viz Media. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  25. ^ "Miyazaki Plans Museum Anime Shorts After Ponyo". Anime News Network. 2008-06-20. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  26. ^ "三鷹の森 ジブリ美術館 - 映像展示室 土星座". Retrieved on 2008-04-08 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  27. ^ "Synopsis - Page 1". Lasseter-San, Arigato (Thank You, Mr. Lasseter). Nausicaa.Net. Retrieved on 2006-04-29 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  28. ^ "Synopsis - Page 6". Lasseter-San, Arigato (Thank You, Mr. Lasseter). Nausicaa.Net. Retrieved on 2006-05-23 {{{accessyear}}}. 
  29. ^ "Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) Soundtracks". CD Japan. Neowing. Retrieved on 2008-09-30 {{{accessyear}}}. 

Further reading

  • Watsuki, Nobuhiro (2005). The Art of My Neighbor Totoro: A Film by Hayao Miyazaki. VIZ Media LLC. ISBN 1591166985. 

External links

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