If you are a fan of animated fantasy film, you should not miss My Neighbor Totoro – a Japanese animated film released in 1988. Many people are fond of this because it brings strong feelings of childhood nostalgia. It is also appealing because of the dynamics between the sisters. You will notice that there are plenty of heart-warming moments between the two as you go through the film.
The story revolves around two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits while their mother is recuperating at a nearby hospital. Here are some interesting facts about the film:
The people behind the animated fantasy film
My Neighbor Totoro is considered a Studio Ghibli classic written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It starred the voice actors Noriko Hikada (Satsuki) and Chika Sakamoto (Mei).
The film’s awards
Although it did not win any Oscars, the film had its own share of success and accolades. You have to know that the film won Animage Anime Grand Prix prize. It was also given the Mainichi Film Award. In 1988, Kinema Junpo Award considered it the Best Film. In the same year, the film also received an award at the Blue Ribbon Awards.
The meaning of “Totoro”
Mei follows a trail of acorns eventually discovering many mysterious spirits in the forest. Her curiosity led her to call the largest one “Totoro”. Many noted that the name resembles a Japanese word for “troll”.
The meaning of other names
In many Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away, the names have great significance. In My Neighbor Totoro, the names of the sisters are based on the words for the month of May. The most obvious reference is Mei, who is the younger sister. Mei sounds similar to the English word May. In Japanese, it can mean bright, reliant or sprout. In Chinese, it can mean beautiful or plum.
The eldest sister, Satsuki, is a more traditional Japanese word. It refers to the fifth month of the year – May. It can also refer to azaleas, which is a plant found in the mountains of Japan. When written, Satsuki can mean happiness, sand, and blossom.
The setting of the story
The story takes place in an actual city. Tokorozawa City is situated in the Saitama prefecture. The director reportedly lives in this city, which used to be a large farming area. Locals are now working towards preserving the remaining natural areas. In fact, their symbolic character for this movement is Totoro.
If you watched other films of Miyazaki like Ponyo and Princess Mononoke, you will notice that there is a strong theme of environmentalism. This goes to show Miyazaki’s strong respect for the natural world. With this, he donated artwork and money to Tokorzawa City to help in the preservation efforts.
The initial release
The film was initially released as a double feature with Grave of the Fireflies. According to Studio Ghibli, this was the case because Totoro was considered a big financial risk at that time. Many felt that no one would want to see a movie about two young girls and a monster in rural Japan. However, Miyazaki strongly believed in the film.