My Neighbor Totoro : 5 Facts You Didn’t Know

My Neighbor Totoro is among the rarest movies that charm both kids and adults. Tonari no Totoro, the production from Studio Ghibli that was written and directed by renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki, made its debut in Japan in 1988 before coming to the United States. 

The voices of sisters Satsuki and Mei in the English version are provided by real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning. When the sisters move to the Japanese countryside with their father, they discover a world of mysterious creatures and forest spirits: Here are 5 facts about My Neighbor Totoro Movie that you make you surprise.

1. My Neighbor Totoro Movie’s concept was initially turned down.

Hayao Miyazaki has been called the “Walt Disney of Japan” for his impressive career, which includes the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989). The Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co. turned down Miyazaki’s initial pitch for My Neighbor Totoro, though he was still making a name for himself in the early 1980s.

In 1987, Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki made another attempt, but the financiers and distribution chief “did not think the furry giant could take off, literally or metaphorically,’’ according to Maureen Furniss in” Animation: Art and Industry.  “Distributors just didn’t think there was a market for a tale about two young girls and a monster in contemporary Japan,” says the author. 

It was also problematic that the setting was 1950s rural Japan. My Neighbor Totoro was the first Miyazaki feature film to be set in Japan; all of his other films had settings that were either made up or unrecognized. In an interview included in the 30th-anniversary edition Blu-ray, Miyazaki stated that “back then, a story without a hero or a girl with superpowers, and the ordinary Japanese scenery as a backdrop, was not considered entertaining enough.” The mainstays of entertainment back then were violence, action, and quickness. I wanted my film to have a serene, innocent feel to it. That sort of world was what I wanted to make. In addition, I wanted to demonstrate the viability of such a film.

2. It failed at the box office.

Suzuki proposed that My Neighbor Totoro be published as a double feature to win another Studio Ghibli film, Grave of the Fireflies, in order to win over financiers. The publisher behind the latter movie, Shinchosha, was at the time more reputable than Tokuma Shoten, the publisher behind My Neighbor Totoro. The two movies had their 1988 premiere together after this concept was ultimately accepted. However, this movie was not a financial success until it was broadcast on Japanese television.

Suzuki asserted in the anniversary DVD that Totoro had the worst opening weekend box office of all the Ghibli films. “It was broadcast on TV a year later. The ratings were off the rankings when it was broadcast on NTV.

3. The setting of this movie was inspired by the picturesque area where Miyazaki lived

 Sayama Hills

Sayama Hills, Tokorozawa, which is an hour’s drive from Tokyo, is Miyazaki’s hometown. Miyazaki usually walks around the town and takes in the lush scenery.  Suzuki reportedly quoted Miyazaki as saying, “Totoro wouldn’t have been created if I hadn’t lived in Tokorozawa,” according to Fans can visit a statue of Totoro inside the House of Kurosuke that resembles the one from the film, and the area is now known as “Totoro Forest.”

4. Totoro is mispronounced while its Japanese word is “troll”

Mei nods in agreement when Satsuki asks if she’s talking about the troll from one of their books when she tells her sister what she saw. Because troll and Totoro sound different in English, this doesn’t make quite as much sense, but as the movie’s closing credits roll, it all makes sense. The fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff, which, as you may recall, features a troll character, is being read to the children by their mother. It is assumed to be the book Mei is referring to because of this. Miyazaki, however, noted in The Art of My Neighbor Totoro “Our main character, the four-year-old Mei, calls these creatures “Totoro.” Nobody is aware of what their true name is.”

5. Some scenes must be removed to appear on the US market

Mei, Satsuki, and their father can be seen bathing in a sizable round tub together in one scene from the movie. Due to their belief that they “were unlikely to be understood by American audiences,” U.S. companies sought to have this scene and another in which the girls jump on tatami mats removed, according to Furniss. Studio Ghibli insisted on keeping the film in its original form, without any changes.

If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli movies, then you’ll love learning these facts about My Neighbor Totoro. From the origins of the movie’s title to the interesting tidbits about the characters, there are a lot of fatcs to discover about this classic film. We hope you enjoy learning more about My Neighbor Totoro and that you’ll watch it again soon!

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