GeekOut

I want my Totoro (but I was not fast enough)

Last week, the Austin-based Mondo (The Alamo Drafthouse's collectible art boutique) shook up the Internet by announcing a brand new collaboration project between two very well known names - artist Olly Moss and Studio Ghibli. The first poster in this series was based on "My Neighbor Totoro", the beloved 1988 animated film about two young children who encounter a mythical creature.

A total of 590 of the posters were made, 420 of the regular version in English and 170 of the variant version in Japanese. Mondo announced them on sale on Twitter last Friday, and within three minutes, they were sold out.

It was impressive to see how voracious collectors were to own this piece of art, at $50 for the regular version and $90 for the variant.

Twenty-three years after the release of the film that inspired it, "My Neighbor Totoro" has firmly established itself as a part of the iconography of Studio Ghibli. Even in America, the furry grey beast with the pointy ears has become a memorable symbol of all the magic and joy associated with Ghibli productions.

Mondo is not the only one to celebrate Ghibli's imagery. In 2010, an artist by the name of Iain Heath created a Ghibli-inspired collection of Lego art for an event called BrickCon. Called Miyazakitopia, the collection of brick sculptures featured characters from films such as "Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke," "Ponyo," and more.

American fans have also expressed their love of Totoro through food, specifically through the art of bento. There are many pictures of these colorful creations on Flickr, such as "Summer Totoro Bento" and even one that shows Totoro in his famous open mouthed scream from the film.

In addition to these memorable creations, there are dozens of websites that feature galleries of fan-made art from these films, dedicated Ghibli cosplay groups, and much more.

Totoro is the equivalent of Disney's Mickey Mouse. But why does this character resonate so deeply with Japanese and American audiences alike?

One thing that fans seem to take away from the wide-eyed character is that it embodies childhood innocence, wonder and delight. It appears to the children in the film during a time of need and gives them hope. These themes appear throughout Ghibli films, but Totoro seems to remind fans of it most.

Seeing a collectible in their homes can often remind fans of those feelings, which is why Totoro is so loved. Of course, it's also very cute, which helps Japanese culture fans who subscribe to the cult of "kawaii."

"Totoro is definitely the most popular Studio Ghibli character. It is the only character with an entire book dedicated to merchandise. Totoro's status is such that it's part of the studio's logo," says Lawrence Lin, curator of the American fansite Nausicca.net.

"Totoro combines the familiarity of several animals (cat, owl, tanuki) with a helping of Miyazaki's whimsical imagination in a large, friendly, and furry package. That and its ideal proportions as a stuffed animal (squat, stubby appendages, scales well)."

It's interesting to note that production of collectibles did not start immediately after "My Neighbor Totoro" was released.

"Although Totoro seemed destined for success as a stuffed animal, the studio didn't produce anything until two years after the film's release and then only at the insistence of a toy manufacturer," Lin said.

There are shops in Japan solely dedicated to Ghibli merchandise now (there is an excellent one right outside the entrance to Asakusa shrine), and Nausicca.net has compiled an excellent list of online resources where you can purchase collectibles.

What tributes to the work of Studio Ghibli have you seen, and in what forms? Have you ever made your own homage to the beloved animation studio's works?