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Epic ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ puppet being made for RSC stage production

My Neighbour Totoro is one of the most beloved Studio Ghibli films, and is currently being adapted for the stage by The Royal Shakespeare Company. Which means someone is making a giant Totoro puppet!

My Neighbour Totoro was released, and proceeded to win fans and acclaim, in 1988. The Studio Ghibli classic, directed by the visionary Hiyao Miyazaki, tells the story of two sisters and their interactions with the titular Totoro; a friendly, yet slightly aloof, wood spirit.

The original film perfectly captures a sense of youthful innocence and imagination, but also manages to tell a emotionally resonant tale of family and the importance of nature. This winning combination has since become Studio Ghibli’s calling card, helping their films reach a wide audience outside of Japan.

my neighbour totoro royal shakespeare
Image: My Neighbour Totoro / Royal Shakespeare Company

My Neighbour Totoro, along with other Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, have seen their popularity further increase in Western markets during the Covid-19 pandemic. This popularity has led to a number of interesting adaptations, and even an unofficial Studio Ghibli cookbook.

However, possibly the most exciting Ghibli news is that My Neighbour Totoro is being adapted into a AAA theatre production by the Royal Shakespeare Company. That’s right, it’s official: the ignorant idea that anime is somehow a lesser artform is dead.

spirited away theatre
Image: Spirited Away / TOHO CO., LTD

Although, as anyone familiar with the story of My Neighbour Totoro will note, this stage production faces some unique challenges. For one, there is the issue of Totoro itself. The giant, adorable wood spirit is an important part of the story, and his size and puffy shape could prove difficult to capture with practical effects.

Thankfully, the producers of the adaptation have spared no expense and enlisted the best in the business: Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (The Muppets, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth). If any team can figure out how to create a convincing Totoro puppet it’s these folks.

The My Neighbour Totoro stage show is currently on sale now, and set to run in the UK from 8 October 2022 – 21 January 2023. Fingers crossed it’s successful and the giant Totoro puppet manages to make its way down under!