If you’re stuck at home with children during the coronavirus pandemic looking for something to do, it might be a good opportunity to watch some of Japan’s classic animated films.
Or better yet, draw the characters.
Toshio Suzuki, a Japanese animation producer, is proposing just that. The former president of Japan’s Studio Ghibli uploaded a video tutorial explaining how to draw one of the company’s beloved characters: Totoro from the 1988 film “My Neighbor Totoro.”
Suzuki says the most important part of drawing Totoro — who is also Studio Ghibli’s mascot — is nailing down his circular, wide-set eyes.
The tutorial was originally intended for children in lockdown in Nagoya, Japan — where Suzuki is originally from. It was featured on a city website that has also posted video messages from celebrities and athletes linked to Nagoya. But Suzuki's tutorial has reached Studio Ghibli fans far and wide.
"This is something you can do at home. Everyone, please draw pictures,” he said.
"My Neighbor Totoro," a fantasy film, centers around two sisters who move to a country house with their father as they wait for their ailing mother to recover at a hospital. That’s where they come across Totoro, a big, cuddly flying spirit who looks like a cross between an inflated cat, a bunny rabbit and an owl.
Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli became the heavyweight champion of anime in Japan and the rest of the world, with most of its success accredited to co-founder and animator Hayao Miyazaki. In the 1990s, the Walt Disney Company signed a deal with Studio Ghibli to introduce the movies to a Western audience. Studio Ghibli has created more than 20 acclaimed movies that follow themes of nature, friendship, and what some might describe as girl power or feminism.
Miyazaki, who is famous for mostly hand-drawing his animations, dominated the box office and gained global success among anime fans and children alike. His film “Spirited Away" about a lost young girl remains the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan since its release in 2001. It won an Academy Award in 2003. Tokyo's Mitaka Ghibli Museum, which features Miyazaki’s artwork, remains closed due to COVID-19.
But the studio is still coming up with ways to keep fans entertained safely at home. It has created free downloadable movie backgrounds for the video conference-app Zoom and a set of vinyl collections to the soundtrack of the 1997 film “Princess Monoke”, which will be released on July 24.