My Neighbor Totoro helped bring Japanese animation into the global spotlight, and set its writer-director Hayao Miyazaki on the road to success. The film's central character, Totoro, is as famous among Japanese children as Winnie-the-Pooh is among British ones. The Independent recognized Totoro as one of the greatest cartoon characters, describing the creature, "At once innocent and awe-inspiring, King Totoro captures the innocence and magic of childhood more than any of Miyazaki's other magical creations." The Financial Times recognized the character's appeal, " is more genuinely loved than Mickey Mouse could hope to be in his wildest — not nearly so beautifully illustrated — fantasies."
The environmental journal Ambio described the influence of My Neighbor Totoro, " has served as a powerful force to focus the positive feelings that the Japanese people have for satoyama and traditional village life." The film's central character Totoro was used as a mascot by the Japanese "Totoro Hometown Fund Campaign" to preserve areas of satoyama in the Saitama Prefecture. The fund, started in 1990 after the film's release, held an auction in August 2008 at Pixar Animation Studios to sell over 210 original paintings, illustrations, and sculptures inspired by My Neighbor Totoro.
A main-belt asteroid was named 10160 Totoro after the film's central character Totoro.
Totoro has made cameo appearances in multiple Studio Ghibli films, including Pom Poko, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart. Additionally, various other anime series and films have featured cameos, including one episode of the Gainax TV series His and Her Circumstances. Totoro has also had cameo appearances in various non-Japanese works, including on Comedy Central's Drawn Together and in the "Imaginationland" episodes of South Park as a background character, in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Brief Lives in which Delirium blows bubbles into a number of impossible shapes, including a Totoro holding an umbrella. My Neighbor Totoro is also parodied in the South Park episode "Mysterion Rises" in a couple of scenes where Cartman plays on the belly of the dark lord Cthulhu and later flies on the inderdimensional monster to the tune of the iconic end credits song from the film's soundtrack. Miyazaki also uses Totoro as a part of his Studio Ghibli company logo. Volume 9 of the Gin Tama manga has a spoof of the film entitled "My Neighbor Pedro". Also, the episode of Samurai Jack entitled "Jack and the Creature" pays homage to this film. A Totoro plush makes an appearance in Pixar's Toy Story 3.
The susuwatari, or "soot sprites", appear in the Miyazaki's 2001 Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away, and the opening song is referenced in his 2008 film Ponyo.
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