My Neighbor Totoro - Production

Production

The art director was Kazuo Oga, who was drawn to the film when Hayao Miyazaki showed him an original image of Totoro standing in a satoyama. The director challenged Oga to raise his standards, and Oga's experience with My Neighbor Totoro jump-started the artist's career. Oga and Miyazaki debated the palette of the film, Oga seeking to paint black soil from Akita Prefecture and Miyazaki preferring the color of red soil from the Kantō region. The ultimate product was described by Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki: "It was nature painted with translucent colors."

Oga described his approach to painting background art: "I appreciate my role and I draw with the feeling that if I don't make a good effort, I will be somehow punished." Oga's conscientious approach to My Neighbor Totoro was a style that the International Herald Tribune recognized as " the traditional Japanese animist sense of a natural world that is fully, spiritually alive". The newspaper described the final product, "Set in a period that is both modern and nostalgic, the film creates a fantastic, yet strangely believable universe of supernatural creatures coexisting with modernity. A great part of this sense comes from Oga's evocative backgrounds, which give each tree, hedge and twist in the road an indefinable feeling of warmth that seems ready to spring into sentient life." Oga's work on My Neighbor Totoro led to his continued involvement with Studio Ghibli. The studio assigned jobs to Oga that would play to his strengths, and Oga's style became a trademark style of Studio Ghibli.

Miyazaki's niece was the model for the character of Mei.

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