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The Totoro Forest Project

It's well known that Hayao Miyazaki's beloved classic My Neighbour Totoro has inspired many animators the world over from John Lasseter to Tomm Moore. Back in 2008 though, it also inspired a range of animators, illustrators, artists and other creatives to try and give something back- and so The Totoro Forest Project was born.

The beautiful habitat Sayama Hills, located just 40 KM outside of metropolitan Tokyo, is widely acknowledged as the location that inspired the setting for the classic film. Back in 1990, The Totoro Forest Foundation was established in order to preserve this gorgeous location for future generations. Ever since then, the foundation has continued to acquire more land and has held charity events and activities to ensure that 'Totoro's Forest' continues to be protected.

The Totoro Forrest Project was dreamed up by  Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi - then working as an art director at Pixar, later known for founding TonkoHouse and co-directing the short The Dam Keeper- as a way to raise funds for The Foundation.

The idea was simple, Dice and his collaborators would invite talented creatives from the animation (and animation related) world to submit pieces inspired by the classic 1988 film. The artworks would be hosted at an exhibition in The Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, and later auctioned off at the Pixar studios. The proceeds would go the foundation.

The results were as beautiful as you might expect, showcasing a real range of styles, with some really fascinating spins on the subject matter.

By Peter Sohn

Contributors included some well-known names including Tsutsumi himself as well as Pixar directors Pete Docter and future Good Dinosaur director Peter Sohn. But there were also many other less familiar names who contributed equally brilliant work.  While some of the works feature characters or locations familiar from the film (albeit in a different style) others use the spirit the film as a jumping off point to create something entirely unique.

By Jackson Sze

The book that collected the works is sadly seriously out of print and now goes for a princely sum via resellers, from anyone daft enough to part with their's (I can assure you that nobody is getting their hands on my prized copy). It's a shame that a general release edition never followed.

Still, the Forest Project remains a testament to the special place that Totoro and Miyazaki have in the hearts of so many, and how animation can inspire people in so many different ways.

by Clio Chang

By Pete Docter