If you watched the most recent trailer for Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” very closely, you might have noticed a familiar face among the new characters added for the sequel. In the scene when Woody and friends use a computer, a plush Totoro is visible on the left of the screen. Fans of Japanese animation, specifically the films of Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away;” “Ponyo”), know the big rabbit-looking creature as one of the titular spirits from the director’s 1988 classic “My Neighbor Totoro.”
MTV spoke to Pixar head John Lasseter during a recent “Toy Story 3” promotional event about the crossover.
“Totoro has a cameo appearance in “Toy Story 3,” he acknowledged. “We do little homages in our films, and we thought it was a very appropriate homage to let [Miyazaki and his film company] Studio Ghibli know how much they mean to us.”
Lasseter mentioned his long friendship with the filmmaker and the animation studio, as well as the fact that Disney has been distributing English-language versions of Miyazaki’s films in the United States with Lasseter himself producing the U.S. dubs of “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and the latest, “Ponyo.”
This was not the first time Pixar paid tribute to the work of Miyazaki. Two years ago, the studio held an auction in support of the Totoro Forest Project, a charitable effort to preserve a forest in Japan. Featured in the auction were “Totoro”-inspired works from top artists, including “Ratatouille” storyboard illustrators Enrico Casarosa and Ronaldo Del Carmen (whose contributions were reportedly bought at the time by Lasseter).
Lasseter and Miyazaki first met more than 30 years ago and later became friends while the latter was at work on “Totoro” in 1987. Apparently neither speaks the other’s language, but they get along famously anyway.
“I admire him so much,” Lasseter said of the master animator, adding that he thought “Ponyo” was “fantastic.”
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