Who is the mysterious girl in the official My Neighbor Totoro movie poster?
Anyone who has seen Studio Ghibli’s 1988 classic “My Neighbor Totoro” knows that it follows the lives of Satsuki and Mei, two young girls who make a move to the quiet Japanese countryside. All is well and good until you look at the original Japanese movie poster and DVD box art and you notice something odd... Where are Mei and Satsuki? And who is this mysterious girl who doesn’t even appear in the movie.
Upon closer inspection the girl in question appears to be a mish-mash of the two protagonists we know and love. She is sporting Mei’s pigtails and Satsuki’s preferred yellow and orange attire. So did the artist just get lazy and hope no one would notice?Perhaps a more interesting reasoning behind this.
Hayao Miyazaki first had the idea for “My Neighbor Totoro” during his work on the production of Isao Takahata's 1976 TV series, “3000 Leagues in Search of Mother”. It was during this time that he first started creating initial conceptual watercolor paintings for our furry friend Totoro and his human companion and 7 year old girl named Mai/Satsuki (both early draft names for the protaganist) .
One reasoning for having one protagonist was that Totoro was originally only supposed to be a 40-minute long short film. As the world expanded and the production grew, Miyazaki decided it would be a better narrative decision to split the character of "Mai” into two separate characters. This would add more depth to the movie as you would be able to explore more dynamic worldviews, namely the childishly innocent world that Mei experiences and Satsuki's slightly more mature one.
So in the end Miyazaki and the production staff thought it best to split the character into two separate characters. Keeping the name “Satsuki” and naming the younger girl “Mei”. In the end, the studio decided to keep the original concept artwork for the official artwork. Maybe we'll see a sequel someday that tells us about this girl's adventures with Totoro!
Miyazaki also commented that, "If she was a little girl who plays around in the yard, she wouldn't be meeting her father at a bus stop, so we had to come up with two girls instead. And that was difficult."
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