Guillermo del Totoro is the touching result of a child actress’ pronunciation hurdles.

Between his collaborations with video game creator Hideo Kojima and the obvious Neon Genesis Evangelion thematic and visual inspirations in Pacific Rim, it’s clear that film director Guillermo del Toro is a pretty avid fan of Japanese entertainment media. So when Japanese child actress Mana Ashida came up with a nickname for him while filming Pacific Rim, the acclaimed filmmaker was probably grinning from ear to ear at her choice.

Ashida, who was only nine years old at the time of Pacific Rim’s release, plays the childhood version of character Mako, (who’s portrayed as an adult by Rinko Kikuchi). In her on-set interactions with the director she was having trouble pronouncing “del Toro” and asked if she could instead call him by a name she had more experience pronouncing: Totoro, the star of beloved Studio Ghibli anime My Neighbor Totoro.

The director said sure, and while the adorable agreement actually took place years ago, it’s only recently become public knowledge (and has been confirmed by del Toro himself). The story is now out there, though, and so, of course, is the fan art of Guillermo del Totoro!

Not just fans, but del Toro himself are thrilled by the illustrative crossovers, with the director retweeting his favorites. Many even include Ashida, dressed in a coat evocative of the one she wears in her big Pacific Rim scene.

▼ Oddly enough the Japanese text says “Pacific Rim,” not “Studio Jaeger.”

Guillermo del Totoro is actually a pretty flexible motif, as you can either apply del Toro’s traits to Totoro…

…or give Totoro’s mannerisms and poses to del Toro.

And while del Toro’s pantheon may not be quite as iconic as Ghibli’s, he’s still helmed films with plenty of memorable characters, inspiring artists to include references from Pacific Rim, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth.

Unlike his nickname’s namesake, there’s no record of del Toro giving Ashida a magic bag of seeds or a magic flight through the sky on a spinning top. Videos of the pair from the Pacific Rim set shows that the director has a heart as soft as Totoro’s inviting tummy.

Making the story sweeter still is that My Neighbor Totoro is a film that left a profound impression on del Toro. “As a young adult I saw “My Neighbor Totoro” and it moved me to tears,” he recalls. “I mean, I basically couldn’t stop crying at the beauty and the enormous feat of capturing the innocence of being a child. I immediately chased down everything [director Hayao Miyazaki] had done.”

Guillermo del Totoro may not move anyone to tears, but it’s certainly causing plenty of smiles.

Source: You Offend Me You Offend My Family, Indie Wire, The New York Times
Featured image: Twitter/@RealGDT