Anime studio gives us a closer look at the true story behind this illustration.

Last year, Studio Ghibli shared an image on their official Twitter account that went viral online. The picture showed Totoro, from the studio’s 1988 film My Neighbour Totoro, standing at the bus stop in the forest, in a scene that mimics the famous one used in the movie’s promo poster.

However, in this image, it’s not a girl standing under the red umbrella beside the forest giant — instead, it’s Sulley and Mike from the 2001 Pixar-produced American CG film, Monsters, Inc.

▼ The image was shared on 13 May last year.

Back then, the image went viral with over 158,000 likes, sparking fan theories about a possible collaboration between the two studios. However, the popularity of last year’s tweet pales in comparison to this year, when the studio shared the very same image on 1 May.

As you can see, the only thing new about the image, aside from it being less zoomed-in, is the message that accompanies it, which simply consists of three emojis, showing a falling leaf in between two rainy day umbrellas. This year, though, the image racked up more than 412,000 likes, as a whole new slew of fans saw it for the very first time.

So why was Studio Ghibli showing the same image again, almost a year to the day when it was last shared online? Well, as diehard fans of My Neighbour Totoro will know, director Hayao Miyazaki slipped hints into the film to let fans know May is the month to watch Totoro.

For instance, the names of the two young female stars of the movie — four-year-old Mei and 12-year-old Satsuki — both refer to the fifth month of the year. Mei is a homophone for May, and Satsuki is the traditional term for May — a fine day in May is still commonly referred to as satsuki-bare in Japanese.

A lot of the film appears to be set in May, when spring showers help the flowers come into bloom. That’s one of the reasons why the characters spend some time under umbrellas in the rain and watch the seeds pop into trees seemingly overnight as well.

For Ghibli fans, May is so synonymous with My Neighbour Totoro that they begin tweeting about the film as soon as the first day of May arrives. That’s what Studio Ghibli did, and with rain falling on 1 May this year, it was a particularly apt time to repost this image.

However, unlike last year, when the tweet was shared with no message and no follow-up, leading some to speculate that it was some sort of cryptic collaboration announcement between the two studios, this year’s tweet came with a follow-up four days later, showing where the image came from.

As we wrote last year, the image wasn’t a collaboration announcement, but a show of love from Pixar for Studio Ghibli, presented to Miyazaki and his team as a framed wall hanging, complete with sketches and signatures from their overseas admirers.

Previously, the only image we had of this framed gift was from a documentary on the anime industry broadcast in Japan on NHK in December 2019. Now, though, we get to see all the signatures and messages in close-up, including one from John Lasseter, director of a number of Pixar films including Toy Story, which reads:

“Domo, Miyazaki-san My Friend!”

Lasseter’s message includes a sweet sketch of Toy Story’s Buzz and Woody, which appears to draw a parallel between the friendship shared by these two characters and the one shared by Lasseter and Miyazaki.

There are so many touching messages and drawings to look at here, with the U.S.-based animators sketching their own Pixar characters alongside ones from Ghibli films, including Totoro, the Catbus, the friendly robot from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and even a little Soot Sprite.

Some of the touching messages from Pixar include:

“To Miyazaki, we’re your biggest fans!”
“Thank you for sharing your imagination.”
“You bring so much to film. Thank you!”
“Thanks for the ‘way!”
“Miyazaki-san, you are an endless source of inspiration to us!”

This beautiful show of love and affection had Ghibli fans welling up over it as well:

“A wonderful exchange between people across countries who have the same animation aspirations!”
“This has totally warmed my heart!”
“What a beautiful gesture!”
“The scribbles in amongst the signatures and respect is truly wonderful!”
“So special — something like this is beyond treasure.”
“The illustrations by Pixar staff of Totoro and the robot soldiers are so precious!

It really is nice to see familiar Ghibli characters like these drawn by the hands of Pixar artists. The crossover art has us now wondering what a combined Ghibli Pixar universe might look like, and whether Sulley, Mike and Totoro would all be able to squeeze into the Catbus and still have it bound over the hills with ease.

Either way, it’s nice to finally get a closer look at the sweet story behind the image of this unlikely trio at the bus stop. Hopefully we’ll get to see them again when May rolls around next year!

Source: Twitter/@JP_GHIBLI
Featured image: Twitter/@JP_GHIBLI
Insert images: Studio Ghibli (1, 2, 3)
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