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Event Report: Behind the scenes of Totoro

The Royal Shakespeare Company are all sold out. Nevertheless, in November at the Japan Society in New York City, a small group of people began to enjoy the puppet design with the show Watch the production with Master Talk Basil Twist and some exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. RSC understandably kept the puppets a secret in this stage adaptation of the beloved

Studio Ghibli film, hoping audiences would experience them in the theater . The glimpses we got at the event were limited but tantalizing. Twist presents a series of video clips from some of his past experimental puppet shows:

Symphony of Fantasy , Rite of Spring , and Daogu surpasses the world . The latter show involved the elaborate use of swiping screens and was staged at the Japan Association of 600 and seen by a staff member of Nippon TV, one of the companies on the production committee of Studio Ghibli, which eventually earned him the job as Design puppets. Following this introduction, the event included a discussion between Twist and Chance Huskey, Distribution Director of GKIDS with photos, video and short audience Q&A.

One video clip we saw of the show itself was the scene where May finds the soot elf in the attic of her new house. Soot Elven puppets are made from ostrich feathers and are held to sticks by visible puppeteers. Twist said he got his design inspiration from fridge magnets he saw at The Jim Henson Company (one of the studios working on the show). He wanted to make sure the design was different from the soot sprite puppets used in Japanese stage productions . Soot sprites are more “anthropomorphic” with legs and eyes, while Soot sprites are “wilder ” and no visible eyes, except in one scene where they all combine to form one giant soot sprite. We see many Self-designed half-finished photos of Totoro. Twist always experimented with ideas using the simplest materials first, and then explained in more detail along the way. Totoro’s first such “experiment” elicited a burst of laughter from the audience : A store-bought inflatable snowman with Totoro’s face scrawled on it. Twist knew that an inflatable puppet was the best option for creating a character that was both massive and able to fly. The second test of Totoro was Twist’s time at COVID -300 A test that had to be done at his parent’s home during the height of the pandemic . This one is still rough, but closer to the correct shape and features of Totoro. Composer Joe Hisaishi on this project) gave Totoro his endorsement. He was the starting point for the final puppet design. Jim Henson Photos of the part of the company’s team designing Totoro show just how big this forest spirit is. Its mechanical eyeballs are bigger than its designer’s head; photos taken from its mouth look like it’s going to eat artisans. Five species were used Different chinchilla puppets, the largest of which is the lying model of Xiaomei when she is lying down. The texture of chinchilla fur is designed with net and yarn. It is speculated that the fur is relatively sparse when viewed up close, but it appears plump in front of the audience. A photo shows someone making a model of one of the seven Sho-Totoro puppets used in the show (Sho-Totoro is sometimes called Twist said he doesn’t usually like to use puppetry, but it sounds like his team managed to get Sho-Totoro into the show One of the more “magical” effects. While they can’t make a puppet that can be invisible like Totoro, the puppet does disappear and reappear in a different place. Provided no photos of any parts of the medium-sized Chu-Totoro, nor did it show anything about the Catbus. The latter’s arrival at the train station was said to be the “highest moment” in the production; In order to emphasize the challenge of transferring the on-board cats to the stage, all the actors except Mei and Xiaoyue double as puppeteers in the play, and the cat bus The arrival scene requires full participation, six or seven people are required to operate the Totoro and 10 need to handle the Catbus. Naturally, one of the first questions asked by viewers was whether the show would be moving to the US anytime soon. According to Twist, demand for the show was high, but the biggest challenge with any transfer was the sheer scale of it being built around the massive Barbican Center, and they didn’t want to do it for a tiny house. A move to London’s West End is the most likely next step for the show, ahead of any US shows. Another listener asked how to convert 2D animation to 3D media for live theatre. Twist talks about how when this adaptation is done poorly, it feels like “2.5D” or “cosplay,” and the goal is always to add dimension and make everything feel real. When asked if Twist had ever heard of the project from Hayao Miyazaki, he replied no, Huskey added Studio Ghibli has become more open to collaborations in recent years and has been entrusting different partnerships to different people. The evening ends with a sweepstakes of various Totoro toys. Even with the limited material allowed to be shown, it was an informative evening, and anyone outside of London who has been around recently is likely to see the show for a long time. 2020



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