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Jim Henson’s Creature Shop teams up with Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company to make puppets for a stage show based on Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbor Totoro’

Los Angeles-based animation and visual effects studio Jim Henson’s Creature Shop has teamed up with Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company to produce life-size puppets for the RSC’s stage adaptation of the hand-drawn classic. 1988 hand of legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. My Neighbor Totoro.

RSC’s most ambitious project to date – even more than the award-winning theater company’s original musical productions Wretched and Mathilde the musical – My neighbor Totoro now has creatives working there at bases in London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

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The show will feature the score created by composer Joe Hisaishi for the film, as well as additional music that was not used in the film.

My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro

Set in 1950s Japan, the story follows the adventures of Satsuki and Mei, young sisters who move from the city of Tokyo to the countryside. Once there, they encounter impressive spirits and creatures. Two furry animals capture their imaginations: a giant, fluffy creature known as Totoro and a gargantuan cat bus that rounds up willing passengers then takes off into the sky.

Special attention is paid at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, part of the Jim Henson Company, to these two mysterious creatures. Phelim McDermott, co-artistic director of the Improbable theater company, directs the show and pointedly refused to reveal to Deadline how the cat bus will fly. “It’s the magic of the theatre”, is all he will admit.

The puppets built at Creature Shop are based on designs created by Basil Twist, one of the UK’s most innovative puppeteers. Mervyn Millar, of Britain’s avant-garde Meaningful Object puppet studio — he created puppets for the National Theater production of Battle horse and the recent SRC The Magician’s Elephant — will create additional puppets for My Neighbor Totoro.

Peter Brooke, creative supervisor of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (where the characters from The Muppets, Sesame Street and other shows and movies are being made) said in a statement released by the RSC, “We know only too well the importance of maintaining the visual style and personality of beloved characters.

“Whether an audience member is a long-time fan of this iconic story or new to the fantastical world of Miyazaki, they will be simply amazed when they see these magical creatures come to life on stage in a whole new way. way in My Neighbor Totoro.

John Criswell, animatronic supervisor at Jim Henson's Creature Shop in Los Angeles, working on

John Criswell, animatronics supervisor at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in Los Angeles, working on RSC’s ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ – Credit: Jay P. Morgan/RSC

Jay P. Morgan/SRC

The show will have an initial run of 15 weeks at the Barbican in London, with performances from October 8 to January 21, 2023. Tickets are selling well and there is much talk here in London about the possibility of My Neighbor Totoro transfer from the Barbican to the West End. Where he will go is, for now at least, a mystery due to the fact that houses large enough to take him are reserved.

Certainly, a possible theater, the Prince Edward, is very popular. Musical comedy Mary Poppins is likely to end its long term there next year, with the right plans to replace it with Broadway musical transfers Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of Temptations followed by MJ: The musical.

My Neighbor Totoro is produced by Hisaishi with RSC in collaboration with Improbable and Nippon TV’s Live Events operation.

The creative team includes playwright Tom Morton-Smith (Oppenheimer), Tom Pye (production design), Kimie Nakano (costumes), Jessica Hung Han Yun (lighting), Ailion Contant (associate director) and You-ri Yamanaka (movement). Will Stuart wrote new orchestrations for Hisaishi’s score, which will be performed live with sound design by Tony Gayle.

Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli films have become hugely popular since Netflix began streaming 21 of its films in February 2020, just before the pandemic shutdowns.

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