08. My Neighbour Totoro with Tim Anderson Transcript
[90 Mins or Less Film Fest Music]
SAM: 0:20 Hello, I'm Sam Clements and welcome to the 90 Minutes or Less Film Fest. This is a podcast that celebrates films with a 90 minute or less runtime and is entirely curated by guests on this podcast. Today, we're joined by Tim Anderson, winner of Masterchef in 2011, owner of Nanban in Brixton serving the most delicious Japanese, I guess soul food is how you'd describe it Tim? It's so delicious. I love going there, and author of a number of cookbooks including the Nanban Cookbook, Japanesey and the brand new book Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook, which - I've got a copy in front of me listeners - it looks so beautiful.
TIM: 1:00 Shiny! It's actually shiny!
SAM: 1:02 It's really shiny, and you've got this amazing pink paper stock. You can see it poking out from the cover. It's beautiful. Thanks for popping by Tim.
TIM: 1:09 Oh, no, thank you so much for having me. This is fun.
SAM: 1:11 I guess people will know you for your food. But I know you're a film fan as well.
TIM: 1:15 I am. I mean, I'm not a big film geek or anything. I don't know the technical side of films that well or anything like that. But I do love to watch movies. I don't get to as much as I'd like to with work and a baby and all that. But yeah, I love films always have
SAM: 1:31 Have films ever inspired any of your dishes in your books or anything in your restaurant?
TIM: 1:34 You know... It's a good question. I can't say there are. There have been things I've seen in movies that I thought that looks really good. And then I'll go and kind of make them. The ramen they make in Ponyo, it's just instant ramen with some really good toppings, and I've done that after watching that movie. The thing I've always wanted to do is make a dish based on the rotten pineapple from Chungking Express. If you haven't seen it, one of the characters eats pineapple that's expired on the day his girlfriend dumped him. And then vomits as a kind of like, catharsis, like an emotional purge tied to the food. But I thought you could make a really good dish that’s actually like pineapple with a bit of blue cheese and walnuts. And it would taste kind of rotten, but kind of delicious. But no, it's it's hard to sort of, to bring that into a restaurant, I guess because movie food, it can be much more beautiful and more creative than it can sort of, for a normal restaurant to to produce every day. I'd love to try it sometime though.
SAM: 2:30 You should do a day of specials or something.
TIM: 2:33 I've always wanted to do a kind of edible cinema type thing. The other thing that would be really fun, not a movie, but Adventure Time, the cartoon show. There's some really crazy stuff you could do based on that show, especially because most of the characters are food. They're actually candies and donuts and stuff like that. So, I've always had this idea in my head to do these kind of pop-ups or movie tie-in events, but I need a venue. And time that's the other thing! Running the restaurant, you sort of grind the same food out every day. We do specials and everything, but it's hard to actually put something like that together. But someday, someday... ha!
SAM: 3:06 Absolutely! If Nanban ever goes to the movies I will be there. It's a real thrill to have you on the show today. My wife and I, who produces the show, we use (your book) Japanesey a lot. We love that cookbook. What really struck me about putting those things together, are that your recipes are all on one side of the page. Is it tricky to sort of condense your process into it's just a small amount of text and the ingredients list?
TIM: 3:31 Not for that book. Because with Japanesey it is all about the side of Japanese cooking that is inherently simple. And that's a big side of Japanese cooking. There are types of Japanese foods that have complicated processes and tricky techniques and some of them have a lot of ingredients, like the ramen that we make at Nanban is an incredibly complicated dish, there's there's 10 or 12 different elements in a bowl, each element... most of them we make ourselves, and those ones will have different ingredients and processes that go into them. There's no recipes like that in Japanesey because it's not fair to the dish and it's not fair to the home cook who's using the recipes. So it's more things like you can make a good like a sweet miso sauce, an easy sauce to make. Keep it in the fridge because it lasts for a while and then whenever you want Japanese food all you have to do is cut open an aubergine, fry it, slather that sauce on it, grill it till it caramelizes and then add rice, salad, miso soup and you have a Japanese meal. Or you can just have that aubergine with bread! The other thing about that book is that Japanese food doesn't have to necessarily be served as part of a big Japanese meal.
SAM: 4:35 What's the difference with the new book? What can people look forward to in Tokyo Stories?
TIM: 4:38 Tokyo Stories is actually kind of half cookbook, half travel book. So it's based on the food that you get in Tokyo, some of which are sort of strictly Tokyo local specialties. There's some really interesting dishes like one I found called Fukagawa meshi, which is a simple dish, but it's it's a lot of delicious clams on rice. But it's really, really great. It's simple, hearty, umami with delicious seafood flavors, served with miso soup. And that's a strictly kind of East Tokyo thing like an old school Tokyo thing that you don't really see outside of Tokyo. So there's that, completely opposite of that is you get regional dishes from around Japan that you can also get in Tokyo. So there's a little section on Okinawan food because it's a few Okinawan restaurants in Tokyo, which is great because it's hard to get to Okinawa, especially if you just go into Japan for the first time. So you can get a taste of Japan within Tokyo without leaving Tokyo. There's international dishes. So there's a Neapolitan pizza recipe in here because that's big in Japan, well in Tokyo. There's great pizza in Tokyo. And then there's convenience store food. There's a recipe for nikuman steamed Chinese style pork buns. There's cheese stuffed fried chicken, there's different kinds of ice tea recipes, cocktails, and then you get a bit of Tokyo home cooking, which is really simple stuff you can do in a tiny kitchen and modernist cuisine a bit of that as well because Tokyo has it all. It's got Japanese food, it's got non-Japanese food, it's got modern stuff, it's got traditional stuff. It's got very expensive stuff and it's got very cheap stuff. So I just wanted to kind of capture all that. And also for most of the recipes, there's a little bit of info on where to go to get it in Tokyo. I should also say, the photography is amazing. We went to Tokyo to shoot it, it's shot by Nassima Rothacker who got some great shots to capture the city and the design is by Evi Oetomo who also did Japanesey. She gave it this kind of cool retro Pachinko parlor Japanese vibe. So I'm really really happy with it. It's a great book. If I may say so!
SAM: 6:43 I guess, as a more impartial person, I went on holiday to Tokyo last year and this is bringing back loads of memories. I can't wait to get stuck in. So you're on the 90 Minutes Or Less Film Fest to talk about movies and we've asked you to choose a movie that's 90 minutes or less... I was just wondering, in general, when it comes to you choosing a movie, does runtime ever come into it? Is this something you normally consider?
TIM: 7:05 All the time! We have a 10 month old baby. She goes to bed at eight o'clock, then we have dinner, and after that we're going to watch something on TV or a movie but we know we're going to be sleepy by 10pm, probably asleep! It's hard for us to choose movies to watch that we know will last the duration of. Pretty much any Scorsese movie is out... forever!
SAM: 7:30 Until she's 18...
TIM: 7:32 We're always you know watching the movies that are certainly under two hours and if we can find movies are like an hour and a half then that's the one we usually go for because we know we'll get through it.
SAM: 7:41 So I gave you some homework, what film did you choose for the 90 Minutes Or Less Film Fest?
TIM: 7:45 I chose Tonari No Totoro, My Neighbour Totoro, by Hayao Miyazaki.
[90 Mins or Less Film Fest Jingle]
SAM: 7:54 So on the back of the DVD, this is the synopsis. While their mother recovers from an illness, Satsuki and her little sister Mei, voiced in English by Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning, get away from it all in an idyllic rural retreat. Far from the bustle of the city, they discover a mysterious place of spirits and magic and the friendship of the Totoro woodland creatures. Conceived as a family film devoid of conflict and suffused with the carefree pleasures of the summertime, My Neighbor Totoro sees Hayao Miyazaki create a parable of friendship and imagination, populated with unforgettable characters. That's quite a bland synopsis, I have to say...
TIM: 8:32 Yeah, it doesn't really convey just how beautiful and fun it is. It's obviously a very artful film and if you took any one kind of background or cell from from the movie, it's a work of art itself. But it's just it's a fun movie to watch. There's a lot of humour in it. But then also I thought, I thought this time when I watched it, I thought it was surprisingly emotional. There's there's a lot going on in the movie. More than I think I first appreciate it when I watched it back in high school, I guess. And it's funny because they even say it was conceived to be devoid of conflict, because that's what a lot of the reviews say as well. And I remember, before I watched this movie, I read Roger Ebert's review of it, which is a really great review. He said, basically, it's like, it's not really about plot, it doesn't really have any conflict. It's more about a kind of situation and a snapshot of this life that this family is leading. And I kind of went along with that line of thinking. And it's interesting if it really was conceived that way, because I think it's totally wrong. I think there's actually quite a lot of conflict in it. And the scene where Satsuki realises that her mother might not be getting better. That was heartbreaking. I cried! And I've not cried at this movie before. And I maybe because I have my own kid now or something. But it's just it's just so awful watching that realisation. Like there's such a that was really emotional for me.
SAM: 9:56 Absolutely. I think the cinematic trope of someone being in hospital, not being allowed to leave the hospital, is they're probably never going to leave the hospital, at least not in this movie. You go into the film thinking, I really hope she's going to get better. And the film, the film sort of takes you through that. It's worth saying, now this will be a spoiler filled chat. I would recommend seeking out we like to get under the hood of the movie. So it's good to be able to talk about everything. But this is a podcast, you can pause it, watch the movie and come back.
TIM: 10:24 It's funny, I also realized I forgot that the mother's illness is not resolved. At the end of the movie. She's still in the hospital, and she seems fine. But you don't really know. Like, it's kind of left open ended. It's a little bit I wouldn't say it's a sad ending, but it's not really a happy ending, either.
SAM: 10:37 No, I think it's definitely down to you, the audience to sort of make up your mind.
TIM: 10:41 Well, the whole movie I think leaves a lot open to interpretation. Like whether or not the spirit creatures you know, the Soot Sprites, Totoro himself, the Catbus, and the slightly other subtle supernatural things that happen like there's a big gust of wind that comes in the beginning and blows the sticks, that Satsuki's collecting, up towards the camphor tree... so, there's this mystery about the movie where you don't know if what's happening is real or not. And it's kind of, it's nice, it's thought provoking that way that you can see the world differently. You know, both as a viewer of the movie and as a character in the movie.
SAM: 11:14 The film does a really good job of positioning you the audience sort of with the girls with the young girls, you see the world through their eyes. The granny character says, "I used to be able to see the Soot Sprites / the Soot Gremlins but I can't anymore" and as you mentioned earlier, you don't know if she's humouring them, or if genuinely, she used to be able to see this stuff but she can't anymore.
TIM: 11:36 Yeah. It's funny, is it also that the kids are just seeing things in a different way? So my wife, when we were watching it together, she pointed out that like the little Totoro that Mei first chases towards the beginning of the film, could be just little rabbits, or just normal forest creatures. But when you're a kid, like everything is a little bit crazy and magical. We have a cat named Baloo at home. And we were amazed at how cat like Totoro is and a lot of the creatures are more so than the Catbus! And how to our 10 month old girl, Tig, seeing our cat, It's just like ‘what even is that thing?’ Like it's not a person. It's not a toy. It's just this kind of crazy magical creature. You know, when you're a little kid, everything is a bit more like that everything is a bit of a mystery and everything is new. So you know maybe the little Totoro, maybe the Catbus and everything maybe they're just the way kids see things that we think are normal and mundane like normal animals are normal buses. I don't know. There's a lot of ways you can interpret how the how the magic side of the film is presented.
SAM: 12:44 The magic never happens when the adults are around. So, it could this be a good way to explain Totoro leaving on the Catbus, in that famous scene at the bus stop, is just before the dad shows up. So (the kids are like) "Dad, Totoro was here, but he's got on the magic bus. He's gone! You can see him."
TIM: 12:59 One thing that really struck me when I was watching the film is how spiritual it is, and how actually overtly religious at times, like there's, there's quite a bit of praying in the movie and rituals. And even Totoro does a kind of ritualistic dance to grow the seeds that the girls get. I don't want to say it's about like that religion is real, but it's almost about how like faith is real and how there's a thread in other Miyazaki movies where if you think about how you interact with the world around you, it has repercussions for you. So it usually is sort of in regards to nature. And in this movie, it's like if you kind of treat nature with respect and then with love, whether it's a big tree, the big old tree, or the Soot Sprites, or the forest creatures, and they'll repay you and kind, if you contrast that with like Princess Mononoke, or Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, it's the opposite kind of thing. But it's the same kind of retribution, because in those movies, characters act negatively towards their environment and towards each other. And then they get their comeuppance basically. So I think it was interesting, like, and I never thought about Totoro really having that kind of meaning before, I guess, and that connection to nature and that idea of karma almost. And the way I think that because there's all this sort of magical stuff that happens that kids are whisked away by the Catbus and they're able to deliver the ear of corn to the mother in the hospital via the Catbus and Totoro helps them out. Like you say the the adults never see it happen. And it's kind of like things do happen that are lucky and improbable. And maybe that's just one way of interpreting that or explaining it.
SAM: 14:35 It's definitely something that's in a lot of Miyazaki films. It feels like he always wants to teach people a lesson, this is a bit of a parable for you. This is a lesson I'm going to bestow upon you. It also feels like such a nice lesson to get! It is usually a wholesome message, l like how Mei believes that an ear of corn is going to get her mum better. It's a natural thing, not man made, no drugs... It is something purely natural, that they have just picked fresh and they think it's going to make their mum better.
TIM: 15:02 I didn’t even think about that. I never thought of this Miyazaki movie as being particularly moralistic, I think it's a lot more obvious in some of his later stuff, especially like Spirited Away, which is I always think about that movie as about gluttony. You have the parents turning into pigs in the beginning, and you have (the character) No-Face becoming terribly ill after eating everything in the bath house, or maybe it's about greed. I don't know, that one's a bit more ambiguous! But yeah, you're right. There is always a good and evil in Miyazaki movies. Also that's kind of complicated. This movie, I think, My Neighbour Totoro doesn't really have the evil side. And I think that's why people don't think of it as having conflict, because there's no villain, there's no violence, the kids aren't really up against anything other than, you know, just reality. So you don't think of it as a moral movie, but there is there is a moral logic to it. Yeah.
FILM CLIP from My Neighbour Totoro 15:59
Mei: Dad come here, there's definitely something weird in this house!
Dad: That's great! I've always wanted to live in a haunted house, ever since I was a little boy.
SAM: 16:12 The two girls in the film are incredible, and we see the movie through their eyes, but the dad, I think, is sort of MVP in the story.
TIM: 16:18 He is yeah, he's amazing. He really keeps it together.
SAM: 16:22 He knows how to talk to his kids as well and he totally knows when to humour them and, and how to sort of use their imagination to his advantage. Like at the beginning, when the girls first see the Soot Sprites, they come running back to him like "the house is haunted!" and he says "I've always wanted to live in a haunted house!" That's great!
TIM: 16:38 Yeah, it is. That part of the movie is maybe the least realistic part actually! Just how good of a dad he is and the mother and the whole dynamic. But that also ties into the idea of just being kind and respectful of the world around you no matter who is in that world because it's not just the family that's impressively supportive and loving, it's the whole community. This is a brand new family in this town they just moved there but they're taken in by the other families, by the grandma character especially, as one of their own and really looked after. And it's again it's that sort of give and take that if you look after the people around you then it'll be repaid basically, by them or by Totoro.
SAM: 17:24 Yes, that's true. Later in the film, there's Kanta the boy, who doesn't really like them because their girls, he sort of reluctantly gives them his umbrella when it's raining. Then runs away! It's such an awkward boy thing to do.
TIM: 17:37 It is, yeah! And it's so sad. The umbrella is full of holes.
SAM: 17:42 I think in those early scenes, when you see the family together, they're doing a lot of family activities. They eat, they bathe and that sort of stuff. There's one scene where Satsuki needs to make a bento box for school. They have a box lunch day, which is a thing that happens in Japan. Children, they don't do the canteen, they have to come prepared with a bento box and learn about how nutritious food can be. As someone who works in food, what's your relationship with a bento box, Tim?
TIM: 18:05 I mean, the bento box is beautiful. The thing is, I have almost never made them! Maybe once or twice, I've made them for myself, or for the restaurant. But I used to buy them a lot in Japan, because the ones you can buy in shops are really, really good. And they have, they're great because they're like a full Japanese meal in microcosm. There's a lot of rice, the bento is usually half rice, I'd say. But then you get all kinds of different little preparations. You know, you can have a little bit of omelette, you can have some cooked chicken, simmered vegetables, pickles always. You get this incredible variety out of even a garden variety bento box from a convenience store, which is why I kind of haven't ever made them is because I feel like if you want to make a really good one, you have to actually make a big effort. So it's easier to buy one. If you have the stuff on hand, like in this book, Tokyo Stories, if you want to have bento, just make a bunch of stuff at the beginning of the week, keeps in the fridge for four or five days and then you can put it together however you like. This is in a lot of Japanese movies generally, the making of the bento. It's in From Up On Poppy Hill, or is that breakfast? Anyway, I love scenes like that because they make it look so effortless! I think that if you grow up with a Japanese family where you've been doing that for years and you have all those ingredients to hand and you have the skills to make things, then it can be quite... I want I don't want to say easy because there's still an effort that goes into it... But you can have it as part of your routine. You just have to be set up for it. And what actually really struck me about that scene was that they had Mei, who is four years old, grilling fish on a shichirin, on an open charcoal grill. It's like that's amazing. Like that's the kind of culture that you kind of have to have to be making bento. You have to be comfortable with little children cooking over open flames basically, because it's a team effort as well. Like it wasn't just Satsuki making it. Well, her father wasn't really doing anything but yeah... I really like that scene and any scene like that in anime or Japanese movies... Oh, have you seen [Hirokazu Kore-eda's] Shoplifters?
SAM: 20:07 Yeah, I love Shoplifters!
TIM: 20:09 It's great! It's really beautiful, and there's a lot of food. I mean, that movie's kind of about food in a way. In a lot of Japanese movies, that scene or scenes, those scenes where they're preparing food for their family, really, I think they have to be in there, to sort of show that this is a loving, functional family. You know what I mean?
SAM: 20:31 It's quite hard to make this film in the first place, and to photograph it.. but to animate the food and to draw it which Ghibli does in almost every one of their films... there's always something delicious in there.
TIM: 20:40 Yeah! So the ramen in Ponyo, this instant ramen that they put toppings on - and I draw ramen myself because when I'm making a new ramen dish I draw it on a piece of paper - it's hard to draw ramen and make it look delicious because it's quite intricate. But in Ponyo, they have these little droplets of fat that sparkle on the surface and there's steam coming off it and and the pork that's on it looks really pink and lovely and thinly sliced. And yeah, they they just make it look delicious. More so, I think, than in a computer animated film like Ratatouille, where the food looks good, but somehow it looks less real? You know, even though there's this incredible technology behind making it look real and delicious. Somehow the food in a Miyazaki movie, which is clearly hand drawn - and fake - is way more appealing. I don't I don't know what it is? Maybe it's a heightened exaggeration of what good food should be?
FILM CLIP from My Neighbour Totoro 21:28
Totoro: (growling, whilst asleep) To-to-ro... (roars!)
Mei: Totoro? Is that what your name is, Totoro?
Mei: Yep, that’s your name alright.
SAM: 21:45 So as well as the amazing family, the film is full of these fantastic creatures. And I think a lot of people remember the large Totoro, the one that all of the toys have been made from. But there is this sort of small family of Totoro and there's a small one and a medium one and a large. Do you have a favorite character in the summer favourite fantastic character?
TIM: 22:06 Oh, that's a good question. So, there's Catbus, there's big Totoro and there's the little Totoros... The entrance of the little Totoros, well there's just one at the beginning, when Mei finds him. That's very charming. That's the one that I would probably go after as well. But there's the scene immediately following that where Mei finds the big Totoro and takes a nap on his belly. That's just like a dream scenario for me. So I gotta say Totoro. Catbus is cool, but also a little bit scary!
SAM: 22:37 I think Catbus is incredibly scary. Both the big Totoro and Catbus have the same smile. This really big gri,! It's quite sinister.
TIM: 22:42 So this is also something I realised about the movie, is that it can tip into being quite scary very easily. There are scenes of Totoro with this big open mouth with his giant teeth that are a little bit grotesque. But I think that also comes back to the idea that there's a lot of fear in the movie. The Soot Sprites at the beginning, the children are very scared to go up to the attic and confront them or find them. But then what happens is there is always an overcoming of that fear, which is like a catharsis and a joy even. Like when Mei first finds the big Totoro or when Totoro stands next to the bus stop and Satsuki sees him, it's a little bit off putting, it's a little bit like you don't know what this thing is going to do. But then the children are benign and kind to him and so when that happens and he responds the same way you know that there is nothing to fear. This is the other thing about having there be no conflict. Like even though there's scary moments in the film, they're not resolved by like confrontation. They're resolved the complete opposite way. They're resolved by people being nice to each other, which is lovely.
SAM: 22:43 I think it's a good lesson again, thinking of lessons for children and for adults watching this film, you know, actually talk to each other engage with the things that scare you.
TIM: 23:45 Yeah, don't be scared. Yeah. And and just treat everything as something that could be your friend, rather than an enemy.
SAM: 23:58 That scene at the bus stop, quite a famous scene as featured on the artwork, Totoro emerges, the large Totoro emerges, with a leaf on his head to keep him dry and Satsuki gives him the umbrella she was saving it for her dad. Totoro has never seen one of these before, but he opens it with his like little claws, and then he's scared. He opens it and then they do that animation thing where his eyes get really big. It's amazing. The little girl scares the giant Totoro, so she overcomes her fear, she sees that he's afraid of things too. That's kind of a nice thing. And then the scary Catbus arrives! I'm just trying to work out... so Catbtus has got this amazing... well, the whole film has this great score by Joe Hisaishi, but Catbus I think has got my favorite music in the film. And it's quite frantic and it bounces along. Just when the film couldn't get any weirder, a cat the the size of a bus shows up, with mice that have red glowing eyes that are the lights... the headlights of the bus.
TIM: 24:45 And the Catbus has balls.
SAM: 24:46 Oh, I didn't notice that!
TIM: 24:48 Yeah! They only show the Catbus's balls, I think, in one or two scenes when they show it from looking up from the ground, as it soars overhead. They're little but they're there.
FILM CLIP from My Neighbour Totoro 24:59
Dad: Hi, sorry I’m late, my train was delayed so I had to wait for the next bus. Were you worried?
Satsuki: Totoro came back dad, I saw him!
Mei: We saw a Catbus too!
Satuski It was huuuuuuge, with eyes like this!
Satuski: It was great!
Mei: It was great! (Laughs)
Satuski: (Laughing) I saw Totoro, I saw him!
Mei: (Laughing) I saw him too!
SAM: 25:26 It'd be remiss of us to finish talking about My Neighbour Totoro without talking about Joe Hisaishi's score. He is basically the sound of Studio Ghibli. He's intrinsically linked with so many of their films, all of Miyazaki's, and the Totoro music is... it's great! I've seen this film so many times, I've loved re-watching it for this and really picking out certain bits of the music. It's it's kind of unfashionable, it's sort of like this jazz-rock-orchestra sort of thing, but it works with this kind of quirky movie.
TIM: 25:11 There's this part of the score that usually accompanies the more spiritual scenes, like when they talk about the big tree in particular. And it sounds like traditional Japanese music, but it's done with a bit of synth and '80s styling. At first it's like, I don't know, this is a bit weird, but actually it really works. And it's quite, it's simple, but it's affecting as well. That also reminded me that bit of the score that reminded me a lot of Princess Mononoke, which has the same kind of melodies, but that score is a lot more sweeping and grand, and then mythological I guess. Whereas the one in My Neighbour Totoro is more childlike.
SAM: 26:29 It's a little more playful and I think its construction was more playful as well. You're right, when it gets to Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, it's huge orchestras. With this, I think they're both, Miyazaki and Hisaishi, are sort of working each other out still. I think the story behind this is that they just had some jam sessions that Miyazaki would come along to and observe, and I think Hisaishi and his band would just try different things, which I think is why the score is a little bit... of everything. It's interesting that you mentioned the synth as well, because the first score Hisaishi did for Studio Ghibli was for Laputa: Castle In The Sky, and I think that's all synth, and in this one, you start to hear some instruments come in and a little bit of jazz.
TIM: 27:06 So now I want to rewatch all of them! I'm trying to think of what the music from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was like, because Nausicaä came out just a few years before Castle In The Sky and My Neighbour Totoro. It's a pretty different movie, but yeah, there is this common thread even in the music throughout different Ghibli movies.
SAM: 27:20 People often compare the legendary John Williams /Steven Spielberg collaborations with Hisaishi and Miyazaki. I think they understand each other and they've grown as creators together. The unique thing about Totoro, and it doesn't happen in every Ghibli film - but does happen in some, is that you've got a song at the beginning and a song at the end. The Totoro stroll at the beginning, which is all about, "hey, let's go! We're going on an adventure!" And then the song at the end, which kind of recaps the story and sort of gives a bit of a hint as to what might happen in the future. What do you remember of those songs at the beginning and end of Totoro?
TIM: 27:52 So the first time I watched it, that song, the "To-to-ro, Totoro" theme tune, that got stuck in my head, like forever! So for a long time, that was the only kind of music I remembered from that movie. And actually, it was one of the only things I remembered because I watched it in high school and I didn't watch it again for years but that song stuck with me. What struck me this time was how I put the DVD on and I had taken the batteries out of my DVD player remote, so that my baby could play with it - she likes remotes! - but then as soon as the English dubbed version came on - because I couldn't change the language settings - and as soon as the English dub version of that song came on, I just thought, nope, I can't do it, I have to change it. So I put the batteries back in, switched it over to the Japanese language version with English subtitles, and it was so much better! Those song lyrics, they work so well in Japanese, there's something about them. They're so simple that because they literally are like: "Come on, let's go. Come on. Let's go... I'm having such a good time..." And when you hear them sung out loud in the English translation, they just sound wrong but in Japanese, I don't know, they're they're more fun for some reason.
SAM: 28:57 I think the words themselves are more sort of beautiful when sung (in Japanese). I was a bit of a nerd, when I watched it for recording this, I watched the film in Japanese but then I went back and I watched certain scenes in English. I just wanted to see how the dialogue was changed. Often, translators have to do that, because the sentences won't make sense if you do a straight translation. At the beginning, with this song, I think the song starts with: "Hey, let's go, hey, let's go..." And then in the English version, they list some of the animals that you'll see foxes and badgers, and in the Japanese one, it's wolves and foxes. So at some point when they were translating it, they were like,: "We're not going to translate the wolves line - it is going to be badgers! That's going to be more cuddly for the kids!"
TIM: 29:34 You know, it's interesting, that just reminded me of another scene though, another kind of religious scene that also ties in with what I was saying about how all animals are kind of spiritual, especially when you're a little kid - or kind of magical. There's a scene where they come across an old shrine and there's little fox statues on the shrine. They're either foxes or wolves - and they have little red scarves on them - and that's a really common thing to see in Shinto temples in Japan, because foxes and wolves were considered kind of spiritual creatures. So, adults know that these things are magical too - somehow. Or maybe the people from hundreds of years ago thought that the forests and the animals in them were also quite magical and weird and interesting but we just see them differently. So yeah, I think that the lyrics, they're probably maybe more pointing towards the danger, like the slightly scary side of the forest and the slightly scary side of Totoro and the Catbus and all that as well. But they didn't quite get that across in the English version. It's almost like a "lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" type of thing. So it's scary but it's also fun - like we're having an adventure.
SAM: 30:46 I think it’s a really good primer for getting kids especially excited because it's like a TV show's opening titles - you know, you are about to watch a feature film - but it starts with this very simple animation with a nice theme tune and I think it's a good way to draw kids in. I think when you're an adult, the song is a bit more of a novelty and maybe a bit jarring before you see a feature film, but for kids, you’re right they come out of it humming it, and that’s what you take away from the film, the film is that song.
TIM: 31:09 Yeah totally. I always wonder about Studio Ghibli movies, when is an appropriate age to show them to kids? You'd look at different ones for different ages, obviously, but even something like My Neighbour Totoro, you might be kind of scared of it if you were really little kid. Spirited Away is terrifying, and then you have things like Princess Mononoke or Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, where people die. In Princess Mononoke someone gets their head chopped off! It's quite grim actually... If you're a teenager or an adult, you'd probably watch it and think 'no big deal' but for some audiences, this is serious scary stuff in there.
[90 Mins or Less Film Fest Jingle]
SAM: 31:44 Thank you so much, Tim. Excellent choice. It's quite an iconic film to feature in our line up. We are very excited to show it to a crowd. In a cinema sort of environment, where we're going to be hosting this festival, how would you heighten this screening for the audience? Would you put on anything special, to encourage the crowd to come and see this film on the big screen?
TIM: 32:03 So the movie is set in summer and I didn't notice before this last time I watched it, there's a lot of very seasonal markers in the movie, there's hydrangeas, there's the planting of rice, and then later the harvesting or almost harvesting of rice and corn. And there's cicadas. I don't know if we even have cicadas in the UK. But there's this buzzing, this drone, that you get in late summer like August and September, in Japan all over the place. Doesn't matter if you're in a big city or in the countryside, there's cicadas everywhere. They make this incredible loud buzzing noise, which at first when I went to Japan, it really bothered me. But I got used to it, I got to kind of appreciate it as just almost like a nostalgic thing. Like, ah, the cicadas are back. It's late summer again. So getting that - not necessarily the cicadas - but having it be shown in the summer, I think that's important. Or at least in a very summery setting. I think an outdoor cinema thing would be great. It's tricky in this country, because you never know when the weather is going to be actually good. But I think it'd be nice to have it in a park where you're surrounded by nature. There's lovely butterflies and greenery in the film, so doing that I think would really set the mood and set the stage really well. I would love to have it open to families. Now, I don't like outdoor cinema very much because I don't like to sit on the ground but now that I have a daughter, and I'm more appreciative of people with kids, I think it'd be fun to have it be so the kids can run around, so we'd need to play the film very loudly. So if you really want to watch it you're not distracted. But have it be a real family thing, it is a great family movie for all ages. It really doesn't matter how old you are. You can enjoy it on all different kinds of levels. But I'd also like to have a Q&A with Miyazaki and just hear a bit more from him. I'm sure there's interviews I can read, but I'd love to hear what he has to say about the themes of the film now, especially with regards to sort of the spiritual side of it, and what exactly he was trying to get across. We can come up with theories all day long, and have our own interpretations, but to hear what he has to say and why he did certain things in the movie would be really, really interesting. And finally, I think that the greatest scene for me in this film is when Mei takes a nap on the big Totoro. Everybody wants to do that, everybody wants a giant Totoro to sleep on. So if we could somehow have giant Totoro beds where people can take turns curling up for a little nap, that would be ideal.
SAM: 34:24 That sounds perfect. The 90 Minutes or Less Film Fest is happy to fund all of those endeavours, we'll make it happen. I think, as a sort of producer of the festival, I would maybe request that we have some bento boxes for people to eat during the movie. And I don't know if you know this, but there's actually a sequel to My Neighbour Totoro, called Mei and the Catbus, no, Mei and the Kittenbus, that they show in the museum in Mitaka. I've been and annoyingly, well, the nice thing is, it's pure and it’s a classic Ghibli thing. They’ve made all of these movies, most of them directed by Miyazaki, that only play in the theatre in the museum. There are all these lovely shorts and I saw one by Miyazaki about a whale in a classroom, it was beautiful [Whale Hunt / Kujiratori]. I really wanted to see Mei and the Kittenbus because it's a sequel to such a beloved movie. You can only see it there, it’s 13 minutes long, Joe Hisaishi has done the music again. It follows on, the Catbus has children, Mei becomes entwined with this Kittenbus. Because you can only see it at the museum, I’d love it if Miyazaki comes, if he could just bring a reel of film to show the audience the Kittenbus film as well.
TIM: 35:25 I'm trying to remember, because I went to the Studio Ghibli Museum as well, and I can't remember which film I saw... It wasn't that one. It was one of the other ones. But you know, that's a good shout!
SAM: 35:33 That would make this a legendary screening.
[90 Mins or Less Outro Bed]
SAM: 35:42 Thank you so much for talking to us today Tim, we really appreciate this and can't wait to read Tokyo Stories. On a social media note. If people want to want to hear more about what you're up to where can people find you?
TIM: 35:53 I'm @ChefTimAnderson on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And the restaurant is Nanban London, N-A-N-B-A-N London, that's on all three social media sites as well.
SAM: 36:02 Fantastic! I do follow your Instagram and it makes me very hungry. So follow with care listeners! Thank you, Tim. Thank you listeners for listening. If you liked the show, please do subscribe, rate the show on iTunes or your pod catcher of choice. All of that stuff really helps us. We're now also available on Spotify, and you can contact us on @90MinFilmFest on Twitter and Instagram. The show was produced by Louise Owen and me, Sam Clements. Our music is by Martin Austwick. The show is edited by Luke Smith. Our artwork is by Sam Gilbey. We'll be back in a couple of weeks. So you then. Good bye!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai