In October 1972, following the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, two pandas named “Kang Kang” and “Lan Lan” were presented to the Ueno Zoo. Amidst the unprecedented panda boom, an animated film was released two months later. It was “Panda Kopanda,” a collaboration between the late Isao Takahata, who later founded Studio Ghibli, and Hayao Miyazaki. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of its theatrical release, a two-week nationwide revival of the film is being held from September 23.
In this heartwarming story, a panda father and son arrive at the home of Mimiko, an elementary school girl who has no parents. The big father panda is “Papanda”. The child panda is called “Pang-chan” in the film.
If you look closely, you will notice that this panda looks like a certain character. It is the creature “Ootoro” from Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988).
It’s a big being, but not a malevolent one. I had to make something like that,” Miyazaki said.
Mr. Miyazaki moved his family to Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture, in the late 1960s. While strolling in a wooded area in the mountains next to his home, he sometimes felt a presence “like someone was there. So, when he told Mr. Takahata about the “ghost next door,” he was told that it was “interesting. This led to the later “My Neighbor Totoro. This is Mr. Miyazaki’s recollection in an interview for the book “Where Totoro was born” (Iwanami Shoten).
In the book, he had the following to say about the similarities between the characters of Totoro and Papanda.
There is a film I made with Director Takahata before “My Neighbor Totoro” called “Panda Kopanda”. At that time, when I said what a panda is, it should do nothing. They just stand there and do nothing but say ” nee”. That’s how the children react to me so much. I don’t do anything to attract their attention. I just say, “I like the bamboo grove,” and they get really excited.
My sons would look at their parents’ faces with delight every time they saw him. Even though I told them, “The movie is still going on, so watch it properly” (laughs). I didn’t know why, but I thought, “We may have made a tremendous discovery.
It was a great folly, wasn’t it? It doesn’t express anything in an easy-to-understand way, but it is a big presence, but it is not malicious. It was like we had to create something like that.