Dice Tsutsumi on The Totoro Forest Project

Pixar art director Dice Tsutsumi has pulled together over 200 artists from around the wolrd to mount an exhibition and inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s classic animated movie My Neighbor Totoro. All of the paintings will be on auction with the proceeds going to help save Sayama Forest, an endangered sanctuary on the outskirts of Tokyo, where Miyazaki was inspired to create Totoro.

I have seen precious little anime, but anyone that doesn’t love Totoro should check to see if their heart is still beating. And if you haven’t seen the movie, the art that is in the exhibited on the project’s website is sure to charm you into a trip the video store.

The Totoro Forest Project auction will take September 6th at Pixar Studios. For those (like me) with shallower pockets, an “art of…” book will also be made available. I had the opportunity to ask Dice a few questions about the project overall.

How did it come about?
“I saw the news about the struggle Totoro no Furusato Fund was having last year. I felt like we had to do something. There are so many people in the animation, comic, and illustration fields whose work was heavily influenced and inspired by Miyazaki’s work and I felt we owed him for all the inspiration. I happened to be going back to Japan around that time and planning to visit Studio Ghibli and I mentioned about the idea to them to get their blessing.

“Since I had had a project called Sketchtrave, another international artists challenge I started with my buddy illustrator Gerald Guerlais, it was easy for me to think we can do  charity project, inviting top artists from all over the world. As soon as I came back to the States, I brought Enrico Casarosa, Ronnie del Carmen, and Yukino Pang into this mix to organize this charity auction.”

What was your criteria in picking the artists?
“It started with our circle of friends in animation field. We knew lots of people from Pixar, Blue Sky, Dreamworks, and Disney. We also contacted lots people from different fields to make this project more interesting.

“Again, with Sketchtravel experience, I had a lot of good contacts with great artists. And they invited other artists who were interested. We would have wanted to invite many many more but given there was only a few of us who all have full time jobs, we decided to keep it around 200 artists. Even after the launch of the website last week, we did receive over 60 requests from eager artists who want to donate their work. It’s amazing how many artists who want to help.”

Since I knw a little something about dealing with 200 artists at one time, I just have to ask, what were you thinking!?
“It wasn’t as hard as I expected. I actually didn’t do too much. My approach was to inspire them rather than pressure them. We invited about 220 or so artists and in the end, close to 200 artists turned in their work in time. That was not something we expected.
I think when artists are inspired, they don’t even think twice about money or fame or all the other stuff. Everyone was so generous. First one artist did an inspiring work, then the next did an inspiring work, and the rest followed…

“I simply kept showing the artists’ art work and sketches to everyone else, with a use of the internal website, and that made everyone so excited with each other’s work. I was amazed how everyone pushed each other to create some incredible art work for this project.

What was your favorite, or surprising, part of the project, so far?
“Our first goal for this project was, of course, to raise funds to help save the Sayama Forest, the birthplace of our beloved Totoro. However, this event has had huge symbolic meaning for us as well. It has been thrilling to see so many people come together, united by their admiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s work, and to see how much art and artists can contribute to the material improvement of our shared world.”

“In a time of global environmental turmoil, this international outpouring of generosity and community spirit gives us great hope for the future of coming generations.”

Artwork shown: Top, Dice Tsutsumi. Middle Greg Couch. Bottom, Sam Weber.


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