For two decades, animation master Hayao Miyazaki has supported the nonprofit Totoro Forest Project to protect a Tokyo woodland from development. Last year, Pixar’s Dice Tsutsumi, Enrico Casarosa and Ronnie del Carmen put out a call for original pieces inspired by the benevolent forest creature featured in Miyazaki’s 1988 film “My Neighbor Totoro” with the goal of auctioning the artwork to benefit the foundation.
“This was a grassroots effort that gave artists the opportunity to thank Miyazaki for his inspiration all these years,” explains Tsutsumi, who admits to being amazed that 198 pieces were donated by artists in 20 countries — including a painting by “Up” director Pete Docter. “We didn’t expect so many, but once artists started putting up work on our website, others got inspired.”
Last September, the auction at Pixar brought in nearly $200,000, which was used to purchase land in the forest for preservation. An art catalog that Tsutsumi published with his own funds as a thank-you to the artists also sold out, and another run is being considered.
“Nine months after the event, we still get emails every day asking for a second printing,” says Tsutsumi, who’s currently working on “Toy Story 3.” “We definitely wanted to do something extraordinary, because we felt we owe Mr. Miyazaki. We wouldn’t be at Pixar without him.”