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Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to create characters puppets for My Neighbour Totoro

Harriet Hughes

By Harriet Hughes First Published 28 June 2022, Last Updated 14 July 2022

Today, Executive Producer Joe Hisaishi and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) announce that leading innovator in puppetry, animatronics, and digital animation, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, will create the puppets for the global stage premiere of Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro, opening at the Barbican on Saturday 8 October 2022.

The puppets, designed by international award-winning puppeteer Basil Twist (Symphonie Fantastique) are currently being built at the LA location of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, the legendary workshop of The Jim Henson Company. The Shop has an iconic history, producing some of the world’s best loved characters from The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Sesame Street.

Mervyn Millar, director of Significant Object (War Horse) who designed the puppetry for the RSC’s recent acclaimed production of The Magician’s Elephant, will create additional puppets in their UK based workshop.

Basil Twist, Puppetry Designer on My Neighbour Totoro said:

“I feel an immense responsibility to bring the iconic characters of My Neighbour Totoro to life on stage. I want to honour these characters and capture the enchanting mystery of this beloved story. I want audiences to be inspired by the same feeling they get from the film when they meet Totoro on stage, so I chose to bring in the team at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to make sure we got it right.

The Jim Henson Company is synonymous with imagination and childhood. I have been building puppets since I was a young boy, and to me there is still nothing more magical than when a seemingly inanimate object comes to life before your eyes. I have worked with the team at the Shop over the course of my career, so when I accepted this challenge and needed a team who could build my designs and bring Studio Ghibli’s treasured characters to life, I knew it had to be Henson. I truly believe we are creating something extraordinary.”

Peter Brooke, Creative Supervisor of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop said:

“We know all 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 Miyazaki’s fantastical world, they will be simply amazed when they see these magical creatures live on stage in a whole new way in My Neighbour Totoro.”

Performed on the Barbican’s iconic stage, My Neighbour Totoro will play a 15-week season from Saturday 8 October 2022 – Saturday 21 January 2023 with press night on Tuesday 18 October 2022.


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barbican jim henson My Neighbour Totoro Studio Ghibli

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