My Neighbor Totoro fills the screen with magic and fantasy. Like many Studio Ghibli films, Totoro tells a story that sticks with you and thrives in the corners of our imaginations. And while it’s hard to pick a favorite aspect of the film, Catbus is certainly up there. The character appears and disappears at will, welcoming passengers for travel across the countryside. It’s improbably cute with multiple legs, windows that can stretch into a door, and glowing headlamp-esque eyes. And Twitter user EngineMarvelous captured all those elements in a mesmerizing zoetrope (which we first spotted at Neatorama).
The attention to detail here makes this zoetrope look like it’s actually from the animated movie. Each of Catbus’ many legs moves in perfect time, racing across the surface of the zoetrope. The real magic happens when the maker switches the lighting. Then you can see Catbus’ glowing eyes and interior. Seeing the zoetrope versions of Catbus dashing in circles feels right out of My Neighbor Totoro. The lights in the background gently sparkle like stars above a field.
If you’re not familiar with zoetropes, think of them like flipbooks. But instead of flipping through them, they go around in a circle. By moving drawings, picture strips, or in this case, sculptures this way, the zoetrope simulates motion. It can totally be done digitally too.
And if you pay close attention to the opening frame of the Catbus zoetrope, you can get an idea of scale. The Totoro sitting on the lid doesn’t measure up in a huge way to the fingers. Then the many Catbuses are small. We can’t even imagine how long it took to make/model each one.