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Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is creating puppets for RSC's My Neighbour Totoro



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Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is currently working its magic on creating the puppets for the RSC’s production of My Neighbour Totoro which opens at the Barbican in early October.

The celebrated 1988 Studio Ghibli animated feature film by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) will be brought to the stage by its original composer Joe Hisaishi in a landmark new adaptation by the RSC written by playwright Tom Morton-Smith (Oppenheimer) in collaboration with Improbable and Nippon TV.

Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607753)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607753)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607810)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607810)

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.

Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607790)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607790)

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.

Puppet designer Mr Twist 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.

Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607770)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607770)

“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.”

Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607814)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607814)

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.”

Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607786)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607786)

Neighbour Totoro will play a 15-week season at the Barbican from Saturday, 8th October 2022 to Saturday, 21st January 2023. Although there have been calls for the show to come to Stratford, no further dates have yet been announced.

Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607755)
Behind the scenes at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop as puppets for My Neighbour Totoro are created, June 2022. (57607755)


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