• Anna

Ink work - Biro Pen - Totoro from My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro, My Neighbor Totoro movie poster

My Neighbour Totoro

My neighbour Totoro has been in my list of films to watch for awhile, so I was glad when I got the chance to. As expected, Hayao Miyazaki has made an exceptional film that makes you travel back in time and re-visit your childhood. You can definitely tell the age of the film and I was reminded of the anime I watched back in the late 80's, such as Princess Sarah and Dragonball. In addition, the film is injected with so much love and innocence that you can't help but smile. In a way, it reminded me of the toys I had as a child and how they came to life when I played with them.

What I found truly exceptional was Mei Kusakabe (the younger sister) and Totoro's initial encounter. Mei could've seen Totoro as a large terrifying monster that made loud trembling noises, but instead she saw a cuddly large friend. After getting acquainted with each other, she then comfortably sleeps on Totoro's belly with all the trust and innocence in the world. This scene reminded me of how people are quick to judge others based on their appearance. Everyone should learn a little from Mei and not judge a book by it's cover.

Mei on top of Totoro from My Neighbour Totoro GIF

Above: Totoro and Mei's first encounter

Feature character - Totoro

There were a few interesting characters in the film, but I wanted to put the spotlight on the main star of the film. Totoro is a massive teddy bear that lives under a tree. He dances around planted acorns to help them grow, sits on top of a tree whilst playing his chubby flute, and flies around with his umbrella. He is a fascinating creature and it would be a crime for me not to draw him.

Totoro is also a popular character and can be found in many types of merchandise. I've even had my fair share of Totoro items like coasters, mugs and t-shirts. In addition, there are loads of different designs by different artists of Totoro out there.


Totoro smiling close up from My Neighbour Totoro

Above: Movie still of Totoro from My Neighbour Totoro

I rarely see Totoro drawn with odd facial expressions. In fact, Totoro is mostly always drawn or presented in the same way in most of the art that I've seen. So I decided to go for a close up still shot with Totoro shouting with excitement. I chose the scene where Satsuki Kusakabe gave Totoro an umbrella when it was raining. Totoro got excited with the sound and vibrations of water droplets falling on his umbrella.

Above: Initial search of 'Totoro' on Google. Majority have a similar facial expression.

The drawing

Biro, Ballpen, Pen art of Totoro from Studio Ghibli's My Neighbour Totoro. Black and white anime drawing by Anna Legaspi Art

Above: Biro drawing on A5 paper. Anna Legaspi 2021

Tools used

  • Mechanical pencil

  • Rubber or eraser

  • Bic Cristal Original Fine pen

  • A5 sketchbook paper

  • Music from my Jazz Anime by Anna Legaspi on Spotify to set the mood.


I started by creating a simple freehand sketch of Totoro, focusing on her outline. I then lightly traced my sketch using my Bic pen. I noticed that my Totoro looks like the 'Raving Rabbids' and realised Totoro's head should've been wider. Nevertheless, I embraced the narrow-headed Totoro that I've created and continued on.

Raving Rabbids

Above: Raving rabbids

I then worked on the shading and finer details on Totoro. I initially put my focus on Totoro's teeth, mouth and eyes which had the most texture. I was definitely in the experimental mood as I mixed and matched different techniques.

Once I've added as much of the detail as I could, I found myself finding a lot of 'white space' in the drawing. At this point, Totoro didn't have any fur on his face. If I look at the reference drawing, Totoro doesn't have a lot of obvious facial fur, but it's clear that he is a furry creature. I decided to take the risk and started giving Totoro fur and I'm pleased with the outcome.

When I look at my drawing now, a part of me thinks that I could've added more detail on Totoro. When I compare this drawing to my previous drawing of Yubaba, Totoro looks very plain. I do wonder if this is down to choosing a reference that is quite simple? Or maybe using a fine tip pen allows for very fine detail that makes the drawing less bold? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Up next

Since Studio Ghibli is currently taking over my life, I've decided that my next drawing will be from Howl's Moving Castle. I've watched the film a few days ago and I've already sketched the next piece I'm going to draw.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my thoughts on My Neighbour Totoro and I hope my art has made a positive contribution to your day. If you like what you've seen so far and want to follow my art journey, please follow my socials or subscribe to get emails when I've got a new post.

Remember, It's not about creating the best art, but creating art makes you happy!

All the best and until next time!

Lots of love and positivity,