Kenji Itoso, Ghibli alumnus and director of the crowdfunded anime short movies Santa Company and Coluboccoro, shared a story about his job interview at Studio Ghibli at a special screening event of his movies at the Finnish embassy in Tōkyō.
According to Itoso, it was a group interview and to ease the tension, Miyazaki asked on of the female applicants what movie she had seen recently. She answered: “I saw My Neighbor Totoro. I’ve loved that movie since my childhood and am collecting Totoro merchandise,” to which Miyazaki replied: “I see. While that makes me happy, I personally don’t think of Totoro as a cute creature. It’s a quite fearsome being. As a carnivore, the only reason it didn’t eat Satsuki and Mei is that it wasn’t hungry.”
This revelation naturally shocked the woman. Miyazaki continued to ask the applicants one by one about their thoughts on that. Most of them replied with positive responses. Itoso was the last to be asked. He thought back on how he had seen Totoro on VHS and something dawned on him. Totoro had molars used to grind leaves characteristic of herbivores. “Totoro can’t be a a carnivorous animal. There is no way it would’ve eaten Satsuki and Mei,” he concluded.
Hearing that, Miyazaki started to smile. In the end, Itoso was the only one who passed the job interview. “When I asked Miyazaki why he had used this trick question, he replied ‘For people in the entertainment business it is important to not just swallow what they are presented with, but think for themselves”.
Itoso concluded: “I could only answer like this because I happened to like animals, but he is really someone who looks at all kinds of things. I had the feeling I was constantly being tested which motivated me to do my best.”