Before he turned 20 years old, animator Kenji Itoso got his start working under Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli. Recently at the Finnish Embassy in Tokyo, Itoso talked about how he got his start at Ghibli, including how he made it through the interview process.
Recently, Studio Ghibli has announced it is hiring up for Miyazaki’s new film. If you have applied, be aware that the famed animator might throw some curveball questions during the interview.
According to Oricon, Itoso recalled how Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, two people that he had only seen previously on TV, were sitting at a table, conducting a group interview. To ease up the tension, Miyazaki asked one applicant what movie she had seen recently.
“When that person replied, ‘I watched My Neighbor Totoro. Since I’ve loved that movie for a long time, I collect [Totoro] merchandise,’ Miyazaki said, ‘I see. Hearing you saw that now makes me happy, but personally, I don’t think Totoro is a cute creature.’”
“As he’s grinning and chuckling, Miyazaki says, ‘He [Totoro] is a dreadful creature. He’s a carnivore, and the reason why it didn’t eat Satsuki and Mei was that he wasn’t hungry.’ The applicant said, ‘This is a shock.’”
Upon hearing that, Miyazaki then began asking the applicants for their opinions about what he had said. Some applicants said, “This is interesting!”
Itoso was the last person in the row of applicants. He had rewatched My Neighbor Totoro before the interview and suddenly remembered something: Totoro’s teeth were flat molars. His teeth were designed for him to chew on vegetation and not tear into flesh. Itoso thought that Totoro was a plant-eater and there was no way he’d eat Satsuki and Mei.
According to Itoso, “I only said one thing to Miyazaki, ‘He’s a herbivore, isn’t he?’” Miyazaki reportedly smiled pleasantly, and apparently, just one of the applicants got the job: Kenji Itoso.
The reason why Miyazaki asked such a tricky question, Itoso explained, was that people who create entertainment should not swallow whole whatever they are told. For creative types, thinking about things is important.