Monday, July 20, 2009

Copyright puts the kaibosh on Totoro lawn art in Osaka

by Chris MaGee

When I was traveling through Japan one of the things on my tourist souvenir wish list was Totoro - Totoro toys, Totoro T-shirts, Totoro anything. I'm a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki, but three years ago Studio Ghibli memorabilia was a bit hard to come by in stores here in Canada. Once I got to Japan I was surprised to find that it was a bit hard to find there as well. I had thought that Ghibli imagery, and especially Totoro imagery, would be about as ubiquitous as Mickey Mouse here in North America, but the only place I found a wealth of Studio Ghibli products was in official Studio Ghibli stores, much like the Disney Stores here. No knock-offs or bootleg items for Totoro in Japan. The rights to his image are guarded far to well by copyright lawyers... but I never thought his image was guarded this fiercely.

Back in 2000 gardeners working on the Maishima Island in Osaka thought it would be fun and eye-catching to mow a 10-metre wide likeness of Totoro into a lawn at the Shinyūhigaoka Plaza (you can see an image of it here). The lawn image got a lot of attention and brought visitors to the island so they could take snapshots of the King of the Forest from Hayao Miyazaki's classic "My Neighbor Totoro", and everything was hunky dory for nearly a decade. That is until someone from Ghibli was alerted to the lawn art. It turns out the Maishima Island municipal offices didn't clear the rights to display the image of Totoro in this way, so after nine years of delighting visitors the lawn has been allowed to grow in.

Is it just me or is that taking the whole copyright issue a little bit too far? Anyway, thanks to Anime News Network for this bit of news.

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