go Panda is a charming, entertaining pair of 35-minute cartoon
film shorts that appeared in Japan at the end of 1972 and the beginning
of 1973. To most Americans, this will be a nice gift for the kiddies,
and it may even win over adults with its irrepressible good charm
will be a smaller group of folks, dedicated animation freaks, who
will immediately recognize the show's creators: Hayao Miyazaki and
Isao Takahata, the founders of the great Studio Ghibli and masterminds
behind the finest animated films of the past two decades.
a creative genius must pay their dues, and for Miyazaki and Takahata,
it's Panda go Panda. It was Miyazaki's first opportunity
to create his own project, after a number of years as an animator
for movies and television shows such as Lupin III, Gulliver's
Space Travels, Puss in Boots, Animal Treasure
Island, The Flying Ghost Ship, Ali Baba and the
40 Thieves, and Takahata's Hols, Prince of the Sun.
many people know that Miyazaki's wife worked on these two Panda
shorts? Or that later Ghibli stalwarts like Michiyo Yasuda and Yoshifumi
Kondo contributed color, ideas and animation? Or that various moments
and shots have reappeared in Grave of
the Fireflies, Pom Poko, and My
Neighbor Totoro (and possibly Spirited
Away if you want to argue the case)? As you can see, Panda
go Panda is a walking trivia book for the grown-ups, and it
has remained a beloved memory for its creators.
two Panda cartoons involve a young girl who lives in a
country house while her grandmother is away. Two pandas, a small
baby panda and a larger, strangely familiar papa panda, wander in
and are immediately adopted by the little girl. The rest of the
show involves a number of silly comic capers, laced with a gentle
charm. This is a benign world, one without villains, really, or
anything remotely harmful or scary.
interesting to see how early these notable Miyazaki traits have
developed. This is very clearly Miyazaki's baby, and while Takahata
directed, it's easy to see who was really calling the shots.
most obvious comparison to make is to Totoro; quite a lot
of Panda is later recycled into that later film, including
characters, specific camera shots, and general plot points. Even
the opening title sequence, featuring a dancing chorus line of pandas,
was reimagined as dancing Totoros.
Miyazaki fans will eventually discover that this is one of his most
common traits. There are throwback bits and pieces of earlier works
in all his later movies; most of them are references to Future Boy
Conan or the Nausicaa books, but there are also riffs from his early
animation work from Puss in Boots, Lupin III, and Panda go Panda.
one example I can think of that is absolutely, bloody brilliant,
and as far as I know, nobody has pointed it out. In the first Panda
cartoon, there's a scene where a policeman, riding on a bicycle,
rides down a road and comes by the cottage the girl and panda family
Totoro's opening scene, we see an exact recreation of that
shot. We see the same man on a bicycle riding down the road Now,
this is the good part. The two girls see the man on the bike and
hide inside the truck. After he passes, the older sister looks out,
waves hello, and remarks, "Wow, that was lucky. I though he
was a policeman!"
that's a great riff.
can almost look at both movies and chart Miyazaki's growth and maturity
over the 15 years between them, Each were the best children's story
he could tell at the time. Panda go Panda is the work of
a younger man eager to prove himself; My Neighbor Totoro
is the work of a seasoned master. It should be an inspiration to
all aspiring storytellers.