Ghibli Museum Short Films - Mei and the Kittenbus (2003)

Behold, the most beloved Miyazaki anime that you will never see. This is Mei and the Kittenbus, created in 2003 exclusively for the Ghibli Museum. I think it's safe to say this is by far the most popular and beloved of all the Museum's short films.

Mei and the Kittenbus runs 15 minutes, and pairs younger sister Mei (voiced by the original actress, Sakamoto Chinatsu) with a pint-sized Kitten Bus, as they run and fly around the house and surrounding woods. Totoro, naturally, appears once again, but this time he is joined by massive crowds of fellow Totoros, and Cat Buses of all sizes and stripes. The biggest surprise is the arrival of a giant, old Catbus, carrying dozens of Totoros. Hayao Miyazaki himself provides the voice.

This film, like all of the other Ghibli Museum short films, is not available outside of Japan. Miyazaki intends these movies solely for the children of the Museum, free from consumer capitalism and commercialism. Fortunately, it is screened regularly, including this summer, so if you are planning a trip to Japan to see Arrietty, be sure to make your pilgrimmage. Fortunately, for the rest of us, Ghibli does sell art books of all their shorts, which means we can enjoy Mei and the Kittenbus from a distance.


beyond said...

In the DVD "Lasseter-San, Arigato" this film can be seen a bit.
Miyazaki and Suzki visit PIXAR, and they show this film to the staff as secret film.

Miyazaki mentioned that there is a plan to release museum short if they make 12 films.

And probably Miyazaki's latest short film "Pan-dane to Tamago-hime" will be released on Youtube.

When Koichiro Tsujino Google Japan president appeared on Suzuki's radio show, Suzuki revealed he is thinking to release Miyazaki's latest short on Youtube. Because it is 10 min and without dialogue.
It was mentioned in the radio show that the film which Miyazaki is making now is Pan-dane. Probably another short film "Takara-sagashi" is Nishi Ghibli's yong animators film. Ghibli announced that Miyazakini trains young animators in Nishi Ghibli and make a short film.

Dan Hamman said...

I'm not going to lie, it's gotten to the point now where I don't think Ghibli cares about reaching outside Japan. Maybe it's the international distributors, but they know there is wild demand for these films. Their prolonging their wide release reminds me of Disney's tactics in releasing 'classics' for limited periods to cash in on the demand.

Also, Ghibli DOES sell art books of these films. Conveniently enough, only at the Ghibli museum. Miyazaki himself would I'm sure frown upon seeing the books go for $30 and up on Ebay and only be sold at their intended price.

His politics are with good intentions, though I can't help feeling he'd better catch up with modern sensibilities concerning media consumption. People have a very fond lovey-dovey image of Ghibli but sometimes I find their actions hard to swallow, especially if they are letterheaded with cute totoros or susuwatari as though they can get away with anything.

Anonymous said...

WHile I can respect his stand on the consumer capitalism and all I would kill for these shorts to be released on BD. Instant buy.

DmL said...

Seems to me that if he's trying to avoid consumerism he'd be better off making them ubiquitous rather than ultra-rare. Sell them at cost or give them away in places like Youtube. Anyway I came here to comment that I would have preferred not to know about this film but the commenters have given me a shiny little nugget of hope. : )

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

About Ghibli reaching beyond Japan, well, this is the part where Americans are told that, no, they really aren't the center of the world. The rest of creation does not exist solely to passively amuse us.

These are Japanese filmmakers who create art for their country. If the rest of us are able to connect, that's terrific, but it was never anyone's intention. Miyazaki is not interested in maximizing quarterly profits and building merchandising empires and selling poisoned glasses at McDonald's.

If we want to see these short films, then we're going to have to muscle up the courage for a 12-hour flight on the roller coaster to Japan, or track down the art books.

DmL said...

It wouldn't take courage so much as a miracle. ; )

greentea said...

Haha, Miyazaki as the voice of the grandpa catbus? I'd like to hear that.

Would it be a stretch to think these shorts could show in Disneyland? Wouldn't it be cool if there was a real 'World of Ghibli' place there?

greentea said...

So a flight to Japan over buying say, a DVD of these shorts? Sounds like either way we non-Japanese have to cough up, or get nothing, except screenshots (and thank you for providing them).

Miyazaki reminds me of a certain comic artist in this anti-commercialism stance of his..

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@dml: It's courage for me. I hate to fly on airplanes. The turbulence just freaks me out, especially when descending into heavy storms. But I'm trying to get better, hehe.

@greentea: You have to remember that Miyazaki was a socialist radical back in the '60s. And he's clearly no fan of modern civilization. He envisioned the Ghibli Museum as a haven for children, an escape from the modern world and its commercialism.

So which comics artist are you thinking of? Bill Watterson springs to my mind. He abhored commercialism and, in the end, he never sold out. Personally, I think he's a saint because of that. Anyway, that's just my take - Calvin & Hobbes is just about the greatest comic ever made.

DmL said...

Yeah, Bill W definitely comes to mind. It really throws some hard questions into the forefront. "What does the artist owe us?" Personally I see it as a bit like getting someone addicted to something and suddenly pulling the plug. : )

Cory Gross said...

Whatever Miyazaki's best intentions, a visit to the Ghibli Museum costs around $20 a pop, plus the price of the art book. Multiply that by the number of shorts and you have a very lucrative draw for the museum... Quite shrewd business. As an aside, almost the entire third floor of the museum is shoppes.

It works though. I did pony up the dough and managed to see Mei and the Kittenbus. I was very glad to... Totoro is my favorite Ghibli film and I would have missed it if had gone to the museum towards the beginning of my trip rather than the end. It's cute and fun, and doesn't of itself add anything to the Totoro story, but is infinitely enjoyable nonetheless.

greentea said...

Yeah, I was thinking Bill Waterson. Which, I don't have a big problem with his anti-commercial stance, or Miyazaki's-- I admire it about them too-- but on the other hand, it can collide with s fan's wishes, and sometimes it seems a bit silly.

beyond said...

This is a very trifle thing. Nobody minds it, but I think this is very important.
JAL(Japan Airlines) has screend Miyazaki's masterpiece rare short film "Imaginary Flying Machines" monopolistically since 2007.
But JAL does not announce the screening schedule of this year. JAL's monopoly screening seems over.

I think this film is Miyazaki's best film. Though it is short, Miyazaki's hobby about airplane explodes. Miyazaki becomes a pig and explains internal structure of Tiger Moss, about ornithopterther, and history of imaginary flying machine.
In the last of the film, a boy(looks like Pazu) takes off to the sky with his ornithopterther named "Alcyone" with Miyazaki's impressive message to the audience and Laputa music by Hisaishi. In the Laputa, Pazu is making his ornithopterther in his house.

I saw this film at Laputa exhibition of Ghibli museum. I'd visited many times to see it.
Other short can be seen at the museum. But this film cannot be seen. I really want to see it again. So I sent a mail "Please screen it with Arrietty" to Ghibli. Because On Your Mark was screened with Whisper of the Heart, Ghiblies Episode 2 was screened with The Cat Returns.

Yonebayashi was the chief animator of this film. He did it when he was 29.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Bothering to reply to a few thoughts here...

Their prolonging their wide release reminds me of Disney's tactics in releasing 'classics' for limited periods to cash in on the demand.

I think more to the days when there was a 7-8 year moratorium the studio had on these classics where one could not see it again until it was re-released again. It was Walt's idea that these films should be seen from generation to generation in this fashion, though with the birth of home video, it kinda brought it to an end the way these films became far more accessible than the days when I was desperate to see one of them and only seeing still frames in a book, or clips on a TV special.

Yeah, Bill W definitely comes to mind. It really throws some hard questions into the forefront. "What does the artist owe us?" Personally I see it as a bit like getting someone addicted to something and suddenly pulling the plug. : )

It's a tough question indeed. I could never answer that faithfully since I feel like I lean the wrong way in the end.

Unknown said...

if miyazaki was actually trying to avoid capitalism he wouldnt charge 120 dollars for a medium sized plushy....and yea that is the offical price, hes a money whore

samuel said...

I actually found the shop to be well priced. I expected it to much dearer than it was. And in any case there was a very cool selection of goodies. I managed to get my hands on a model kit of Porco Rossos wings! :D

Fellow Totoro Lover said...

I would LOVE to go see the museum in japan. In fact I would hope on the next plan. But there's a problem...I am 14. There's no WAY i could convince my parents to go see this museum. Belive me I soooo would. I would love to see the short film as well. You have no IDEA how much I wish I could.

My thoughts on this are...I know Miyazaki would like to keep the film in Japan. But what about his other Totoro lovers!?

I for one absolutely adore Totoro. I actually grew up with him. I practically know every single word to the movie and I still LOVE watching it.

Two, I would love to see this other short film. It's kind of like a sequel to the first.

I'm also pretty sure no one knows about Totoro except for the people who...well...know about Totoro. No one besides the real totoro lovers would ever watch it. So Miyazaki consider us in Japan. Consider us Japanese...I mean not like that just fellow Totoro lovers who would love to see your AMAZING work.

Anonymous said...

They should just release these shots in youtube for FREE!!!
Thats the way of the future, and would get to children everywhere....

Anonymous said...

A camrip of this got leaked onto youtube a few weeks ago, along with Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess

Tasu said...

I have watched it.

Unknown said...

It's a tough dilemma.
If it was only for the capitalism-problem, the fil could easily uploaded to youtube.
But then the film wouldn't be a special thing to be seen in the museum. I think, Miyazaki wants to give the visitors of the museum a unique experience, showing them something exclusive. The visit becomes more special this way.

While I think this is a really great idea, it's painful for us non-japanese fans. Most of us will never see it. Miyazaki will never be able to both satisfy us and make the museum visit truly unique.

And in the long run? Eventually the museum will get closed and than we can only hope that they publish the since then unpublished material. Otherwise it will be forgotten forever :(

DmL said...

That's a good point, Klaus, and makes more sense to me. If they're meant to be special for museum visitors, then that is what they are. Uploading them to youtube would be against their intended purpose. So while that saddens me, I can see the logic, whereas before I couldn't.
I fully intend to visit Japan many times in the future, so here's hoping.

creebefu said...

I went to the Ghibli Museum just over a year ago. I forget the name of the short film we watched (it wasn't this one) and sadly, I've forgotten much of the film also - it was in Japanese without any other subtitles (which I suppose is to be expected). To answer one of the comments at the top of this thread, about Americans realising they are not at the centre of the world, we are from England - don't assume that Totoro fans outside of Japan are only in America!! German friends of ours are also in love with Totoro. We were really disappointed by the Ghibli museum - it was really only a couple of rooms of artwork and then a big shop. Despite someone else's comments, we found the toys and gifts REALLY expensive. Of course we bought stuff anyway because it was the Ghibli museum.... I respect the non-capitalism motivation, but the modern way of doing that, would be to make it free on the internet. Or - since we have to pay for all of the other movies, maybe not make a distinction between that and the short films? It may provide a unique experience to the museum goers - but perhaps they would do better to improve the museum so that they do not have to rely on the films?

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