How to Throw a My Neighbor Totoro Birthday Party

When I was pregnant with my second child, we figured out the perfect theme for decorating the baby’s room: a Totoro nursery!

When we found out the baby was our second girl, we figured out the perfect middle name: Mae—different spelling, but same name as the little girl from My Neighbor Totoro. So when the first movie she actually watched end-to-end was My Neighbor Totoro, it only made sense. And when it came to letting her choose the theme for a second birthday, again, it only made sense that she would pick Totoro.

Invitations

I was hoping to get around to painting my own original Totoro-inspired art, but ran out of time. I ended up using a very basic customizable evite design at Pingg and plugged in this classic scene from the movie. Adorable!

Totoro invitation. Screenshot by Ariane Coffin.
Totoro invitation. Screenshot by Ariane Coffin.

Decor

The first thing I wanted to accomplish was a life-size cardboard version of Totoro for the kids to take their pictures with, complete with red umbrella just like the bus station scene in the movie. For this I needed: one side of a large cardboard box, a knife, grey paint, white paint, green paint, and a heck of a lot of patience. I free-handed the Totoro shape on the cardboard with a marker and very slowly cut it out with a knife—scissors and box cutter just weren’t powerful or precise enough.

Photo op with Totoro. Photo by Ariane Coffin.
Photo op with Totoro. Photo by Ariane Coffin.

For the table, we opted for a simple white tablecover, using long pieces of jute as table runners. The tables were topped with mason jars, yellow mums, and woodland creatures made of natural materials which my mom already had as Thanksgiving decorations—make use of what you have! I added a few yarn Totoros from the old mobile that we used for the nursery.

Totoro decor. Photo by Marie Payette.
Totoro decor. Photo by Marie Payette.

On top of the tables, hanging from the beautiful old trees were soot sprites. These were made—admittedly by my mom, not me—with those plastic balls you can find cheap in large bins at your local superstore, covered with fuzzy black fabric and two giant googly eyes.

Soot sprites hang over the picnic tables. Photo by Marie Payette.
Soot sprites hanging over the picnic tables. Photo by Marie Payette.

We also had a soot sprite pinata. For this one, we started with a baseball pinata obtained at a party store. You can tear off the crepe paper on it and glue on black tissue paper and two white felt eyes. Voila, soot sprite pinata!

Soot sprite pinata. Photo by Ariane Coffin.
Soot sprite pinata. Photo by Ariane Coffin.

Favors

I usually try to find a good non-destined-for-the-trash-can favor matching my theme. This time, I decided to send the kids home with each a little plant. It seemed so perfect for a Totoro party! I bought a variety of small succulents from my local garden store for only a couple of bucks each—the perfect plants for surviving our California drought.

Plants serve as Totoro party favors. Photo by Ariane Coffin.
Plants serve as Totoro party favors. Photo by Ariane Coffin.

Outfits

Totoro party outfits. Image by Ariane Coffin.
Totoro party outfits. Image by Ariane Coffin.

Admittedly the most unnecessary expense in my parties is themed outfits for the whole family, but I just can’t help myself. For this party specifically, because I have two little girls, I bought them clothes to cosplay as Satsuki and Mei.

For the Mei outfit, I purchased a pink jumper and a white polo shirt, both from Osh Kosk B’Gosh. For the Satsuki outfit, I purchased an Osh Kosh B’Gosh orange skirt, HDE orange suspenders, and an Eddie Bauer yellow polo shirt. Finally, for my husband and myself, I bought Totoro shirts from Hot Topic.

Short of the orange suspenders, I figured we could and would reuse these everyday pieces in our wardrobe, so it didn’t seem too frivolous an expense. Plus, I really love having a collection of t-shirts in my closet that bring back a flood of happy memories!

If you’ve enjoyed these DIY party ideas, you might also like learning how to throw a My Little Pony party, a gnome party, an Adventure Time party, and a Harry Potter party. Happy celebrating!

Ariane is a programmer married to another programmer. Together they have two little girls who don't stand a chance against their nerdy lineage. Ariane can also be found illustrating for Intelligently Adorable.