By Leo N. Holzer
$200,000 plus and growing. Talk about a green event!
On Sept. 6, an art auction was held at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville with proceeds benefiting the Sayama Forest, an 8,750-acre patch of Mother Earth in all her glory just outside Tokyo. This area served as the inspiration for master animator Hayao Miyazaki’s film “My Neighbor Totoro.”
More than 180 artists — including some top illustrators in comics and children’s literature as well as others working at Pixar, Blue Sky, Disney, DreamWorks, LucasFilm and Sony Pictures Animation — contributed 205 pieces. The auction raised both awareness and much-appreciated cash for Miyazaki’s Totoro no Furusato Fund, the Japanese organization leading the efforts to protect the Sayama Forest from urban encroachment.
After arriving at Pixar and checking in, I headed into the giant atrium lobby with a few friends to take our first look at the art in person. Pictures of the art had been posted online for more than a month before the auction, but many pieces were even more spectacular in person. I found only one that I thought photographed better than it looked close up.
There was something here for every taste. You couldn’t see the overall collection and not fall in love with a half-dozen or more pieces.
“As someone who’s learned from and been inspired by Miyazaki-san,” Lasseter said, “I’m honored to help support the Totoro Forest Project” and to have Pixar Animation Studios host the auction.
Lasseter then introduced Dice Tsutsumi, Ronnie del Carmen, Enrico Casarosa and Yukino Pang, the organizers who’ve spent hundreds of hours planning and preparing for the auction.
Tsutsumi said the seed of an idea to do a charity art auction hit fertile ground when he shared it with Casarosa and del Carmen. Artists frequently donate pieces to charitable efforts they support and Casarosa organized a smaller fundraising auction about a year ago for an organization that builds hospitals in war-torn and poverty-stricken areas. Those earlier successes gave them the energy to tackle something bigger, something that continued to grow at every stage, something that could have overwhelmed them. So many artists have been inspired by Miyazaki’s films that they wanted to be a part of this very special auction.
Tsutsumi thanked everyone for making the evening a success, from his fellow organizers and the contributing artists to the volunteers and auction attendees.
People then enjoyed a bit to eat and drink as silent auction bidding continued. Everything about the evening was fantastic and that certainly included the food. Those who purchased the $100 package got more than their money’s worth in the delicious spread and exquisite $40 auction catalogue.
Bidding continued with some boards closing before the live auction kicked off around 8:15 p.m. A handful of pieces had been preselected for the fun and lively live auction and a half-dozen or so wildcards from the boards were thrown into the mix.
Casarosa told me that many artists not only contribute their own works to these charity events, but that they also like to buy pieces from others they admire. That was true for the Totoro Forest Project auction, but maybe just a little less so. I know several people — not gifted with artistic talent but who recognize and admire it in others — who were able to take home a piece, or two, or three.
Lasseter purchased a handful of the live-auction items, including pieces from Tsutsumi, del Carmen and Casarosa that he plans to reframe together after the showing at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum. Bob Peterson also made several purchases — a few during the live auction and others from the silent auction boards. A handful of items sold for a couple hundred dollars and a few went for $3,000 to $4,000-plus.
The proceedings were entertaining with a few good quips by the auctioneer — “The more you pay, the more you’ll love it” — the typical bidding war or two, a couple of quick saves and dozens of paddles up at the opening bid price for several items.
The auctioneer called it the finest grouping of art he’s ever seen sold in a single night.
The evening was a smashing success, far exceeding the expectations of its key organizers. As Tsutsumi wrote on the blog at TotoroForestProject.org: “What a memorable night it was. I don’t even know how to begin. We sold all 205 pieces of artwork donated for this project. We made over $200,000, which actually was twice as much as we were shooting for. The energy was insane. A full spirit of human generosity. People were really excited. People were really happy.”
More than 180 items from the auction will be put on display at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco beginning Sept. 20.
To see pictures of the art or learn more, visit www.totoroforestproject.org
. A limited number of the auction catalogues will also soon be available for purchase from the site.
Photo 1+3: The world’s top film animators, comic book artists and illustrators come together after creating original works of art inspired by the iconic animated film "My Neighbor Totoro" for an auction to benefit the Totoro No Furusato (Totoro’s Homeland) National Fund – also known as the Totoro Forest Fund on September 6, 2008, at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. The Totoro Forest Fund is dedicated to preserving Sayama Forest, a large park outside Tokyo that inspired the beloved film by respected Japanese movie director Hayao Miyazaki. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / courtesy of Pixar)
Photo 2: Ellen Moon Lee; John Lasseter; Lou Romano; Bob Peterson
(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Courtesy of Pixar)
Photo 4: Totoro Forest, © Arito Suzuki
Photo 5: Totoro Forest Project Auction Artwork by Pete Docter