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21 Famous Actors Who Quietly Voiced Cartoon Characters

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These well-known faces got behind the mic to provide the voices for your favorite cartoons.

1. Jaleel White as Sonic the Hedgehog

While audiences might be more familiar with Jaleel White as Steve Urkel, the actor also voiced Sonic the Hedgehog for the animated series when he was 16 years old and still starring on Family Matters. He later reprised the role for the animated series Sonic Underground in 1999.

2. Fergie as Sally Brown from Peanuts

Before she was the vocalist for the Black Eyed Peas, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson was a child star who appeared on the Disney Channel's Kids Incorporated. She was also the voice of Sally Brown, Charlie Brown’s kid sister, on three Peanuts animated TV specials produced in the '80s (It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown; Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown; and The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show).

3. Orson Welles as Unicron from Transformers: The Movie

Legendary filmmaker Orson Welles' last role before his death in 1985 was voice-work for Transformers: The Movie. He played the villain Unicron, a planet-sized Transformer hell-bent on ultimate power.

4. Jessica Walter as Fran Sinclair from Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs premiered on ABC in 1991 and centered on a family of anthropomorphic dinos created using puppetry and animation. Before she played Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, Jessica Walter voiced matriarch Fran Sinclair. Puppeteer Kevin Clash, who was Elmo on Sesame Street, voiced the scene-stealing Baby Sinclair.

These days, Walter can also be heard as Malory Archer on FX’s animated series Archer.

5. Michael Cera as Brother Bear from The Berenstain Bears

A year before playing George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, Michael Cera voiced Brother Bear on The Berenstain Bears children’s TV series on PBS Kids. Cera continued to voice the character while starring in Arrested Development through 2005.

6. Phil Hartman as Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace

In the same year he started his career on Saturday Night Live, Phil Hartman did voice work on the syndicated TV series Dennis the Menace. He played both Dennis’ father, Henry Mitchell, and the next-door neighbor Mr. Wilson. Hartman left Dennis the Menace after one season to pursue SNL full-time.

Hartman also did voice work on cartoons such as DuckTales, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and Darkwing Duck. His most notable voice work was with The Simpsons, playing Springfield’s down-and-out lawyer Lionel Hutz (a.k.a. Miguel Sanchez) and washed-up actor Troy McClure.

7. Meg Ryan as Dr. Blight from Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Following the success of When Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan voiced the Eco-Villain Dr. Blight during the first season of Captain Planet and the Planeteers. After leaving the environmentally-minded animated series, Ryan went on to continue her career as America's Sweetheart.

8. James Avery as The Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

You might know him as Uncle Philip Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but before he took the role on that wildly popular NBC sitcom, James Avery supplied the voice for Shredder on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. Avery voiced the villain throughout the show's entire run from 1987 to 1993, while also playing the role on the TMNT made-for-TV movie in 1991.

9. John Ritter as Clifford the Big Red Dog

Before his untimely death in 2003, John Ritter voiced Clifford the Big Red Dog for the animated series of the same name on PBS Kids. Throughout the series run, Ritter was nominated for four straight Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program between 2001 and 2004.

10. Vin Diesel as The Iron Giant

At the start of his career in the '90s, Vin Diesel (whose real name is Mark Sinclair Vincent) took a role as the titular character in Brad Bird’s directorial debut, The Iron Giant. While undoubtedly a lead role, the animated robot only said a handful of words.

Vin Diesel’s voice can also be heard in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, coming out this summer. Diesel once again lends his voice to an unloquacious alien, the tree-like Groot.

11. Earle Hyman as Panthro from ThunderCats

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Actor Earle Hyman is probably best known for playing Russell “Grandpa” Huxtable on The Cosby Show, but a year into his tenure on the family sitcom, Hyman voiced the wise Panthro on ThunderCats.

12. and 13. Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell as "The Ambiguously Gay Duo"

Although the animated short sketches were popularized on Saturday Night Live, "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" made its debut on the short-lived Dana Carvey Show on ABC in 1996. Lending their voices to the crime-fighting duo Ace and Gary were none other than Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, respectively.

In 2011, Colbert and Carell re-teamed to star in a special live-action version of "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" for a short film on SNL. Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon played Ace and Gary while Colbert and Carrell played the villains, Dr. Brainio and Bighead.

14. Jeff Goldblum as Verminous Skumm from Captain Planet

After appearing in '80s cult classics The Fly and Earth Girls Are Easy, Jeff Goldblum took a job voicing the Eco-Villain Verminous Skumm on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Goldblum only appeared on five episodes of Captain Planet before his career started to take off with roles in big blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Independence Day.

15. Flea as Donnie from The Wild Thornberrys

Flea (whose real name is Michael Peter Balzary) is mainly known as the hyperactive bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Throughout the years, he has taken a few supporting roles in movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, My Own Private Idaho, and Back To The Future Parts II and III.

Flea also lent his voice talents to Nickelodeon's The Wild Thornberrys, playing Donnie Thornberry, and voiced the character in the show's film-length efforts The Wild Thornberrys: The Origin of Donnie, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, and Rugrats Go Wild, a cross-over between Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys.

16. LeVar Burton as Kwame from Captain Planet and the Planeteers

LeVar Burton is a television icon after starring in shows like Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he has also lent his voice to a few cult animated series as well, like Batman: The Animated Series and Disney’s Gargoyles. Burton’s most notable voice work was on Captain Planet and the Planeteers as Kwame, the Planeteer from Ghana with the power of Earth.

17. Arsenio Hall as Winston Zeddemore from The Real Ghostbusters

Two years after the release of Ghostbusters, ABC aired a cartoon version of the hit movie. The Real Ghostbusters featured the same characters from its live-action counterpart, but with different voice actors in the roles. Before he landed his own late night talk show, Arsenio Hall played the role of Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore during the first three seasons of the animated series.

Actor Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddemore in both of the Ghostbusters movies and its video game, auditioned for the animated TV series but lost out to Arsenio.

18. J.K. Simmons as the Yellow M&M

Actor J.K. Simmons has made a name for himself on the big and small screens with his performances as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man trilogy and as Assistant Chief Will Pope on TNT's The Closer, but he also has done some commercial work as the voice of the Yellow M&M in the candy's popular TV commercials.

Simmons also provides the voice for the AirBender Tenzin on The Legend of Korra animated series on Nickelodeon.

19. Brad Garrett as Hulk Hogan from Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling

Stand-up comedian Brad Garrett is mainly known for playing Robert Barone on the Everybody Loves Raymond, but one of his first big roles was on the Saturday morning cartoon Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling in 1986. Garrett lent his voice to the cartoon’s lead: Wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan.

20. Keith David as Goliath on Disney’s Gargoyles

Keith David is one of Hollywood's go-to character actors. He's most recognizable for his key supporting roles in movies like Armageddon, Requiem For a Dream, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, but the 57-year-old actor has done his fair share of voice work.

David notably played Goliath in Disney’s Gargoyles. While the show only lasted for three seasons, David is still an active participant in fan gatherings and events for the cult animated series. Gargoyles also featured the voices of highly regarded actors including Ed Asner, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, and Jonathan Frakes.

21. Brittany Murphy as Luanne Platter on King of the Hill

Brittany Murphy was a rising star in Hollywood, starring in major motion pictures like Cluelessand 8 Mile. She was also a regular on the animated series King of the Hill. Murphy voiced Luanne Platter, Hank and Peggy Hill’s niece, until her unexpected death in 2009.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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10 Fun Facts About Johnny Bravo
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In the early 1990s, Ted Turner committed himself to building an animation empire. In 1991, Turner Entertainment purchased Hanna-Barbera, the animation house responsible for classic toons like Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, Space Ghost, and countless others. And with the launch of Turner’s Cartoon Network in 1992, all of those classic cartoons would have a permanent home. That took care of the nostalgia crowd, but the network was also anxious to create unique, original content to get the younger generation hooked on this 24/7 world of animation.

On July 14, 1997, Cartoon Network debuted a show that would become a cornerstone of that move toward fresh content: Johnny Bravo. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the muscle-bound greaser with the golden pompadour, here are 10 facts about Johnny Bravo.

1. JOHNNY BRAVO IS A TAKE ON ITS CREATOR'S FULL NAME.

Though it’s easy to assume that the name "Johnny Bravo" came from Greg Brady’s alter ego on The Brady Bunch, it’s actually a take on creator Van Partible’s full name, which is Efram Giovanni Bravo Partible.

2. BRAVO’S VOICE IS A MIX OF YOUNG AND OLD ELVIS.

When Partible told the eventual voice of Johnny Bravo, Jeff Bennett, that he wanted the character to sound like Elvis, Bennett only had one question: Old or young? Bennett explained that they’re basically two unique voices, with a younger Elvis sounding much faster and more energetic, while the elder Presley would require Bennett to deepen and “slow it down.”

Partible asked for something more in the middle, resulting in the signature Bravo voice. While Partible heard a lot of Elvis impersonators for the role, he said Bennett was the only one to go beyond imitation and become an actual character. 

3. JOHNNY BRAVO’S BIGGEST SUPPORTERS AT CARTOON NETWORK WERE WOMEN.

After Partible’s initial pitch, Cartoon Network was going to pass on Johnny Bravo for not being “cartoony” enough. That is until three prominent women at the network—Ellen Cockrill, Janet Mazotti, and Julie Kane-Ritsch—fought for the show to get picked up.

It may sound strange for the chauvinistic Bravo to have their support, but as Partible mentioned in his blog, “I think it's because they know Johnny Bravos in their lives and can relate. They also enjoy watching him get his comeuppance.”

4. THE SHOW GREW FROM PARTIBLE’S SENIOR THESIS PROJECT.

While studying animation at Loyola Marymount University, Partible created a short animated film for his senior thesis project called Mess o’ Blues. The short focuses on a character not too far off from an Elvis impersonator, who looks like a much thinner Bravo with jet black hair and one of The King’s trademark white jumpsuits.

The film was sent to Hanna-Barbera, which was on the lookout for new talent after the launch of Cartoon Network. After receiving acclaim from the studio, Partible was brought in to pitch a series based on the film. Partible expanded on the initial project, including a redesign and rebranding of the main character into Johnny Bravo.

To this day, there’s been no official release of Mess o’ Blues, though some snippets of footage do exist.

5. PARTIBLE BASED THE SHOW’S STYLE ON AL HIRSCHFELD ILLUSTRATIONS.

One of the most striking things about Johnny Bravo—especially when compared to its contemporaries—is its minimalist character designs. The lines and extraneous details are kept to a minimum—so much so that Bravo himself often has a face that consists of large black circles for sunglasses and a few simple lines for a nose. In Bravo’s world, mouths seem to come and go as needed.

This was all part of Partible’s vision, as he was inspired by the work of famed illustrator Al Hirschfeld, who was most famous for his caricatures of Broadway stars and big screen celebrities. In particular, Bravo’s head and trademark hair were a take on Hirschfeld’s caricature of actor Richard Davalos for an illustration he did in 1995 that looked back at Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge. The hairdo's vertical lift was the perfect complement to Bravo's faux-greaser panache. 

6. JOHNNY BRAVO WAS ON-THE-JOB TRAINING FOR PARTIBLE.

When Cartoon Network accepted Partible’s pitch for Johnny Bravo, there was only one problem: Partible had never worked on a full-fledged TV show before. “My new producer, Larry Huber, told me that this was going to be a type of graduate school where I was going to learn how to make cartoons from the ground up in the studio system,” Partible wrote on his blog.

The initial deal that Partible signed on for was a “step deal,” which he described as, “I was going to be under careful watch and evaluated after every step of production to see if they wanted to continue to go forward.”

The experience turned out to be a blessing. At the time, Cartoon Network was looking to experiment, and Partible’s youth and inexperience were something the network was willing to gamble on. Looking to capture the unique style of upstart creators, the company let Partible do the cartoon his own way. 

7. THE LEGENDARY JOE BARBERA WAS PART OF THE WRITERS’ ROOM.

The goal for Hanna-Barbera during this time was to create new shows that still felt like the classic series the studio put out in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s pretty easy to achieve that when one half of the company’s namesake—Joe Barbera—agreed to take a hands-on approach to Johnny Bravo during the mid-’90s.

Though he wasn’t a full-time member of the show’s staff, Partible described Barbera's role in his blog:

“So, once a week, we would get a visit from Mr. B, pick his brain, and come up with jokes. He seemed to enjoy the goofy banter we had in the room.”

Barbera became a literal part of the show when he briefly appeared in the episode “Bravo Dooby Doo” when Johnny, Scooby, and the gang team up to unmask the ghoul of the week. When Partible screened the episode for Barbera, the legendary cartoonist fell asleep, only to be startled awake when Bravo and Thelma screamed his name toward the end of the show.

8. THE SHOW WAS AN EARLY BREAK FOR SETH MACFARLANE AND BUTCH HARTMAN.

The influence Johnny Bravo had on audiences is well documented, but the show’s production also helped launch the careers of two household names of animation: Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane and The Fairly OddParents creator Butch Hartman.

MacFarlane was a writer and storyboard artist on Bravo during its first year, while Hartman performed the same duties but also directed 10 episodes of the show in 1997. MacFarlane and Hartman also worked on other Cartoon Network shows for Hanna-Barbera before going off to create their own series in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

9. JOHNNY BRAVO LED TO ONE OF FAMILY GUY’S MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTERS.

In the episode “Johnny Bravo Meets Adam West,” the famed former Batman comes to Johnny's aid after Mamma Bravo goes missing (in reality, she's about one minute late getting home from grocery shopping). The episode was written by Hartman and MacFarlane, which is where the future Family Guy creator first met the man who would eventually become the mayor of Quahog.

The experience on Bravo—highlighted by West’s surreal, self-aware performance—inspired MacFarlane to bring the actor aboard Family Guy years later. In an interview with The A.V. Club, MacFarlane expanded on his choice:

"I wrote on a show called Johnny Bravo when I was at Hanna-Barbera, and he guest-starred as himself. He was so funny, and he's got this way about him. I think he likes playing into what he's known for, even on a casual basis. He's a really fun guy to work with, and genuinely gets comedy. It's not the type of situation where you just bring somebody in to make fun of themselves."

10. THERE WAS TALK OF A BRAVO MOVIE STARRING THE ROCK IN 2002.

When Johnny Bravo was in the middle of its Cartoon Network run, Warner Bros. wanted to make the jump from animation to live-action with a movie adaptation of the show, and there were rumors that they wanted Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Johnny. The Rock is apparently a huge Johnny Bravo fan, which caught the attention of producers Marty Adelstein and Neal Moritz.

Plans obviously fell through, and since then, no serious news on a renewed effort to make a Johnny Bravo movie has surfaced. Moritz and Johnson have since teamed up on the Fast and the Furious franchise.

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13 Crowning Facts About Princess Mononoke
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Princess Mononoke sounds like a charming foreign family film. And that would be a fair assumption, if you were going off director Hayao Miyazaki’s previous hits like Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro. But Princess Mononoke was neither cuddly nor innocent. The movie’s violent tale of Ashitaka, an exiled prince trying to keep the peace between warring animals and humans, was a stark departure from Miyazaki’s previous work. It was also his most commercially and critically successful movie to date when it opened in 1997.

The film’s phenomenal profits in Japan helped carry it over to America, where Miyazaki was known only among hardcore animation geeks. Today he enjoys a more established international reputation, and it’s all largely thanks to Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, which was released four years later. To celebrate the film's 20th anniversary, discover the movie’s unlikely inspirations and secret leprosy subplots with these 13 fascinating facts.

1. HAYAO MIYAZAKI PLANNED TO RETIRE AFTER IT WAS DONE.  

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Before he even began work on Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki was a little burnt out. Production on his previous movie, Porco Rosso, had been difficult and he was not satisfied with the results. Princess Mononoke wound up being a three-year commitment, so after it was complete, he announced his intention to retire. But it didn’t stick. He returned with one of his most widely praised movies, Spirited Away, in 2001 and made another four movies after that. In fact, all Miyazaki really did with this declaration was establish the first in a long-running series of retirement fake-outs. He ended his latest “retirement” late last year.

2. HE CHANNELED HIS ANGER OVER THE YUGOSLAV WARS INTO THE MOVIE.

The bloody break-up of Yugoslavia had begun while Miyazaki was making Porco Rosso, and it stuck with him as he started work on his next film. “The war happened ... and I learned that mankind doesn’t learn,” he told Empire Magazine. “After that, we couldn’t go back and make some film like Kiki’s Delivery Service. It felt like children were being born to this world without being blessed. How could we pretend to them that we’re happy?” He instead decided to take a risk and introduce kids to Ashitaka's combat-driven world.

3. HE WAS INSPIRED BY JOHN FORD WESTERNS.

The movie’s production notes reveal that Miyazaki wanted his frontier community of Tatara Ba (or “Iron Town”) to look like it “could be at the edge of any wilderness” in the world. So he turned to one of his favorite directors: John Ford. Miyazaki used classic Ford westerns like My Darling Clementine to inform the look and feel of Tatara Ba, a town full of “characters from outcast groups and oppressed minorities who rarely, if ever, appear in Japanese films.”

4. THE MOVIE WAS ONLY 10 PERCENT COMPUTER GENERATED.

Despite the success of Toy Story in 1995, Miyazaki remained wary of computer-generated animation. “Computers are really just an electronic pen or pencil, and I like regular pencils better,” the director told Hollywood.com. As a result, just 10 percent of Princess Mononoke is CGI. The vast majority of the movie is comprised of hand-drawn cels—about 144,000 of them.

5. IT BROKE BOX OFFICE RECORDS IN JAPAN.

When Princess Mononoke hit theaters, E.T. had been the reigning champion of the Japanese box office for more than a decade. But Miyazaki’s animated epic set a new record with its 18.25 billion yen, or about $134 million, haul. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t stay on the throne for long. Titanic arrived mere months later and reset the bar yet again with 18.35 billion yen ($135 million).

6. IT WAS THE FIRST ANIMATED MOVIE TO WIN BEST PICTURE AT THE JAPANESE OSCARS.

Princess Mononoke didn’t just break commercial records. In 1998, it became the first animated film to be nominated for and win the top prize at the Japanese Academy Awards. (Miyazaki claimed this award again four years later for Spirited Away.) This is a milestone the U.S. Academy Awards have yet to achieve—and they’ve been around much longer. The Japanese Academy Awards began in 1978 as opposed to the Oscars, which started in 1929.

7. NEIL GAIMAN TWEAKED THE SCRIPT FOR AMERICAN AUDIENCES.

After Miramax picked up the movie for U.S. distribution, the studio hired British fantasy writer Neil Gaiman to adapt the script for English-speaking audiences. Gaiman had to add dialogue explaining Japanese cultural references that likely wouldn’t register with audiences, such as the significance of Ashitaka cutting his hair. He also altered characters so they translated better abroad. For instance, in the original Japanese script, Jigo complains that a bowl of soup tastes like “water,” which is a cutting insult in Japan. That’s hardly a burn by American standards, though, so Gaiman made it “donkey piss.” Finally, he swapped out words that were difficult to translate—although he insisted he wasn’t the one who changed “sake” to “wine.”

8. THE STUDIO WANTED QUENTIN TARANTINO TO ADAPT IT.

JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images

Miramax head Harvey Weinstein originally asked Quentin Tarantino to take a stab at adapting the script, but the director passed on the offer and recommended Gaiman instead. Why? Apparently Tarantino’s mom is a massive Gaiman fan.

9. MIYAZAKI SENT HARVEY WEINSTEIN DEMANDS VIA SAMURAI SWORD.

Weinstein wanted to seriously scale back Princess Mononoke’s 134-minute running time for the U.S. release, but Miyazaki didn’t want a single frame altered. So, the legend goes, Miyazaki sent a samurai sword to Weinstein’s office with a two-word message: “No cuts.” The story is mostly correct, except for one key detail. “Actually, my producer did that,” Miyazaki said in an interview with The Guardian. “I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this aggressive attack, all these demands for cuts. I defeated him.”

10. PIXAR'S JOHN LASSETER WAS AN ENORMOUS FAN.

When Miramax began marketing its English-language version of Princess Mononoke, they called on a number of big names to sell the movie and its director to American audiences. The star-studded voice cast—which included Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson, and Jada Pinkett Smith—was one component. But Pixar’s emerging wunderkind John Lasseter was another. The director of Toy Story heaped praise on Miyazaki, saying that “throughout my career, I have been inspired by Japanese animation, but without question, I have been most inspired by the films of Hayao Miyazaki." He continued, “At Pixar, when we have a problem and can not solve it, we often watch a copy of one of Mr. Miyazaki’s films for inspiration. And it always works! We come away amazed and inspired.” Lasseter also recorded an introduction for the movie on TCM and later presented Miyazaki with an honorary Oscar in 2014 (above).

11. IT WAS ADAPTED INTO A STAGE PLAY.

Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli apparently received numerous requests from theater groups around the world begging for permission to adapt Princess Mononoke for the stage. All of them were denied, until the UK troupe Whole Hog Theatre approached. Its version was deemed weird enough by Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, who approved the pitch. Whole Hog Theatre sold out its limited run of Princess Mononoke in 72 hours, a full nine months before the show even opened. The production migrated to Tokyo the following year, where it played to even larger crowds.

12. IT INSPIRED A CANADIAN MUSIC VIDEO.

The Canadian indie rock band You Say Party paid homage to several Miyazaki films in its music video for “Underside.” But Princess Mononoke got perhaps the biggest shout-out due to the location. Jeremy Rubier shot the video on Yakushima, an island famous for its ancient forests. It also directly inspired the woodland setting for Princess Mononoke. See if you can spy the similarities—or any stray kodama—in the video.

13. THE MOVIE IS SECRETLY ABOUT LEPROSY.

Princess Mononoke fans have long touted a theory about the workers in Iron Town. When Ashitaka first meets them, they explain that they fled brothels for the Iron Town factory, because it’s one of the few places where they are accepted. Several are covered from head to toe in bandages. Although the Japanese script says they suffer from “gyobyo” or “an incurable disease,” the fan theory claims they’re actually afflicted with leprosy. Miyazaki finally responded to this idea in January. And his verdict? It’s all true.

Ahead of World Leprosy Day, the director confirmed that the disease and how people live with it were his inspiration. “While making Princess Mononoke, I thought I had to depict people who are ill with what’s clearly an incurable disease, but who are living as best they can,” he explained. He apparently even visited a sanatorium in Tokyo to talk with patients about their experiences.

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