As I continue on my series of paper card models of memorable characters from Hayao Miyazake’s fantasy movie “My Neighbor Totoro” , we have the Cat Bus. A zany Cheshire Cat look alike morphed into a schoolbus, this 12 legged feline acts as the transportation for Totoro and other unseen forest dwellers. The Cat Bus first appears when Totoro stood beside Satsuki and Mei at the rainy bus stand. Later in the movie the Cat Bus plays an important role in helping to find Mei after the adults in the village failed to locate her. The Cat Bus carried Satsuki as it made the shortest path to Mei, bounding across forests, fields, and even along high voltage power lines.
This paper craft model approximately 1/100 th scale by Sankei comes in a flat album box with 14 cards of different colors with laser-cut parts. The instructions are all in Japanese but a careful study of the diagrams, and by marking off the labelled parts as assembly proceeds will help reduce any confusion. The edges of the card form the main surface of the model, using contour lines to define the shape of the model.
Construction starts with the core of the cat’s torso. Since all subsequent layers depend on the alignment of these first few parts, I took time to get the two core plates to line up with each other as well as with the base (which eventually forms the underbelly of the cat). I leave this core to dry properly before adding the subsequent layers.
As I add the layers that form the main torso, the limbs also begin to take shape.
Then the torso is flipped over and then the 12 limbs and tail are slowly built up layer-by-layer. It is fun to see the limbs “pop” out as you build the layers. The tail is a barrel of circular card stocks with a plank core. The cat’s torso is completed after this.
The bus cabin shell is also made from layers of brown card stock. Careful alignment is required to help form the curve of the cabin roof. Two card templates are provided to align each subsequent layer to ensure adherence to the final shape required.
The outer walls of the bus are orange in color and are added onto the original brown shell. The bus cabin structure is completed.
At this time, it is easier to add in Satsuki’s figure. This delicate little figure is made from two pieces of card, measuring less than 3/4 inch tall.
The finishing touches to the bus cabin include the four signaling mice, the destination plate (there are two to choose from) which says “Mei”, and the molding for the front and rear windshields.
The cabin shell is then installed onto the torso.
After this, the cat’s head and face is constructed. You can see the plain green oval base that comes with the kit. I only intend to use the supports but not this base.
Starting with a plane plywood oval base, I apply lightweight plaster and carefully raise the center just enough to support the two support planks that come with the kit. While the plaster is still soft, I make the cross-shaped imprint onto it and leave it to dry. Once dry I apply Tamiya XF69 NATO Black as a base layer, and then highlight with Tamiya XF52 Flat Earth.
Once the base plaster is properly dry, I attach the card supports from the kit.
Using Noch’s dark green hedges (found in railway supply section), I surround the supports and then line the other hedges length wise to simulate the rows of tea bushes that Cat Bus may be dashing lightly over.
I sprinkled green grass powder onto diluted white glue around the outer edges of the oval base, and then mounted the Cat Bus over the “tea bushes”. Now Cat Bus is dashing off to look for Mei!