The Catbus(ネコバス,Nekobasu?) (referred to in the film as ねこのバス, Neko no basu) is a character in the Studio Ghibli film My Neighbor Totoro, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is a large creature, depicted as a grinning male cat with a hollow body that serves as a bus, complete with windows and seats coated with fur, and a large bushy tail. The character's popularity has led to its use in a spinoff film, toys for children, an art car, and being featured in the Ghibli Museum, among other products and influences.
A window stretches to become a door when a person would like to board it to travel. With its multiple caterpillar-like legs, it runs, flies, bounces, and hops across forests and lakes to reach its destination, making whole rice fields sway in its wake. Its eyes shine a yellow light brightly like headlamps to guide it. Mice with glowing eyes suspended next to its destination sign on its back and from its rear serve as tail lights. The Catbus is seemingly able to take its passengers to any destination they desire, even if the passenger (or the bus itself) lacks the knowledge how to get there; as is the case when Satsuki needed to find her sister, Mei. It is visibly male.
With its large elongated smile and its ability to appear and disappear at will, the Catbus is reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Often used to transport Totoros, in the film it makes an exception to help O-Totoro, the main Totoro, who is also the biggest. O-Totoro calls the Catbus and asks it to help Satsuki find her lost sister Mei. As Satsuki boards it, its destination sign changes to "Mei." After the sisters are reunited, the Catbus volunteers to whisk Mei and Satsuki over the countryside to see their hospitalized mother. After Satsuki and Mei return home, the Catbus finally leaves them, its body fading into the evening shadows.
The Catbus was also featured in the short 20-minute film Mei and the Kittenbus, which is shown only in the Ghibli Museum. In the film Mei, the younger sister, meets the offspring of the original Catbus, which is simply named Kittenbus. It is just large enough to fit Mei inside, and can only stir up dust devils. They fly into the forest with many other cat-based vehicles, including different types of catbuses and cattrains, which are carrying Totoro and many other forest spirits to a catliner, which is depicted as an ancient cat. Mei meets O-Totoro and befriends the catliner, before returning in the kittenbus to her home.
In the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan, there is an exhibit of a large plush catbus, which can be played with and entered by children 12 years and under.
The Catbus was used in a custom map in the popular FPS game Team Fortress 2. The map was loosely based on Mario Kart. In the map, the Catbus circles around the outer edge of the map. It is used as a means of transportation in-game, and as a popular sniping spot.
A species of velvet worm Eoperipatus totoro described in June 2013 was named by the scientists because of its somewhat resemblance to the Totoro Catbus.
The Catbus has been referenced by Anthrocon staff when mentioning it's hotel shuttle service from remote hotels in Pittsburgh. Commenters have suggested that in this instance, "CATbus" would be for "Circulating Anthropomorphic Transit bus".
^Oliveira Ide S, Schaffer S, Kvartalnov PV, Galoyan EA, Palko IV, Weck-Heimann A, Geissler P, Ruhbergh H, Mayer G (2013). "A new species of Eoperipatus (Onychophora) from Vietnam reveals novel morphological characters for the South-East Asian Peripatidae". Zoologischer Anzeiger - A Journal of Comparative Zoology252 (4): 495–510. doi:10.1016/j.jcz.2013.01.001.