She has the cure!Kim Soo Youn, animator do-it-all at DNA Production Co., has the answer to this previously posted question: what does the leaf on a character's head represent? It turns out that a leaf on the head isn't a disease. Soo Youn confirms that it is a sign that the creature is magical. She points out that the Japanese character Totoro (pictured above in Beijing) has this leaf on his head. Also, these magical characters can often shape shift. That makes perfect sense! The leaf works as a marker of their magical abilities as well as help the viewer keep track of the character as they shape shift. And it looks cool, too. Question answered!
Are there any other symbols in animation like this that confuse you, too?