It’s rather stunning to discover that My Neighbor Totoro was made way back in 1988, long before the days of CG and all automatic illustration. And perhaps that animation does detract from the overall experience from the film, but if that’s the only reason that it would be a problem, then people simply need to get their taste in order.
In another film from legendary Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki (who made the Oscar-winning film Spirited Away), the film follows sisters Mei and Satsuki, w…o move with their father to the countryside, to spend more time with their mother. They do some exploring and encounter Totoro, a mystical being in the woods that can only be seen by children. Totoro helps the children experience a world of wonder that they never would have previously seen.
The thing that makes this film nice is that it doesn’t resort to tricks or less than wholesome things that kids’ films normally do, like dumping mystery goo on grownups, or insulting someone, and focuses on the kids’ relationship with their father, which is actually pretty good. There’s no character conflicts (either with each other or internally) that anyone has to overcome. It’s a movie that helps capture a child’s imagination without any of the cynical humor of today’s films.
Thankfully, Disney has partnered with Miyazaki (who is ironically known as the “Walt Disney of Japan”) to release this film, along with others, for North American video audiences. While there is some Westernization of the films, like the inclusion of a dubbed English track on the surface, but it’s still an excellent film for kids, and quite possibly the best film for kids I’ve ever seen.
You can go with 2 channel Dolby stereo tracks in English, Japanese and French. Those of you who enjoy the integrity of film will watch the film with its original Japanese soundtrack, and will skip the dubbed version with Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds) and Tim Daly (Wings). There are some scenes that carry over into the other surround speakers, but it’s pretty straightforward stuff.
The colors that appear in the film are reproduced accurately and with a consistent layer of film grain on this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen disc that Disney shows off. Clear as a bell, and without any issues.
The features are pretty similar to those in other Studio Ghibli films. You’ve got the trailer and some Disney previews, along with the storyboards for the whole movie on a second disc, which is pretty cool. The first disc has the isolated opening and closing credits, along with a quick look at the American vocal talent for the role, and it’s kinda funny to see Daly talk about the potential that a young, somewhat toothless Fanning has.
Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro is quite simply a masterpiece of children’s filmmaking. I know and readily admit that I’ve not done it enough justice here, but to watch this and not have to be subjected a lot of other plot devices used in kid’s films is a breath of fresh air and really nice to see. Take your kids away from the CG world for a minute, and get them involved in this one.
Special Features List
- Behind the Microphone with Dakota and Elle Fanning
- Complete Storyboards
- Opening and Closing Animation