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A Wonderful Antidote to Disney
on May 22, 2000
This is not only one of my favorite childrens films, it's one of my favorite films period. This movie is truly magical. It achieves what Disney movies never do -- a wonderful story without the need to resort to evil villains or wise-cracking side kicks. In fact, two of the things I find most striking and refreshing about My Neighbor Totoro is the use of images rather than dialogue to propel the plot and the slower, almost contemplative, pacing of the action. (This is one children's movie that won't blare from your TV or yammer at your children!) The first time I saw this movie I watched a friend's pirated VHS tape in Japanese. I was instantly mesmerized and was completely able to follow the story, despite the fact that I did not understand a word the characters said.
And don't be put off because it is "japanese animation." This is not your father's japanese animation. The images of the tranquil countryside are sumptuous. Miazaki's attention to the little details of life, like a leaf floating in a stream or raindrops tapping an umbrella, evoke the simpler, purer times of childhood. The children's discovery of the totoro spirits in the old camphor tree recalls a time in every child's life when magic seems possible in the mundane world. As with other Miyazaki films, there is a thrilling flying sequence. However, this film is more appropriate for younger viewers than most of his other works, some of which are decidedly adult in nature despite the fact that they are animated.
As the mother of a toddler, I really appreciate the refusal to rely on cliche villians to keep the plot moving. However, I should warn other parents considering this video that the conflicts used to keep the plot moving -- the children's discovery of and search for the dust bunny and totoro spirits and Mei's desire to see her sick mother in the hospital which causes her to lose her way in the countryside -- might be upsetting to the littlest viewers without some parental company and discussion. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie whether you're 2 or 200.