My Neighbor Totoro
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Visionary and Academy Award(R)-winning director Hayao Miyazaki (2002, Best Animated Feature, SPIRITED AWAY) has created a heartwarming, music-filled and wonderful world in MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, a delightfully animated family adventure. And now -- exclusively in this 2-Disc Special Edition DVD -- never-before-seen bonus features reveal even more of Totoro's fantastic world! Follow the adventures of Satsuki and her four-year-old sister Mei when they move into a new home in the countryside. To their delight, they discover that their new neighbor is a mysterious forest spirit called Totoro -- who can be seen only through the eyes of a child. Totoro introduces them to extraordinary characters -- including a cat that doubles as a bus! -- and takes them on an incredible journey. Bring home MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO from Studio Ghibli and Disney for your family's DVD library and experience the timeless classic film Roger Ebert calls "one of the very few that come along that are magical for all ages."
My Neighbor Totoro is that rare delight, a family film that appeals to children and adults alike. While their mother is in the hospital, 10-year-old Satsuki and 4-year-old Mei move into an old-fashioned house in the country with their professor father. At the foot of an enormous camphor tree, Mei discovers the nest of King Totoro, a giant forest spirit who resembles an enormous bunny rabbit. Mei and Satsuki learn that Totoro makes the trees grow, and when he flies over the countryside or roars in his thunderous voice, the winds blow. Totoro becomes the protector of the two sisters, watching over them when they wait for their father, and carrying them over the forests on an enchanted journey. When the children worry about their mother, Totoro sends them to visit her via a Catbus, a magical, multilegged creature with a grin the Cheshire Cat might envy.
Unlike many cartoon children, Satsuki and Mei are neither smart-alecky nor cloyingly saccharine. They are credible kids: bright, energetic, silly, helpful, and occasionally impatient. Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki makes the viewer believe the two sisters love each other in a way no American feature has ever achieved. My Neighbor Totoro is enormously popular in Japan, and some of the character merchandise has begun to appear in America. The film has also inspired a Japanese environmental group to buy a Totoro Forest preserve in the Saitama Prefecture, where Miyazaki's film is set. --Charles Solomon
- World of Ghibli – An Extraordinary Interactive Experience
- Enter the Lands – Meet the characters and hear the story of the movie
- Behind the Studio – Discover the film’s inspiration through documentaries, including all-new interviews with Hayao Miyazaki
- Storyboard Presentation of the Movie
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How does this film compare with Miyazaki's finest films? This is a hard question, because he has a large number clustered at the top, all of them excellent. I would be hard pressed to say this was better or worse than any of a number of others. However, each film is distinguished from the others by the mood and tone of the film. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO may be the gentlest and most peaceful of all his films. True, the girls have moved to the countryside with their father because their mother is in a nearby hospital recovering from a rather vague illness, and the forest is haunted, but the illness is never perceived as especially worrisome (except near the end, when a slight cold prevents her making a brief visit home, provoking a crisis with her daughters), and the spirits in the forest are remarkably benign and benevolent. There is nothing like the ecological apocalypse in THE PRINCESS MONONOKE and NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, or the parents who have been transformed into swine or threatening spirits of SPIRITED AWAY, or the armed conflict in CASTLE IN THE SKY. The world in this film is a loving world, all the way down to a remarkable creature that is a cross between Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat and a school bus (literally).
Miyazaki's animation is truly in a league of its own, and I mean that as strongly as possible. It has been decades since the Disney studios were capable of a fraction of the more challenging sequences that Miyazaki seemingly animates with ease. For instance, the wind and storm the first night the children spend in their new home display effects that Disney hasn't attempted since the more marvelous scenes in BAMBI. The way the wind is portrayed as moving through the tops of the trees, the hint of spraying mist, the manner in which the wind moves like a wave over the grass, the shuttering of the house under the assault of the air, are all things of remarkable artistry. Even more remarkable is that after this brief display of mastery, Miyazaki doesn't feel the need to build a huge storm with rain and lightening, but has the wind subside and give way to brilliant white clouds sailing across a moonlit and starry black sky.
Of all Miyazaki's extraordinary gifts as an animator and a storyteller, his greatest virtue might be his patience, and this is something he holds in common with many of the Japanese animators. American animated films are almost always frenetic affairs, in a great rush to fill the screen with activity, and in a hurry to get to the next part of the story. American animated films seem to be more interested in where they are going than in how they are getting there, while for Miyazaki the journey is the far more important part of the film. Certainly one reason for this is the distrust of the American film industry of the patience of the viewers, as if they are in abject terror of small children squirming in their seats if the story doesn't get a move on. Miyazaki, on the other hand, respects his viewers, and is confident that they won't give up on a film simply because the story moves at a steady pace. In MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, one of the sisters will begin to enter a room, look from one side to the other, take a step, look around again, and gradually and slowly discover what is inside. In many American films, a child would simply explode into the room and that would be it. As a result, every moment of the film becomes a discovery of marvelous and wonderful things.
I would say that this is a very special film by a very special filmmaker, except for the fact that for Hayao Miyazaki special seems to be the norm.
THE STORY: A young husband and his two precocious daughters are relocating to a quiet rural community just a few hours outside Tokyo, in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. They're still close enough for the father to commute to his job, teaching at a local university, and for the girls to be close to their mother, who's slowly recovering from tuberculosis at a nearby hospital. The world outside the city is filled all kinds of amazing discoveries for the two girls: there's a big house that needs lots of TLC in order to be turned from a house into a home, a new school to get used to and new friends to meet... and most amazingly of all, finding that the nearby woods is inhabited by a magical forest spirit: a huge, fuzzy, lovable creature named Totoro.
THOUGHTS: MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is one of those films that doesn't really have a particular plot that's simple or easy to describe. Like so much of the best things in life this film isn't a destination, it's a journey. It's not about what happens so much as how it happens. I first rented this years ago at a video store, not knowing anything about the film. It was my first Miyazaki film, but not my first anime' - so I had some preconceived notions of what to expect. I couldn't have been more wrong, or more delighted. I was spellbound watching the story unfold, enchanted by the incredibly detailed designs of the backgrounds, the absolutely beautiful scenery. It was so richly detailed that it was hard to believe it was hand drawn animation. And the various human characters were so warm and real that I felt like I was watching people I'd known while growing up. The slow-paced nature of TOTORO may be a drag to some, but I think it's one of this film's greatest strengths. It defies traditional anime' expectations in the absolute best possible way. What a wonderful change from the frenzied style of AKIRA, ROBOTECH, and other such action-filled product. They're fine, but TOTORO, in it's charming and disarming, summer lazyday way is equally every bit as impressive. Young or old, any viewer with a connection to his or her inner child should be totally enthralled watching this wonderful movie. It's definitely my favorite Miyazaki film, my favorite anime' by far, and one of my very favorite animated films of all time, ever. Right up there the beloved Disney classics, their modern greats like TOY STORY 1-3, and Warner's IRON GIANT.
THE BLU-RAY: Disney's hi-def release of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, as with their other Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli product, is a strong one. As clean & crisp as you're likely to get for this film. Detail is impressive and the muted color scheme is well-represented. No artifacting, pixelation, edge enhancement or crush (video noise) that I could detect. Soundmix was even and solid. The dubbing job is top notch as well. Bonus features are well-produced and cover much of the world of Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli; detailing his life, the history of the studio and the particulars behind the creation of this film. Good stuff. If you have this on DVD it's a marginal recommend for double-dipping. If you don't then by all means buy this Blu-ray/DVD combo - and give the DVD to a friend that doesn't yet have a Blu-ray player.
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