The Secret World of Arrietty (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 95 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Japanese; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: SDH, ESL, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Review Date: May 13, 2012
Sickly, quiet, lonely twelve-year old Sho/Shawn (David Henrie in the English version) discovers that a family of tiny people are living under the floorboards of his home. They’re known as “Borrowers” since they borrow items from humans that won’t be missed (sugar cubes, bay leaves, pins, tissues). The Borrower family in Shawn’s house includes Pod (Will Arnett), his wife Homily (Amy Poehler), and their fourteen year old daughter Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler). Shawn finds out his mother and grandmother had suspected the existence of these miniature families and had even built a dollhouse for them to live in, but they could never make contact. Now that Shawn has met Arrietty, he wants them to become friends, even though the code of the Borrowers states that they must leave once they’re discovered. But busybody housemaid Haru (Carol Burnett) isn’t going to make that easy once she captures Homily. Shawn and Arrietty must band together to rescue her mother from her captivity.
The beautifully detailed watercolor-like textures of the animation are a constant delight, but don’t for a minute think that the film is just a pastoral snooze. There are several action scenes (an attack from a monstrous crow, the explorations of the house as Arrietty and her father must scale the levels of the home as if they were climbing mountains, and the exciting search and rescue of Homily), and the story penned by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa based on the book The Borrowers by Mary Norton doesn’t go to expected places which is very refreshing. There’s wonderful invention to the animation as the Borrowers make their way through the house (reminiscent of similar moments behind the walls in Pixar’s Ratatouille), and the details in that exquisite dollhouse made exclusively for the use of the Little People are a real source of delight. The film may also remind viewers of Arthur and the Invisibles though the touch here is more delicate and decidedly more winsome.
All of the voice work is excellent with Bridgit Mendler doing a first-rate job expressing the longing and excitement Arrietty expresses as she makes new discoveries and sets out on new adventures. Carol Burnett gets to screech and cackle as the wily Haru, and Amy Poehler matches her screech for screech as the easily excitable Homily. Will Arnett lends a strong, solid presence as Pod. And David Henrie as a young boy struggling with a heart condition but determined to protect his new friends is admirable.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is offered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is gorgeously saturated but with utmost control to never bloom, and the lines are rock solid with no twitter noticeable at all. There is also no evidence of banding in the image. The white subtitles (if used) are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The disc offers both the original Japanese version of the film and the newly recorded English soundtrack for its stateside release both in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For review purposes, I watched half of the film with each track, and there was no appreciable difference in the superb music placement around the soundstage (the English version does track in the song “Summertime” sung by Brigit Mendler over the closing credits not in the Japanese version) or the outstanding use of ambient sounds that pan through the soundfield from back to front or across from left to right. There’s a bit of directionalized dialogue, too, though most of it is focused in the center channel.
All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
The entire film may be watched with the soundtracks in storyboard layouts rather than completed animation.
A montage of the original Japanese trailers and television spots for the film runs for 13 ¾ minutes.
“Arrietty’s Song” music video is performed by singer and harpist Cecile Corbel and runs for 3 ¾ minutes.
The “Summertime” music video is performed by English language Arrietty Bridgit Mendler and it runs for 3 minutes.
A brief behind-the-scenes interview with Bridgit Mendler about the writing of the song and filming of the music video runs 2 minutes.
The second disc in the package is the DVD version of the movie.
The disc offers promo trailers for Cinderella and Brave.
4/5 (not an average)
The Secret World of Arrietty is an exquisitely animated and emotionally satisfying animated story of friendship bringing another of Studio Ghibli’s creations to American shores. The Blu-ray offers the original and English language versions of the film looking and sounding at their absolute best. Highly recommended!