The first of Hayao Miyazaki’s films to be acclaimed by an international audience was My Neighbor Totoro in 1988. While many of his subsequent films have grown in sophistication featuring more expansive stories with more elaborate animation, the filmmaker’s special way of looking at the world through innocence and goodness (even with evil sometimes present) is established from the very first moments of his story here. In its whimsical, mystical view of the world through the eyes of two young sisters, My Neighbor Totoro is certainly something special and launched one of the most widely revered careers in the field of animation.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDkeep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 05/21/2013
With his wife in the hospital suffering from what may be tuberculosis, Professor Kusakabe (Shigeru Chiba/Tim Daly) and his two young daughters Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka/Dakota Fanning) and Mei (Akiko Hiramatsu/Elle Fanning) move into a rustic home near a magical forest and begin new lives for themselves. The girls have a terrific time exploring their new environment and are delighted with the many sprites and gremlins that inhabit the region but who only can be seen by the young and innocent. Tops on their list of discoveries is the mighty, furry king of the forest Totoro who lives in the top of a camphor tree and watches over the girls. When word comes from the hospital that the mother won’t be returning home at a previously designated time, four-year old Mei gets very upset and runs away trying to find her way to the hospital by herself to see that her mother is all right. The Kusakabes and their neighbors all join to search for the missing girl.Working on a tight budget, the filmmakers use animation here that is less refined and eye-popping than that which will be found in much later efforts, and yet even with these limitations, there are some spectacular scenes: the “tunnel of trees” the girls must climb through to get to the magical camphor tree that’s at the center of the forest, the spectacular sunsets captured in all the animators’ glowingly pastel glory, and an approaching storm with a subsequent rain which is just a thrill to witness unfold. Hayao Miyazaki’s story captures the essences of a childhood of bygone years: when children could make their own fun using their imaginations to explore their new house (their squeals of delight as they find the hidden stairs leading to the attic, their sense of joy as they pump water for the first time or find tadpoles in the creek) and take treks through the forest sometimes just the two of them and sometimes with their father who’s the living embodiment of a great dad indulging their imaginations and extending their sense of wonder at all that nature has to offer. With Miyazaki’s vivid creative juices flowing, we have a cat bus (an enormous eight-legged creature who can scoop the girls up and carry them wherever they want to go) and soot sprites (dirty little balls of soot that inhabit an abandoned residence and leave if the new owners display a sense of joy at being there). The basic story is thin with only a momentary conflict when Mei goes missing, but the sense of wonderment is so strong that the film entrances without a strong central story. The imagery and the characters are more than enough.Both the Japanese and new English-language cast (recorded in 2005; Troma released a different English language dub before Disney redid it) are equally effective. The Fanning sisters have a great rapport with one another which comes through clearly in the recording, and Tim Daly is a loving and jovial father figure who makes the chore of adjusting to a new life in a new place a game that the girls willingly participate in. Shigeru Chiba sounds a little older as the Japanese father in the original version but no less successful while Noriko Hidaka and Akiko Hiramatsu also nicely perform the two sisters in the original language track.
The Production Rating: 4/5
Making Acorns Grow
Totoro at the Bus Stop
The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The pastel colors used in the animation are strong and fresh appearing belying the age of the original work. The lines used in the animation are rock solid and show no signs of shimmering. There is also no banding to be seen anywhere in the transfer. If used, the white subtitles are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
Both the Japanese and new English language dub are presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes. Both tracks are equally effective though obviously lacking some of the power and punch of some of Miyazaki’s later films (the storm sequence comes across nicely nevertheless). Dialogue is always easily discernible and as always Joe Hisaishi’s wonderfully haunting score is a great complement to the visuals.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Film in Storyboards (1:26:22, HD): the film may be watched with the original storyboards in place of the animation.Creating My Neighbor Totoro (2:58, HD): director Hayao Miyazaki explains the purpose behind the film and why he set it in a pre-TV Japan.Creating Characters (4:24, HD): producer Toru Hara and director Hayao Miyazaki discuss the characters in the film and why Totoro was not introduced at the beginning as was the original plan.The Totoro Experience (2:00, HD): producer Toru Hara discusses the huge audience for the first TV broadcast of the film and a plush toy giveaway than turned into something of a nightmare.The Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli (1:23, HD) producer Toru Hara explains where the name for the studio originated.The Locations of Totoro (28:38, SD): the most substantial extra on the disc, actress Tsuruta takes us on a tour of the Sayani Hills which were the inspiration for Miyazaki’s characters, setting, and story.Scoring Miyazaki (7:18, HD): producer Toru Hara introduces us to composer Joe Hisaishi who discusses his inspirations for musical themes for this film and subsequent films by Miyazaki.Japanese TV Spots and Theatrical Trailer (0:53, 1:58, SD): two TV spot ads followed by the theatrical trailer for the film presented in montage form.Behind the Microphone (5:39, SD): the English language cast is shown behind the scenes working on recording their lines and speaking about their experiences of working on the movie years after the fact.DVD CopyPromo Trailers (HD): The Little Mermaid, Monsters University, Iron Man/Hulk: Heroes United, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Special Features Rating: 4/5
My Neighbor Totoro gets details about the innocence and wonder of childhood just right, and this new high definition release of the film offers both the original language track and the new English dub in lossless audio that should please all concerned. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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