Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Featuring the voice talents of Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, Frank Welker, Pat Carroll and Paul Butcher.
Two young girls move to the countryside with their father where they discover friendly spirits living in the forest surrounding their house.
Type 'totoro merchandise' into Google and you'll uncover an abundance of toys, bags, mugs, costumes and hats all branded with the furry creature's face. Spirited Away may be credited with sparking Ghibli fever worldwide, but it's the cuddly Totoro who has truly curled up and left his mark in our hearts. The lovable Miyazaki character has transcended his neighbour role to become a cult figure, cropping up everywhere from hipster jewellery to a cameo in Toy Story 3.
Gorgeous, hand drawn animation has come to be expected of Hayao Miyazaki, and My Neighbour Totoro's storybook aesthetic doesn't disappoint. It's a film in which any randomly selected still could pass for wall art. Rolling green hills, magnificent camphor trees and secret Alice in Wonderland tunnels all combine to produce an idyllic 50s Japan you'll be longing to move into.
In the heart of this bucolic setting are two young sisters. Mei, Satsuki and their father have moved to the countryside to be closer to the hospital where their mother is recovering from an unspecified illness. After arriving at their new home they discover spirits living in the dark corners of their house and in the trees of the surrounding forest. But in this charming world, soot sprites and totoros aren't apparitions to be feared; they are gentle protectors who scurry around the back garden or play music from the treetops.
Simplicity is the key in this film as Miyazaki blends everyday domestics with fantasy. Cleaning, cooking and going to school intersperse the moments of magical tree planting and riding across the countryside in an twelve legged Catbus. More importantly, there isn't a villain in sight. No scary neighbours or cruel teachers, even the Totoro's mightiest roar does no more than ruffle Mei's pigtails and make her squeal with laughter.
This isn't to suggest the film lacks emotional tension; with a parent in hospital, anxiety can sometimes overwhelm the young girls and the absence of their mother carries an undercurrent of disquiet throughout, yet Miyazaki never resorts to excessive sentiment or melodrama in order to manipulate the audience. It's genuine affection and childhood nostalgia that guide our unease and delight.
My Neighbour Totoro is the calm, cool, collected member of the Studio Ghibli family. You won't find the action packed adventures of Princess Mononoke or Castle of Cagliostro, but you will find yourself grinning wider than a cheshire Catbus at this perpetually enchanting story.
A perfect family film whose central character became so loved, he took up residence as the Studio Ghibli logo.
Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★