My Neighbor Totoro, 1988.
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Featuring the voice talents of Tim Daly, Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, and Lea Salonga.
The classic Hayao Miyazaki movie My Neighbor Totoro is on Blu-ray (again) in a new Blu-ray plus DVD edition released by GKids, which has taken over home video distribution of the Studio Ghibli films from Disney.
My Neighbor Totoro is a favorite in my household. Of course, it’s a favorite in many households around the world, and its influence can be seen in many places, such as a cameo by a stuffed Totoro in Toy Story 3. My workplace even has a wall adorned with Totoro artwork.
I’ll confess, though, that when I first saw it, I didn’t appreciate this film as much as I do now. I was too focused on the narrative from a Western perspective – that is, I expected a story that adhered to a more traditional structure, rather than letting My Neighbor Totoro simply unfold in its own way. I advise the same approach, if you haven’t seen it before.
Set in 1958, the film tells the story of two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to be closer to their mother, who is in recovery from an illness. They soon learn that the old house they live in with their father is inhabited by dust spirits, which eventually leave to find a new home. Not long after, they encounter the titular character and embark on a series of adventures with him. When the girls have an argument, however, and Mei runs away, Satsuki must turn to Totoro for help.
My kids, like so many children around the world, are big Totoro fans too, so I asked my ten-year-old son for his thoughts. Here’s what he said of it: “I love the spin on fantasy and the interactions between the kids and Totoro and his friends. I like the undertone of the seriousness of the situation in the background. Not much more to say. I give this one a 27 out of 10.”
Disney dubbed this film in 2005, after the rights to an earlier English dub expired, and cast Dakota Fanning and her sister, Elle, in the roles of the sisters. Tim Daly plays the father while Lea Salonga voices the mother. Frank Welker, who has made a name for himself in the cartoon voice-over business, plays Totoro.
This movie came to DVD in 2006, and again in a two-disc DVD set in 2010, and it was released on Blu-ray in 2013. This new Blu-ray edition from GKids, which is Studio Ghibli’s new home video distributor, includes the movie on DVD as well as a booklet with statements from Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki and Miyazaki.
Here are the bonus features on this Blu-ray:
- Feature-Length Storyboards: This feature presents the movie in the form of Miyazaki’s original storyboards. If you’re really into examining the creative process of bringing a movie from storyboards to the finished form, you’ll want to watch this all the way through (too bad there’s no way to put the movie next to the storyboards), but otherwise, it’s not worth much more than some sampling.
- Behind the Microphone (6 minutes): The English dub cast talks about their work on the film.
- Creating My Neighbor Totoro (3 minutes): Miyazaki talks about the film’s origins.
- Creating the Characters (4 minutes): Miyazaki and Suzuki discuss the inspiration for the sisters as well as the origins of the creatures in the movie, including, of course, Totoro.
- The Totoro Experience (2 minutes): This movie is one of those that didn’t do as well as in theaters as it later did on home video, and Suzuki looks back on that experience.
- Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli (2 minutes): Suzuki looks back on the founding of the studio.
- The Locations of My Neighbor Totoro (29 minutes): The most in-depth of the bonus features, this one is an archival piece featuring Miyazaki showing off the various real-world Japanese locations that inspired the places in the movie.
- Scoring Miyazaki (7 minutes): Composer Joe Hisaishi talks about scoring Totoro and other Studio Ghibli films.
Theatrical trailers and “text-less” credits (the opening and closing credits with just artwork and music) round out the disc.
I don’t have the earlier Blu-ray release of Totoro, but from what I can tell, the bonus features here are the same as those found on that disc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★