The Film (5/5)
The animated cinema of Hayao Miyazaki no longer needs an introduction. Over the last 3+ decades the man, and the studio he help created, Japan's now famous Studio Ghibli have created a near non-stop barrage of animated classics. They range from complex plotted mythological wonders, to simple family tales. The one through-line between then all is the gorgeous hand drawn animation which is both a director and studio trademark. In an age when most mainstream cinema animation has moved into the 3D realm Miyazaki, and in turn Ghibli continue to buck the trend by drawing in some of the most beautiful hand drawn animation committed to film in the last half century.
My Neighbor Totoro is Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 film. It was created concurrently with Isao Takahata's World War II drama Grave of the Fireflies, and released with that film on a double bill. The film is a simple, beautifully animated childhood tale that manages to evoke the emotions of early childhood, and combine them with imaginations of a child creating a film that balances comedy, drama, and fantasy with a slight sense of nostalgia.
The film follows 2 young girls Satsuki and Mei who move to a rural household with their university professor Father to be closer to the hospital where their Mother is currently staying to receive treatment. Upon moving in the 2 girls begin seeing fantasy creatures from soot sprites to Totoro's of varying sizes, and also a bus in form a cat. The film does not have a story in the traditional sense. Rather, it follows the two girls as they live out their days in the new house, exploring the surrounding areas, and finding out all about the magical creatures who populate the area. The film does take a late in the game twist when Mei runs off to join her Mother as the hospital on foot, and the community bands together to search for her.
My Neighbor Totoro is a unique entry in children's cinema. There is no conflict, no real narrative to speak of. The only possible antagonist is Mei and Satsuki's Mother's unnamed illness, which forms a dramatic backdrop to an otherwise uneventful childhood, and even this is only brought up at irregular intervals as not to hammer the viewer over the head with the potential seriousness of the situation.
It is the simplicity of the narrative, combined with that same simplicity in the animation that helps make the film a classic, and helps it stand out in the realm of children's cinema. It never tries to over take the viewer with flashy visuals, or a fast moving tale. My Neighbor Totoro rather decides to move leisurely along from situation to situation allowing the viewer to bask in the atmosphere of a cinematic second childhood.
Disney has presented Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro in a very naturalistic and beautiful 1080p AVC encoded transfer in the films original 1:85:1 aspect ratio. As per Miyazaki's instructions the film was left largely untouched by modern re-coloring and restoration techniques for this transfer. The result of this is a very natural transfer which brings out the look of the original animation greatly. The watercolor-esque color palette of the film truly shines through, blacks are solid, and colors have never looked better. The level of detail are vastly increased from prior editions.
Disney has presented two audio options both DTS-HD Master audio 2.0 one in English and the other in Japanese. Both fit the film quite well, dialogue comes through nice and clear as do FX and score. I did not detect and instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
I'll be honest try as they might, I have never been in love with the extras on Ghibli/Disney disc. A lot of these extras have been ported over from prior editions, but may be of interest. The most substantial extras are an 86 minute display of the films original storyboards, and a 29 minute documentary on the real world locations that inspired the film. We then have a 3 minute interview with Miyazaki on the creation of the film, and a 4 minute interview with Miyazaki and his producer on character creation. We then have a 2 minute interview with the films producer on the making of the film, and another 2 minute interview on the genesis of Studio Ghibli. This is followed by a 7 minute piece called Scoring Totoro that interviews the composer of the film. We then get a 6 minute piece with the American voice cast, and the films trailers rounding the set off.
While not my favorite Ghibli/Miyazaki films (those would be Whisper of the Heart, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Nausicaa). My Neighbor Totoro is an undisputed animated cinematic classic. The A/V restoration is beautiful, and though the extras are lacking the film and restoration make this certainly a worthy pick up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.