There are few family films nearly as perfect as Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. It’s a childhood fantasy that deals with growing up, family, and friendship, and is honestly a very whimsical experience. The film seems to have struck a chord with a sect of American audiences since it debuted on DVD here, with the scene of Satsuki and the large Totoro standing outside together in the rain becoming something of a pop culture moment. Totoro himself even managed to make a small cameo in ‘Toy Story 3’, showing just how popular the movie is amongst the Pixar family in Emmeryville. It’s been refreshing to see Disney returning to the Studio Ghibli films over the last few years, restoring and remastering the films to their full glory, and then giving them a stunning blu-ray release. It was only a matter of time until their most popular film here in America finally got the high definition treatment, and thankfully that time is now. Disney has put together a pretty great blu-ray release, with the film looking and sounding better than it ever has, while also giving us a handful of special features as well.
‘My Neighbor Totoro’ revolves around two sisters, Satsuki and and Mei, who leave home and move cross country with their parents, into an old house. Their mother is in the hospital, and the girls don’t quite no how to asses the situation. But as the girls go about their days in the new house, they discover that they aren’t alone here, and discover a group of Totoros, who are adventurous and fun loving creatures who want nothing more to enjoy themselves. But when Mei goes missing, Satsuki sets out to find her sister with the aid of her new friends.
Films like this are few and far between. It doesn’t try to be bigger or smarter than it is, and it’s not setting out to tell an epic or exciting fantasy tale. This film is so special because it captures the fun, whimsy, and wonder of childhood in such a perfect way. Life has a way of rearing its ugly head at the most inopportune of times, and there isn’t a time more confusing for that than when you’re a child. It’s hard to process things when they happen as a kid, because you’re still young and you haven’t really figured out life yet. In a way, this film really delves into that, because Satsuki and Mei are dealing with their mother’s sickness, and they don’t know how to handle it. They lose themselves in a world of imagination, because it’s the only way they can deal with their problems. In a way, many of of do the same as adults now, losing ourselves in books, movies, tv shows, video games, and music, just to forget about the world and the problems around us. That’s what makes this movie so relatable, and honestly, so great. Seeing the film through the eyes of childhood helps us all realize that, in a way, our childhood fears never really go away, they just evolve into new things, and as hard as it is to deal with, your family and friends are always there when you need them the most.
Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning voice Satsuki and Mei, respectively, and them playing sisters really helps bring this characters so well. Having real siblings playing siblings gives their relationship a very great dynamic, one that isn’t as easily replicated in most film and television. They just play off each other so well, and you really come to love and care for these girls, and that’s because of how the Fanning sisters work together. They really carry the movie on their shoulders, and it works.
Disney’s blu-ray of ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ is absolutely stellar in its audio and video department. The movie has never looked or sounded this good. The film has been remastered pristinely, and it’s safe to say the film will never look better than this. The film doesn’t have an exciting 5.1 audio track, because there’s no reason for it to have one. Instead, we’re presented with a lossless 2.0 stereo system, both in the original Japanese soundtrack, and the just as excellent American dub. They’re fantastic to listen to, and it’s great to see these very faithful sound mixes replicated here. The disc also features a nice array of special features, the stand out of which is the entire film in storyboards, which is fun to watch. It’s interesting watching the film this way, but it can only be watched in the original Japanese audio. The disc is rounded out with a slew of short features, which all look into different aspects of making the film, from the characters and music, down to the film’s release and eventually finding an audience on home video, and a look at dubbing the film in America. The features are definitely nice, it would have been nice if they were just a bit longer though, but it’s really not a deal breaker. It all rounds out at about sixty minutes, which is pretty good for a catalog release.
Disney has brought ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ to blu-ray in magnificent fashion. The movie has really never looked or sounded this good, and it features a nice array of special features. This is a must own for fans of the Studio Ghibili films, as well as film fans in general. This is a great film that delves into childhood, or fears, and how to deal with them, and it ranks up there with ‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Stand By Me’, and ‘The Sandlot’ as one of the best films about growing up, and coming of age. This comes highly recommended.
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