Director Hayao Miyazaki’s aim with My Neighbour Totoro was to make a film without any real conflict, but still remain engaging for children. In his own words, Miyazaki wanted to make something which was “Peaceful, tranquil and innocent but entertaining”. In doing so, he created one of the most iconic and timeless animated films of all time.
It’s an almost unbearably sweet tale of two sisters exploring the surroundings of their new home. They eventually befriend a large, benevolent forest creature, (named Totoro by the younger sister) while the largely absent father spends his time away at work or visiting the girls’ sick mother. That’s essentially the whole plot of the film; the rest is essentially little vignettes featuring the sisters, Totoro, his little friends and a Catbus – which is exactly what it sounds like.
My Neighbour Totoro is one of the most charming, innocent animated films ever made about childhood. It is still just as captivating and delightful as it was back in 1988, and has a real lightness of touch and an earnestness that is sadly absent from children’s films today – which tend to be either cynical or else overwrought morality tales with not much inbetween. (Pixar come close but even their films are geared at least in part towards an adult audience).
The whole film is infused with a kind of spiritualism, and a sense of the importance of nature, which only adds to the charm. The animation, now taken for granted, is beautifully simple but the characterisation is deceptively detailed. All of the character’s tiny mannerisms are captured perfectly, picking up the most subtle changes in demeanour.
It might not have the emotional weight of something like Grave Of The Fireflies, or the maturity of Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, but My Neighbour Totoro inhabits a category all of it’s own. It’s sweet but not overly sentimental. Charming without being schmaltzy. And at 80 minutes it’s an exercise in restraint, with beautiful animation and an almost hypnotic score by Joe Hisaishi.
Never preachy, never judgemental and always a joy to watch, there is a reason this has endured for so long. It is a uniquely touching film, and watching it today, the charm and simple beauty of the film are just as potent as upon it’s release.
I’ve never been entirely sure about the benefit of getting these older animated films in higher resolution but having watched this I’m sold. The beautifully detailed landscapes look stunning on Blu-Ray, the colours are all more vivid and the whole film looks so much crisper than on DVD.
The Blu-Ray includes all the standard special features you would expect, but most interesting is a series of all too brief interviews with Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki on the making of My Neighbour Totoro. The full list of features is below:
Storyboards; Creating My Neighbour Totoro Featurette; Creating The Characters Featurette; The Totoro Experience Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli; The Locations Of Totoro; Scoring Miyazaki; Behind The Microphone Featurette; Textless Opening & Closing Credits; Trailer & Studio Ghibli Trailer Reel.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the film’s release, My Neighbour Totoro is presented in dual format (DVD and Blu-Ray) in a limited edition box set. Packed in a deluxe oversized rigid box, this is a must have for any Studio Ghibli fan.
This release features brand new exclusive artwork and a hardback copy of The Art Of My Neighbour Totoro book. The boxset also includes art cards, a poster featuring the original Japanese artwork, a tote bag, magnetic sticker set and a Totoro notebook.
This limited edition of My Neighbour Totoro is available on blu-ray from 3rd December 2018