My Neighbor Totoro Review

With three separate takes - all glowing - on Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) already on the site it seems a little unnecessary to again try to describe the joys of viewing this animated classic. We spell the word "neighbo(u)r" differently but Dave Foster (review), Anthony Nield (review), Eamonn McCusker (review), and I all have great affection for the Studio Ghibli film. And I'm more than content to avoid trying to overdo the verbalizing of exactly what makes this picture so effective. I know that it puts a huge smile on my face any time the enormous Totoro character appears on the screen. Beyond that, I admire its conviction to really not be terribly narrative-driven or manipulative in its handling of the mother's separation from her family. For a cartoon steeped heavily in fantasy, My Neighbor Totoro also has the remarkable ability to seem relatable and humanist, like an Ozu movie where a large catbus suddenly appears at the most opportune time. It's a beautiful fable and maybe the most enjoyable film from its esteemed director - or at least the most culturally impactful.

The Disc(s)

Already released on Blu-ray in the UK by Studiocanal, My Neighbor Totoro now gets its high definition debut stateside with this release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The region-free disc is dual-layered and contained in a package also including a DVD copy of the film.

The film looks pretty great here on Blu-ray. In the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it retains a slight layer of grain, something not necessarily expected of so many of Disney's animated releases. If the colors don't dazzle in brilliant pops then I certainly don't mind since there's no real indication that they necessarily should. This is hand-drawn with a fairly subtle color palette. It looks as good as I've seen it and stands as a definite improvement over the previous DVD iteration. I've not seen the UK BD so I cannot compare but I was perfectly content with viewing Totoro here in high definition.

One has the option of the original Japanese audio in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track as well as French and English dubs, also in DTS-HD MA 2.0 mixes. I went for the Japanese language track and wasn't at all disappointed with the separation. Voices mesh well with effects and the delightful theme song. Volume persists at a solid, consistent pace throughout the viewing. There are subtitles available in English, English for the hearing impaired and French. They are white in color. The DVD listening options are Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in English, French and Japanese.

Original Japanese storyboards for the entire movie, a carryover from previous DVD editions, kick off the bonus material. Also brought over is the "Behind the Microphone" (5:39) piece featuring the American voice cast of Tim Daly, Lea Salonga and the Fanning sisters, Dakota and Elle.

Missing from the original Disney release but found on the 2010 re-issue and now here are a handful of short pieces featuring producer Toshio Suzuki and Miyazaki himself discussing the film. "Creating My Neighbor Totoro" (2:58) has Miyazaki talking about the origins of the story while "Creating the Characters" (4:24) lets Suzuki discuss the distinctive creatures in the film before Miyazaki talks a bit about the the look of the Totoros, the sisters, and the setting.

"The 'Totoro' Experience" (2:00) is Suzuki on the initial box office disappointment and subsequent popularity of the film as Miyazaki then talks briefly about expectations. Suzuki returns in "Producer's Perspective: Creating Ghibli" (1:23), which reveals that the name of the production company is actually Italian rather than Japanese.

An older featurette made for Japanese television, "The Locations of Totoro" (28:38) looks at some of the areas around Tokyo which inspired the look of the picture. Frequent Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi is the focus of "Scoring Miyazaki" (7:18).

The advertised Original Japanese Trailer (00:53) and (1:58) actually contains two previews, including a look at how Totoro was part of what must have been a somewhat strange double feature with Grave of the Fireflies.

Also included are Disney's collection of Sneak Peeks as well as an extras-less DVD copy of the film.

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