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My Neighbor Totoro back to product details

pan and scan
written by KathyBruce January 12, 2005 - 12:31 PM PST
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
I also love this movie and hate the packaging. Let me briefly add that not only is the movie dub only, but it is also pan and scan rather than widescreen, so you see a sadly chopped version of miyazaki's beautiful vision.

A kid's film?! No way! It's for EVERYONE!
written by JTurner1 April 17, 2004 - 9:44 AM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Even the cuddliest of animal characters in most animated films do not often get any cuter than they do in Hayao Miyazaki's fourth film, My Neighbor Totoro. To quickly describe this movie, it is totally AWWWWWWWWWWWW-SOME.

Enthusiastically dubbed into English by Streamline Pictures' Carl Macek (a company who often gets a bad rap on their dubs for Japanese films), this film is based on an original story conceived by Miyazaki himself. It's about two young girls -- bossy, yet confident and sympathetic Satsuki and her younger, mischievous sister Mei -- moving with their somewhat scatterbrained but loving father to a new home in the Japanese countryside. But the place isn't just deserted; wonders galore lie within their household. Tiny, fuzzy black balls of soot (appropriately called Soot Sprites) scatter every nook and cranny of the walls, scared away only by the power of laughter. A tall, luscious camphor tree towers above the other trees in the back yard. And, lastly, the Totoros themselves, absolutely adorable little creatures who look like a cross between a raccoon, rabbit, owl, and guinea pig (a personal bias here, since I owned such a pet who reminds me so much of the Totoros here), live in this very forest, carrying acorns, making huge trees grow at night, and playing ocarinas on the branches of the trees. There is even one really BIG Totoro who sleeps under the tree, who is SOOOO cute, gentle, and soft that you'll swear that he's the equivalent of your pet. (My guinea pig was every bit as sweet as Totoro is; sadly, he died this past year. *sniff!*) Of course, he doesn't just allow Mei to snuggle on his chest. He lets out loud, powerful roars, shake the ground by jumping with full force, grins as wide as a Cheshire cat (but more with warmth and generosity), helps children when they're in trouble, and gives acorns wrapped in bamboo leaves in return for gifts.

The story isn't all hearts and flowers, however. The children have moved primarily to be closer to Shichi Kokuyama Hospital, where their mother resides (a similar thing happened to Miyazaki's mother in real-life). Toward the end of the movie, the girls receive a distressing telegram that their mother could potentially die. Both Satsuki and Mei are extremely traumatized by this as any real child would be if such a situation occurred in their lifetime. What follows is a tearjerking sequence that builds to a truly happy ending which should touch your heart as much as it did mine. This mixture of real-life situations, emotions, and magical discoveries found in your nearest back yard make My Neighbor Totoro feel authentic (even with its fantasy elements). One cannot help but find this quality in any of Miyazaki's films, this one included.

My Neighbor Totoro was not a box office success in either Japan or America, but the film has won over millions of children around the world as well as animation buffs for its gorgeous animation style; the backgrounds are lavishly detailed and imagination is galore in much of the sequences. (It was Kiki's Delivery Service that would catapult Miyazaki's animation company, Studio Ghibli, into box office success status.)

Disney has acquired the global distribution rights for all of Miyazaki's movies, but those for My Neighbor Totoro belong (currently) to Fox Video, which have recently expired. Disney’s new release (due August 31) is guaranteed to be leaps and bounds ahead of the FOX version; if you already own the video, then the current DVD release isn't anything to get excited about. It is only pan-and-scan and lacking with extras (Hello! This is the kind of movie that deserves an even better treatment!) and the Japanese language track is NOT on the DVD. Boo! I can imagine a lot of sub-purists passing this one up, which is a shame, because My Neighbor Totoro is considered a masterpiece with many Anime buffs. (Incidentally, I do not own the DVD; only the video.)

Even with this release's shortcomings, the dubbing is well done, and the overall film still comes across as a highly recommended title to watch. Don't think for a moment that My Neighbor Totoro is solely for children. With a little bit of luck, grown-ups (and those who consider themselves TOO old to be a child anymore) will enjoy it, too.

Supplement to excellent reviews by larbeck and hneline1
written by hamano September 3, 2003 - 7:03 AM PDT
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful
Disney has postponed doing their own (or Pixar's) new version of a Totoro dub, and a Disney DVD release of the film is uncertain. Under the relationship between Ghibli and Disney, Buena Vista Japan has released a DVD of Totoro in Japan, but they licensed the Fox Family/Troma Dub audio and Subtitles for their version. So fans in Japan who opt for the dub audio see the same thing that renters from GreenCine experience.

Troma and Buena Vista Japan compounded things by using the Dub script for the subtitles, instead of providing a more literal translation of the Japanese script, which is what most anime fans prefer. If you watch the Japanese release of Totoro in Japanese with English subtitles, there are scenes with no dialogue that are subtitled with the words from extra English dialogue added by Troma to cover moments of "awkward silence"...

If you're the type that prefers anime in Japanese with subtitles, you're kinda stuck as far as Totoro goes. Even if you're such a rabid fan that you buy a Region 2 capable player to watch the Japanese DVD, you'll just end up reading the flawed English Dub script! Might as well watch the version from GreenCine! The only way to get around this problem is to either learn Japanese or find a fansub that was done by a very conscientious anime fan.


Originally, there was just 1 girl who meets Totoro. If you look at the soundtrack album cover, there she is, standing at the bus stop next to Totoro in the rain, a curious amalgam of the sisters. When the decision was made to split her, the sisters were named Satsuki (Fifth Month) and Mei (May)!

But enough with the hissy fit, what about the film?
written by larbeck June 25, 2003 - 10:02 AM PDT
9 out of 9 members found this review helpful
Yep, I am writing a second review - my first was for the poor packaging for the North America region 1, but this on is about the film itself. A masterpiece. More than ordinary anime, this is animation that Walt would have loved. 24 frames per second of pure beauty, set in the rural area of Miyazaki's hometown of Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture, Japan. Now, the sensei never does sequels but this looks very much like the same world that was in "Spirited Away". Very much a child's tale but enough power to bring this middle-age adult to tears. It will move anyone with an open heart but especially if you ever have know a child who has lost a parent. I can only hope that every child could be comforted by some wonderous spirits that only they can see. Every frame is a work of art. And not just pretty artwork, this animation at it's fineness, no shortcuts, no static pictures with just lips moving. There is some jerkiness is in the running scenes but I am sure that is a stylistic choice, to convey the tension or intensity. And except for being in *mono*, and a English singer with a terrible vibrato replacing the original Japanese singer, this is one of the best English dub I have ever heard. Especially, Cheryl Chase, who you may know as the voice of Angelique in the "Rugrats" series and films. It is unbelievable that the voice of Mei was not a small child in diapers but an extremely talently grown woman. If there was ever a seiyuu (voice actor) who deserved an Oscar, this role was it.

My thanks to Greencine for offering this rental while we wait for a better package, more true to the art for Region 1.

Get it for the kids but be sure to watch it with them. Or at least with your inner child.

SOME INTERESTING FACTS about "My Neighbor Totoro";

Totoros came completely from Miyazaki's imagination. They are spirits of the forest, and a mixture of several animals: tanukis (the Japanese version of racoons), cats (the pointed ears and the facial expressions), and owls (the chevron markings on their chests and the "ooo"-ing sound they make with their ocarinas at night).
The name "Totoro" comes from Mei mispronouncing the word "tororu", which is the Japanese word for "troll". When Satsuki asks her "Totoro? You mean, the Troll in our book?" she is referring to their book "Three Mountain Goats" (The Three Billy Goats Gruff). In the closing credits you can see their mother reading the book to them. In the picture book for the movie you can see the picture on the cover shows a goat running over a bridge while a Totoro-like troll looks up from underneath the bridge.

In Japan, cats are believed to have magical shape-changing powers if they get old enough. They are called "Bake Neko". The Catbus is a Bake Neko who saw a bus, became intrigued by it, and changed itself into a bus. He's Miyazaki's original design, but some wonder if he was inspired by the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. Mei following chibi-Totoro and falling into a hole in a tree is also reminiscent of Alice.

There will be no sequel to Totoro: Miyazaki doesn't like to make sequels, since he isn't interested in continuing what he has already done. Furthermore, Miyazaki said that Satsuki and Mei would never see Totoro again. He intentionally put no picture of them and Totoro together in the ending title. Instead, he put pictures of Satsuki and Mei playing with other children. According to Miyazaki, if the two children had stayed in Totoro's world, they wouldn't be able to return to the human world. Once their mother came home, they became ordinary children. Meeting Totoros once, and knowing that they are there is enough

Susuwatari, Fluffy balls of soot, AKA Makkuro Kurosuke. Little dustbunnies that inhabit unoccupied houses, making dust here and there. After being evicted from the Kusakabe household, moved to the Aburaya bath house and got jobs in Kamajii's boiler room ("Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi" aka "Spirited Away")

A wonderful world where laughter will make the scary dust bunnies go away
written by hneline1 December 30, 2002 - 12:17 AM PST
12 out of 12 members found this review helpful
What a wonderful world where laughter will make the scary dust bunnies go away and even the huge furry creature with the enormous teeth is gentle and helpful. I remember watching this movie as a child and being swept away by the magic -- my favorite things were the dust bunnies (I wanted them to stay and play) and the cat bus (I remember dreaming about all the places it could take me and all the adventures I would have).

Watching this movie as an adult, I am struck by the warm world that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli create. The father and mother love their two daughters and the neighbors are friendly and generous. The story takes place in a beautifully depicted 1940's/1950's Japanese countryside where the water is pumped, hand-tended rice fields are plentiful, transportation is by foot or bicycle, and the phone has no dialer (you have to talk to an operator). Things that look scary at first glance turn out to be amicable. This is a safe haven where children can explore the unknown and learn to trust themselves and the world around them.

If you want to see why people adore Hayao Miyazaki, watch this film. It's considered one of his best and perhaps one of the best children's animations ever. I would say that it's for slightly younger audiences than Spirited Away, and perhaps for slightly older audiences than Panda Go Panda.

My only disappointment is that the DVD is English-dubbed with no Japanese language option, so I still haven't heard the catchy opening theme song in the original language. Oh well. At least the dubbing is quite good.


(Average 8.36)
552 Votes
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