Once again we return to the beautiful imagination of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. This week we were lucky enough to sit down to watch and discuss one of his most enduring favourites - 1988's My Neighbor Totoro.
If you've never heard of this film, or seen images of its title character around, we're assuming you live under a rock.
This is an original story by Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki, so there is no author biography for Aly to give us. She had to get creative this week! She instead gives us a rundown of the Japanese philosophy/religion/way of life known as Shinto. While Totoro is not based on Shinto, there are elements of Shinto within the movie and Aly felt it would be an interesting topic to discuss. Please note, this is a brief overview. It is a massive part of the Japanese culture and history and it would be doing a disservice to allow anybody to assume this is an in-depth look at it. But it is very interesting and we recommend you learn more! Aly also lets us in on what exactly IS Totoro. The short answer: a mystery! The long answer: listen to the episode!
On the exact opposite end of the scale she also takes us into the dark world of Totoro conspiracy theories. Did you know that many people believe My Neighbor Totoro is linked to death and a murder?
Sarrah takes over and gives us a rundown of the names involved in this film. She also lets us in on the fact that the entire title sequence was not done with storyboards but relied solely on time sheets (and also explains what those are for non-artsy people).
Sarrah also gives us a belated biography of the famed director Isao Takahata, who passed away in April of this year (2018). We learn a little bit more about how he got started in animation and how he met Miyazaki. His later life is not as documented, but we are hopeful as we reach some of his later works we will have more information on this animation icon to share with you.
Together we discuss an immensely talented voice cast on two continents (for the record: Pat Carroll did NOT voice the Fairy Godmother at any point. Or, at least, it is not on any resume we could fine.), the duel release of Totoro with Grave of the Fireflies, and debunk the myth of a Studio Ghibli theme park a la Disneyland. Although Aly does let us in on the Totoro details at the Ghibli Museum!
Our walk-through includes us mainly exclaiming over how much we loved it and how cute the sisters were, although we do discuss some problematic parenting and why we're not the huuuugest fans of the Catbus (sorry!).
And with that we're off! Call the Catbus, grab your Dad's umbrella and some acorns and let's join our friend and neighbor Totoro!
My Neighbor Totoro Star Rating:
Voice Acting: Full Star - The cast we listened to (the 2006 Disney dub) was incredible. Between the Fanning sister's chemistry and their spirited portrayal of the two main characters there was nothing we could fault. While we can't listen to the original version, we have to believe it was just as amazing.
Script & Story: Full Star - The story is compelling and sweet. The dialogue feels natural and reflects the characters so perfectly, we truly believed every line the two little girls said. It may not have superpowers or take place on another world, but this movie is about life and family and tells those stories incredibly well. The pace never dragged and we were engaged the entire time.
Music & Songs: Full Star - We're still singing the finale song! But credits song aside, the score was so well written. It only stuck out when it was supposed to, and really brought the magic of Totoro to life.
Animation: Full Star - It was fantastic. End of comment.
Style: Full Star - Studio Ghibli's style is always beautiful and almost soothing to watch. The colour palate of this film was beautiful, the character design (except MAYBE Mei) worked so well for each character, and the landscapes were awe inspiring. You could feel the love the animators and Miyazaki had for the Japanese landscape in every frame.