He’s no Mr. Rogers; it’s time for this week’s Movies You Have Not Seen But Should!
My Neighbor Totoro
Welcome back to “Movies You Have Not Have Seen….But You Should”. Throughout this month of September, we are celebrating the “Month of Miyazaki” in honor of acclaimed writer, animator, producer and director from Japan, Hayao Miyazaki. As we do, we will highlight four of Miyazaki’s films. This week, we will look at the 1988 classic: My Neighbor Totoro.
This film is set in 1958 Japan. University professor Tatsuo Kusakabe (voiced in the English version by Tim Daly, best known as the voice of Superman/Clark Kent in Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League & Justice League Unlimited, and was the star on the 90s TV show Wings) and his two daughters Satsuki Kusakabe (voiced by Dakota Fanning, who is best known for her roles in the films Man on Fire, War of the Worlds & Twilight Saga) and Mei Kusakabe (voice by Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota and known for her roles in such films as Daddy Day Care, We Bought a Zoo & Super 8) travel to the country to live in a old house. This house is near a hospital where Satsuki & Mei’s mother is recovering from a long illness.
As the girls spend more time in the house, they begin to encounter some funny and interesting things. These include dust creatures susuwatari that inhabit the house before leaving the family to go find another empty house. Mei (and then later Satsuki) encounters a couple of tiny magical creatures which leads to a huge magical creature which is dubbed by Mei as Totoro (voiced by Frank Welker, best known as the voice of Megatron in the classic Transfromers cartoon and as Fred Jones in classic Scooby-Doo cartoons). The film then goes into the magical adventures that Satsuki & Mei have with Totoro along with dealing with a mother who’s ill.
The film also features the voices of Lea Salonga, Pat Carroll and Paul Butcher. It was initially released in Japan in April of 1988. It actually was released at the same time (and on the same bill) as the film Grave of the Fireflies. There were two English dubbed versions of this film. The first was released in 1993 under the title My Friend Totoro with a different voice cast. The newer version was released in 2005 with Disney handling the North American release. The film was well received by critics with a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Fun fact: if you look closely while watching Toy Story 3, you will see stuffed Totoro plush doll make a cameo.
My Neighbor Totoro is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. It is one of Miyazaki’s early works but still holds up today. I would recommend you add this to your film collection. It’s another great Miyazaki film that you may not have seen, but you should.