My Neighbor Totoro (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

February 27, 2010 by  

A magnificent Hayao Miyazaki film with gorgeous animation and painted backgrounds and an enjoyable film for the entire family.  If you have never seen this classic animated film, this special edition of “My Neighbor Totoro” features a ton of special features and is definitely worth owning!  A magnificent DVD release!

Image courtesy of © 1998 Nibariki/Disney. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: My Neighbor Totoro

DURATION: 88 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescren (1:85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions, English Dolby Digital Sound, Japanese and French Language Tracks, Subtitles: English and French

COMPANY: Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment


Release Date: March 2, 2010

Created, Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Storyboards by Hayao Miyazaki

Music by Joe Hisaishi

Art Director: Kazuo Iga

Animation Director: Yoshiharu  Sato

Director of Photography: Hisao Shirai

Executive Producer: Yasuyoshi Tokuma

Producer: Toru Hara

Anime Production by Studio Ghibli

Featuring the following voice talent:

Chika Sakamoto/Dakota Fanning as Mei Kusakabe

Hitoshi Takagi/Frank Welker as Dai-Totoro

Noriko Hidaka/Elle Fanning as Satsuki Kusakabe

Shigesato Itoi/Timothy Daly as Tatsuo Kusakabe (Mei & Satsuki’s father)

Tanie Kitabayashi/Pat Carroll as Granny

Toshiyuki Amagasa as Kanta

Visionary and Academy-Award®-winning* director Hayao Miyazaki has created a heartwarming, music filled and wonderful world in My Neighbor Totoro: Special Edition, a delightfully animated family adventure. And now—exclusively in this 2-Disc Special Edition DVD—never-before-seen bonus features reveal even more of Totoro’s fantastic world! Follow the adventures of Satsuki and her fouryear- old sister Mei when they move into a new home in the countryside. To their delight, they discover that their new neighbor is a mysterious forest spirit called Totoro—who can be seen only through the eyes of a child. Totoro introduces them to extraordinary characters—including a cat that doubles as a bus!—and takes them on an incredible journey. Bring home My Neighbor Totoro: Special Edition for your family’s DVD library and experience the timeless classic film critic Roger Ebert calls “one of the very few that come along that are magical for all ages.”

Hayao Miyazaki, the most prominent Japanese filmmaker who has created animated films that not only broke Japanese box office records but has created animated films that reflect upon nature, technology, family and more.  Compared to the accomplishments of Walt Disney, Miyazaki is a filmmaker who has amassed a respect from his fans worldwide and his animations studio, Studio Ghibli, continues to be one of the most appreciated and respected animation and production studios in the world.

In 1988, wrote and directed the animated classic “My Neighbor Totoro” (Tonari no Totoro) which won the Animage Grand Prix Award in 1988 and was brought over to the United States from Fox Video/Streamline on VHS in the ’90s and on DVD in 2002.  When their rights expired, Disney picked up the rights to the many of the Studio Ghibli films and redubbed the film featuring major Hollywood talent and re-released the film on DVD in 2006 but this time with both an English and Japanese audio track.

Here we are in 2010 and with Miyazaki’s latest film “Ponyo” being released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 2nd, Disney will also re-release Studio Ghibli classics such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Castle in the Sky” and “My Neighbor Totoro” special editions on DVD.

“My Neighbor Totoro” is a film that takes place in 1958 and is about the Kusakabe family which include university professor Tatsuo Kusakabe  (voiced by Shigesato Itoi/Timothy Daly) and his daughters, 10-year-old Satsuki (voiced by Noriko Hidaka/Dakota Fanning) and 4-year-old daughter Mei (voiced by Chika Sakamoto/Elle Fanning).  The family has moved to a rural area in Japan to be closer to a hospital where their mother Yasuko (voiced by Sumi Shimamoto/Lea Salonga) is trying to recover from her illness.

When the daughters check out the house, they discover the home is filled with susuwatari (dust bunnies/creatures) and try to move to dark places of the house.   They are greeted by Granny (voiced by Tanie Kitabayashi/Pat Carroll), the landlord of the house and grandmother of a young boy named Kanta (voiced by Toshiyuki Amagasa/Paul Butcher), a boy who is a neighbor and soon-to-be classmate of Satsuki.

The family carries on life in the country but for young Mei, one day while playing outside, she sees two rabbit like creatures in the grass.  When she goes to follow them, she ends up finding this very large creature which she names “Totoro” (voiced by Hitoshi Takagi/Frank Welker) and falls asleep on him.  When Satsuki finds her, she is alone but Mei tells her about this big creature she saw.  Of course, Satsuki doesn’t quite believe her at first but their father tells them that Totoro is a keeper of the forest.

One rainy night as the daughters wait for their father to return by bus and doesn’t arrive, while Mei is fast asleep on Satsuki’s back, Totoro shows up and Satsuki sees the creature for the first time as he is protecting himself with a leaf from the rain.  She offers him her father’s umbrella and happy about the umbrella, he gives her some nuts and seeds.  Meanwhile, we see what Totoro is waiting for as a big bus-shaped giant cat (voiced by Naoki Tatsuta/Frank Welker) comes to pick up Totoro.

While Satsuki and Mei are overjoyed by seeing Totoro and other creatures, they are struck by bad news when they find out their mother will not be coming home from the hospital and both girls now worry that she may die and take the possibility of that happening very hard.

But on one day, young Mei is missing and it prompts Satsuki and the entire village to search for Mei.  What has happened to her?


“My Neighbor Totoro” is just an amazing animated film which I first watched back in 1993 (in Japanese, no subtitles) and at the time, although I didn’t know what was going on, I was simply in awe with the animation.  Of how beautiful the artistic backgrounds were.  The village and its lush green, to the painted detail on the trunk of the trees to even the ground during rainy weather, I was impressed. Now, the film is 22-years-old and watching it again, the film still holds up remarkably well today.

The film is presented in widescreen (1:85:1) – enhanced for 16×9 televisions.  Colors are vibrant and one can only hope that Disney releases the film via HD on Blu-ray.

As for the audio, audio is clear and understandable.  The film is presented in English Dolby Digital Sound and also includes the Japanese and French language tracks.  It’s important to note that fans of the film have heard two different English dubs of “My Neighbor Totoro”, the FOX Streamline dub and the current Disney dub.  Both are well-done but the difference is that in the Fox dub, the characters of Mei and even Kanta sound much older.  While in the Disney dub, Kanta sounds a bit more younger.  It’s a matter of preference as both English dubs are done very well but its important to note that the Fox/Streamline version is out of print long ago and the DVD never came with the Japanese track or special features.  Nevertheless, for those new to “My Neighbor Totoro”, I’m sure they will enjoy the voice acting by the Fanning sisters.

Subtitles are in English and French.


“My Neighbor Totoro” comes with the following special features on a second DVD disc.  Included are:

  • Original Japanese Storyboards – (1:26:16) – Watch the entire film but this time with the video showcasing the original storyboards.
  • Creating My Neighbor Totoro – (2:59) Hayao Miyazaki talks about how he came up with the concept of “My Neighbor Totoro”.
  • Creating the Characters – (4:22) Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about the characters of “My Neighbor Totoro” and how “E.T. was an influence.
  • The Totoro Experiencing – (2:00) Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about how the film didn’t do well in the box office but when it aired on television, it did remarkably well.
  • Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli – (1:22) Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki talks about how the named “Ghibli” came about.
  • The Locations of Totoro – (28:34) An excerpt from a Japanese documentary on “My Neighbor Totoro” and visiting the areas that inspired Miyazaki to create the village of Totoro.
  • Scoring Miyazaki – (7:17) A featurette about Joe Hisaishi’s scoring Miyazaki films and more.
  • Original Japanese Trailer – (1:50) The original Japanese theatrical trailer.
  • Behind the Microphone – (5:41) Featuring the English dub voice talents talking about their role, their appreciation for Miyazaki and his films.  Also, behind-the-scenes of the talent recording their voices.
  • Ponyo – Creating Ponyo – (3:56) Hayao Miyazaki talks about the creation of “Ponyo” and wanting to create a film for young children.
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service – Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service –  (2:27) Hayao Miyazaki discussing the creation of “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and what inspired Miyazaki for the creation of the city in the film.
  • Castle in the Sky: Character Sketches – (2:37) Miyazaki talks about the characters of “Castle in the Sky” and discussing how his audiences are loyal to his films over time.
  • Enter the Lands – Visit the land featuring various small animated Studio Ghibli characters (from all films).  Click on a character from that film (note: only “Ponyo”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Castle in the Sky” are available) to get a Q&A or a small video info. of that film and its characters.


Also, included is a postcard featuring Satsuki and Totoro at the bus stop.

I absolutely love “My Neighbor Totoro”.  From when I first saw it in Japanese (which I didn’t understand at the time) at a Japanese animation club screening back in 1993 and now watching it over 15-years-later and watching it alongside with my son.  There is this captivating quality with Miyazaki’s characters, his enjoyable to sometimes serious screenplays and Studio Ghibli always delivering when it comes to quality.

And when you consider how a lot of animated films today are 100% CG animated, when you see a Miyazaki film, you know that he doesn’t follow the mainstream.  He makes the kind of films that he wants and for the most part, every film that I have seen from Studio Ghibli, I’ve been more than satisfied.

I remember watching “My Neighbor Totoro” and enjoying the lively moments from the beginning but having seen his animated films “Nausicaa”, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” and even “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, as his films are happy and humorous, by the final half of the film, the story definitely shifts to a serious tone and in this film, it does get a bit serious when both Satsuki and Mei facing the probability of their mother dying in the hospital.  These are genuine emotions that these two young girls feel but at the same time, what transpires afterward was captivating and how the film ends, Miyazaki definitely knows how to wrap up a film and make you feel content and satisfied with overall story.

“My Neighbor Totoro” is a wonderful family film and by no means is it scary.  For the parents, this film is among the more lighter-toned Miyazaki films out there.  Miyazaki has mentioned in interviews that he created “My Neighbor Totoro” for the children while his latest film “Ponyo” was more of him wanting to create a film for even younger children.  But for the most part, if you want to introduce a Miyazaki film to your children, “My Neighbor Totoro” is a great place to start.

But the big question for many people is if “My Neighbor Totoro” is worth the investment, especially if you own the 2002 and 2006 DVD releases.  If you own the 2006 Disney DVD, there are a large number of special features on this 2010 release that are not included in the 2006 DVD but if you are not into special features, then its probably not worth buying it again.  But for those who have never owned the DVD, let alone only have that old Fox/Streamline VHS or DVD, then yes its definitely worth it!  I know there are some fans who prefer the original dub from the old Fox/Streamline years but that release was pretty much barebones.  Yes, I still have my old copy of “My Neighbor Totoro” and I did enjoy the original dub a lot but personally, with this newer release, you get the Japanese audio track and plenty of special features that were not included in the 2006 DVD release as well.

Overall, this 2010 “My Neighbor Totoro” DVD release is fantastic.  A great film with a lot of new bonus content.  Highly recommended!

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