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My Neighbour Totoro

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A-
What the MPAA Rating should be: G

Directed by: Hayao Miyasaki
Written by: Hayao Miyasaki
Produced by: Toru Hara
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Timothy Daly, Pat Carroll, Frank Welker
Studio: Studio Ghibli

Animated films are typically looked down upon as juvenile, especially those in which children play the protagonists. This is highly unfortunate, because that means that people with that frame of mind will miss the majestically beautiful My Neighbour Totoro. Hayao Miyasaki is an animation genius and My Neighbour Totoro stands as yet another great piece of work from the filmmaker. No animation director in the future will be able to match the carefulness and supervision with which Miyasaki makes his films. He is not only responsible for directing and writing a lot of his works, but also working on the animation. It's also refereshing to see a filmmaker who is not afraid to work with traditional cell animation. My Neighbour Totoro is very refreshing to watch in this CGI-drenched world.

Satuski and Mei, two sisters move to the country with their father to be closer to their mother who is currently in the hospital (Miyasaki cleverly does not explain why so to allow his viewers to think for themselves). While exploring their new house, they discover "soot gremlins" in the kitchen and attic, but those are just the beginning of future magical creatures they encounter. While walking around the garden, Mei meets Totoro a forest spirit who only appears when he wants to be seen. Soon enough, Satsuki meets Totoro and when Mei goes missing, she seeks his help to find her.

The plot doesn't seem like much, but Miyasaki manages to weave a beautiful story with many charming and funny moments. Credit shoudl also go to his screenplay for allowing the relationship between the two sisters to be much more realistic than whatever Disney releases each year on their direct-to-video lineups. The English voice cast allows the film to work well with Dakota and Elle Fanning doing surprisingly effective work. This is proof that they should consider doing more animated films. Meanwhile, regular voice artists Pat Carroll and Frank Welker provide their usual fantastic pipes and Miyasaki regular Joe Hisaishi composes another beautiful and memorable score. However, as with all of Miyasaki's films, the magic comes in the form of the animation which proves that Japan provides some of the best and most beautiful in the world, even rivaling Disney. My Neighbour Totoro is a splendid and impressive film that all families should certainly see as it stands as a wonderful work of art.

Mei lies playfully on the title forest spirit's tummy in Hayao Miyasaki's My Neighbour Totoro.
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