Thursday, 26 November 2015

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Two girls and their father move house.  Later, the girls wait for a bus.  The next day they plant some acorns.  At the climax of the movie, they go on a bus ride.

I'm deliberately exaggerating the mundanity of the events in this film, of course.  I mean, from the DVD picture above you can probably guess that it's not quite as prosaic as those events would make it sound.

And yet those are signature sequences of the film.  "Waiting for the bus" occupies a good 5-10 minutes of screen time and most of it really is just standing by the side of the road.  That those 5-10 minutes are still engaging and entertaining speaks highly of the film's craftsmanship and of the writing's ability to capture the wide-eyed wonderment of childhood.  Not to mention its ability to make you wish, even if it is just a little bit, that you could see the magical creatures that live at the end of the garden.

This is one of the films that built the reputation of Studio Ghibli in its native Japan, and one of the films that made director Hayao Miyazaki a strong influence on John Lasseter of Pixar.  It is no accident that Pixar's success in the industry has been followed by a the rising visibility of Miyazaki's films to western audiences, in the shape of newer releases such as Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.

If you want to see the work that inspired the minds behind Toy Story and WALL-E, this is a fine place to start.

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