Departing from the action-oriented plots of his previous films (NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND and LAPUTA, CASTLE IN THE SKY), Japan's most beloved animator, Hayao Miyazaki, provides a slower-paced, stunningly realistic portrayal of life in the countryside. When their mother is hospitalized because of an unspecified illness, two young sisters spend a summer in the Japanese countryside with their father. The children's strange new environment turns out to be a natural wonderland filled with exotic real-life creatures and a trio of furry, woodland sprites who can only be seen by children. The film evokes both the terrors and wonders that children can experience unbeknownst to adults--a feeling the young Miyazaki knew only too well after his mother was hospitalized because of spinal tuberculosis. With homages to ALICE IN WONDERLAND and MARY POPPINS, the second film from Studio Ghibli delighted audiences and put the young animation studio on firm financial footing.
Hayao Miyazaki - Japanese director, SPIRITED AWAY
Two young sisters move to the Japanese countryside with their father, while their mother recuperates from an unspecified illness back at the city hospital. The children's strange new environment turns out to be a wonderland of living beauty that the two investigate with both curiosity and excitement. In addition to the exotic real-life creatures they encounter, a furry woodland sprite (who can only be seen by children) introduces them to a fantastic realm of tricks and possibilities.
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO was released in Japan as a double feature with GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, by director Isao Takahata, with whom Miyazaki founded Studio Ghibli. The idea was to attract schoolchildren to come see FIREFLIES for its historical content. The character Mei in TOTORO is four years old, about the same age director Hayao Miyazaki was when his mother was hospitalized. The movie is set in Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture (Miyazaki's home), before urbanization transformed the farming community. When he started thinking about the film, Miyazaki stated that he wanted to avoid the "kids against adults" plots that often dominated anime films. Totoro is an entirely made-up creature, though people from many different cultures claim to recognize Totoro in their own folklore. Reknowned Japanese director Akira Kurosawa included TOTORO in a list of 100 films he considered the best. It was one of the few Japanese films on the list. In 1990, Studio Ghibli began to allow merchandisers to create stuffed toys and other products using Totoro. The success of Totoro goods is comparable to the popularity of Disney's merchandise.
"...[When the film] is dispensing enchantment, it can be very charming....Visually very handsome..." - 05/14/1993 New York Times, p.C14
"...MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO has become one of the most beloved of all family films....This is one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki, often called the greatest of the Japanese animators..." - 12/23/2001 Chicago Sun-Times, p.4
"[A] gentle, haunting fantasy rooted, as the best fantasy films are, in a strict psychological realism." - 03/14/2006 New York Times, p.E9
"[I]t beguiles from beginning to end....What sticks with the viewer is the every-kid credibility of the girls' actions as they work, play and settle into their new surroundings." - 06/01/2006 Sight and Sound, p.89
"The world the characters inhabit is less expressionist than impressionist, blessed with a delicate evocation of natural light and color that subtly incorporates Miyazakis environmentalism." -- Grade: A - 05/22/2013 A.V. Club
"The film moves freely between delicately observed adolescent emotion and wondrous imagery." - 05/24/2013 Entertainment Weekly