In 1950's Japan Mr Kusakabe, a professor of anthropology,
takes his two young girls Satsuki and Mei to live in the countryside
whilst their mother is in the hospital. There they meet Granny,
a kindly old woman who knows a lot of woodland lore, and her
nephew Kanta. The house they move into is no ordinary dwelling
as the girls find susu-atari, little puff ball soot creatures
who are dwelling in the dark places in the house. Granny tells
the girls that the little spirits are harmless, but the girls
are in for a greater surprise, as in the camphor tree which
stands in their garden Mei discovers a Totoro, which she takes
for a troll but which is really a woodland spirit. Before
the girls know what has happened they are off on adventures
with their new friend Totoro...
is another sweet little tale from the production house Studio
Ghibli and director Miyazaki. This tale has the simplicity
and delicacy of a flower and is a consummate joy to watch.
Although the narrative is deceptively simple, it is free from
violence and evil - the worst things in the film are the little
puff ball sprites and the Totoro, who looks bizarrely like
my cat, cuddly, friendly with not a hint of fear.
a way, it makes it all the more emotionally poignant when
Mei goes missing following the news that her mother isn't
coming home as she has deteriorated, in the hospital. Even
though it turns out that she has only a cold, Mei's distress,
disappearance and Satsuki's search for her nearly brought
a tear to my eye and defiantly softened my hardened heart.
list of characters is small just the girls, their mother and
father, granny and her grandson and that's all you really
need. Whilst there is much for adults to enjoy, this like
most other Ghibli films really should be a family experience.
more Disney has assembled an impressive group of actors to
provide the English audio dub. Dakota Fanning provides the
voice of Satsuki. Of course Dakota is that talented little
girl from the recent War of the Worlds and Spielberg's
Taken. Her younger
sister, Elle Fanning who at the age of only eight has already
been in I am Sam, Taken and Daddy Day Care,
plays Mei. I think these girls are planning to take over the
world before they are twelve. Given their young age they do
a magnificent job of imbuing their characters with real and
rest of the cast is made up of Timothy Daly, who plays the
professor. Daly had the lead role in Diner, but is
most probably better known as the voice of Superman in the
animated series. His on-screen wife, Mrs. Kusakabe, is played
by the very beautiful Pilipino actress Lea Salonga who, although
mainly a theatrical actress and singer, also had previously
provided the voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin
and Fa Mulan in Mulan. Another from the Disney stable
is Pat Carroll who provides the voice of granny; she had previously
provided the voice of the sea witch in The Little Mermaid.
Oddly enough, the actor who has had the most experience gets
the smallest role. If you've ever watched any animated show
then at some point you would have heard the vocal talents
of Frank Welker who plays the most excellent Tortoro. Although,
on one level the role of Totoro could be considered to be
a small role, after all he does not exactly speak, the skill
that Welker brings to his vocalisations imbues the wood spirit
with real life, bringing out his playful non-threatening persona.
are similar to the Porco
Rosso disc, I feel a pattern here. You get
the usual trailers for the film and the Ghibli trailers as
well as a stand alone trailer for Howl's Moving Castle.
There are textless opening and closing titles, which for once
is good as the tracks are very much the kind of sing-a-long
stuff they used to do on Play School and great for
small kids to join in with. As in Porco Rosso you can
watch the whole film either from the finished produce of as
the complete set of storyboards, of course if you really bored
or just want to annoy the kids you can use your angle button
on the DVD to flick between the two throughout the movie.
print is perfect with a very decent stereo English or Japanese
audio track with captions for the hard of hearing.