This month, we have a new imaginary playmate at our house: Totoro. He’s big (like Dad), he’s soft (like Dad), and he snores when you sleep on his belly (yes, just like Dad!).
Thanks to a review opportunity, my kids were introduced to the magic in the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and the films have become fast favorites.
Miyazaki’s first co-release with Disney was last year’s Ponyo. This story, which takes inspiration from the story of The Little Mermaid, follows a little boy named Sosuke and his adventures after he finds a little human-faced fish on the beach – that’s Ponyo. Ponyo is magical, as the daughter of a sea wizard and a sea witch, and she can turn herself into a human and enjoy the life on land. My kids were captivated by the fantasy, but the story line was not as complex as the other films – this was probably the best fit for three-year-old GoGoGirl.
Of all the four, without a doubt, my kids’ favorite is Totoro. In this story, two little girls move to a house in the country with their working father, while their mother is recuperating in a hospital in the city. The girls explore the country and find all kinds of wonderful, magical creatures including the giant, silent, lovable Totoro, the mischievous dust sprites, and even a giant cat that’s also a bus. The hand-drawn fantasy of this movie is charming, and the relationships between the sisters and their parents and the neighbors are touching. It was a perfect fit for both my kids, and MechDaddy and I enjoyed it just as much.
We also enjoyed watching Castle in the Sky, which is better for a slightly older audience – my seven-year-old KarateKid loved it but three-year-old GoGoGirl didn’t follow it as closely. In this film, a young boy meets a girl floating down from the sky with a mysterious amulet around her neck, and they have to discover the meaning of the necklace while searching for a floating castle, Laputa. This film is more action-packed than Totoro, complete with sky pirates and government agents, and has a more complex plot.
Kiki’s Delivery Service was quite good for both kids. In this story, Kiki, a young witch, has to leave home, as all 13-year-old witches do, to continue her training and make her place in the world. It’s a coming-of-age story, but one filled with broomstick swooping and a funny little black cat. It may have edged out Totoro as my personal favorite of the four!
Ponyo was released this week onto Blu-Ray, and all four films were released to DVD as well. All of the discs contain a wonderful set of bonus features including interactive areas made for the kids to explore the magical worlds of these four movies. I can only hope that the other Miyazaki films will soon be remastered and re-released here too.
These films were provided to me by Click Communications and Walt Disney Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinions above are the honest opinions of my family.