TOTE HOME TOTORO @ 28 March 2010 09:14 AM
As writer/director Hayao Miyazaki explains on the the new subtitled documentary material on this new Special Edition DVD, he was growing dissatisfied with the creative limits of working in television animation, he wanted to create a gentle, enchanting family feature regardless of the potential for commercial success.

My Neighbor Totoro apparently did not smash box office records on the big screen in 1988, but subsequent TV airings made it one of the most popular and beloved films in Japan (not unlike what happened with the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).

Totoro is on the Studio Ghibli movies, an icon status comparable to Mickey Mouse with Disney and Luxo, Jr. with Pixar. But it all started in this film, which in a its second DVD release in the revised Disney English version, which was preceded by an earlier English version released by Fox.

Each Miyazaki feature boasts a voice cast of marquee names as well as top Hollywood voice artists. The "name" talent is seen in brief "behind the microphone" bonus features -- in which you can sometimes also glimpse the strong supporting casts.

Dakota and Elle Fanning turn in superb performances as the young sisters in Totoro, a very crucial element in making the English version work. Also in the cast are Tim Daly as the dad, Lea Salonga as the mom and the wondrous Pat Carroll as the warmhearted Nanny, a sharp constrast to her Ursula character in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

The extraordinary Frank Welker growls as the Totoro himself. Welker, a gifted impressionist who entered voice work as the one and only Fred on Scooby Doo, is perhaps the most heard voice in film and TV today.

The film itself is, to borrow from the Sherman Brothers, lovely and lyrical, filled with breaktaking landscapes and rich characters in a simple, pleasant tale that is a welcome break from the frenetic pace of most current entertainment.

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