Rated A+ by me for families-
The familiar song from My Neighbor Totoro drifted down the movie theater hall way.
“I hear it!” I exclaimed.
In unison we all started to sing as we raced towards auditorium 9:
“Hey, let’s go! Hey, let’s go! I’m happy as can be.
Let’s go walking, you and me.
Ready, set, come on, let’s go!”
We were a few minutes late and rushed to our seats to:
“Look at all my ma—ny friends. Ready set. Let’s. Go!”
With joy in my heart, I relaxed into my over sized seat and pressed the button that would recline my body into a comfortable position. That’s what Ghibli Studios’ films do to you—fill your heart full of emotion. I pulled down my long sleeves and inserted my thumbs into ready-made holes cozying myself to sounds from a spitting and sputtering engine of a blue truck carrying the precious possessions of the Kusakabe family across a recognizable background of a twisty road to their new home surrounded by camphor trees.
Directed and written by the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro, is a timeless classic my family and I never get tired of. We have watched it so much, we can recite many of the lines. The best thing about these films created and imbued with Miyazaki’s heart and soul is that no matter how many times we see them, they always seem fresh and new. We still laugh and cry at the same places—every time. We exchange knowing glances with rising laughter right before our favorite parts. But, as part of Ghibli Fest at Regal Cinemas, this is this first time we have watched it on the big screen. What a treat!
Miyazaki doesn’t turn away from hard or difficult emotions or situations making his movies raw and real even though the action is animated. He captures the feelings of his characters through mood and music; so much so, that those deep embedded feelings from within us come swimming to the surface along with the action of the characters on screen whether it is a childhood memory, a wistfully sad longing, or a hard, adult situation. Couple that with a sprinkling of magic, and his stories leap to life.
I can remember as a 9 or 10-year-old child walking around my yard on a warm summer night when suddenly a stirring of the wind would lift my soul and my childhood wonder made me think if some spirit was behind the wind. So, too in Totoro when Satsuki, a young girl, bounds out of her house to fetch more firewood for the stove, a strong wind rises up snatching the small sticks from her hand hurling them, twisting up into the night sky. Miyazaki uses beautiful animation to manifest the motion: waves of grass and ripples of leaves on the large camphor trees. I love his use of color and tone to mimic the night time shadows.
Later, Satsuki and her younger sibling Mai interact with mythical creatures (or are they?).
—Little cute soot sprites that look like black sweet gum balls from trees with eyes that lurk about in old abandoned houses who won’t harm you if they determine you are good. You might catch a glimpse of them scurrying out of sight as you cast light into a dark room.
—A cat bus appears racing by on the wind to carry those in need. The cat bus is based on an ancient Japanese premise that if a cat lives long enough, she will acquire magical shape-shifting properties. (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Neighbor_Totoro)
—A forest spirit named Totoro, the namesake of the movie, watches over the sisters and helps them cope through a difficult time by bringing magic and wonder to their world.
Both the cat bus and Totoro are invisible to all those who have closed off their imagination. Satsuki’s wind from earlier in story—Was it the cat bus? Could it have been Totoro himself? Was it the cat bus or Totoro in my backyard? I like to think so!
That is the magic of Miyazaki and Ghibli Studios’ Films—the ability to present a story through relatable characters in such a heartfelt, real way that connects the viewer to love, family, joy, and each other!!
It’s magic for you!
Don’t be afraid…
just open wide!
Now begins a new adventure for you!
It’s magic for you!
(My Neighbor Totoro-paraphrased)
*A Stroll, Lyrics by Reiko Nakagawa, Music Composed and Arranged by Joe Hisaishi, Performed by Azumi Inoue
*My Neighbor Totoro, Lyrics by Hayao Miyazaki, Music Composed and Arranged by Joe Hisaishi, Performed by Azumi Inoue
Categories: Movies 2 See