Original TitleTonari no Totoro
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles, French
Contents86 minutes plus bonus material in a 2-DVD set.
Art DirectorKazuo Oga
Animation DirectorYoshiharu Satou
Executive ProducerYasuyoshi Tokuma
Animation StudioStudio Ghibli
Region 1 PublisherWalt Disney Home Entertainment
My Neighbor Totoro has a rather odd history. Apparently it’s backers had little faith in its commercial potential. Financing was obtained only as part of a joint production deal along with Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, with which it was originally shown on a double bill.
I am dumbfounded by the thought of this combination. Grave of the Fireflies is a great classic in it’s own right, but it is also one of the darkest and saddest movies ever made, and not something that most Americans would consider suitable for children. The idea of combining it with the cheerful, upbeat Totoro is mind-boggling.
The movie contains nothing objectionable–unless you object to the Japanese tradition of parents and young children bathing together (and even that is presented in a pretty innocuous way.)
Fledgling Otaku ended up calling this movie “crack for little kids” after his two-year-old daughter insisted on watching it over and over and over again until her parents, to preserve their sanity, conspired to “lose” the disc.
My theory is that this movie hits a sweet spot for very young children; it is just scary enough for them but not so scary as to be really disturbing. It touches on some of their deepest fears (the mother is in the hospital and everyone is worried and there are big hairy monsters in the woods) but is ultimately reassuring. Show ▼
It is not too hard to make a show that will appear to very young children, but it takes real skill to do so without annoying older children and boring adults to tears. In this case Mayazaki succeeds in making a movie that adults will enjoy watching–once or maybe twice.
Premise and Characters
This review is only for the 2-disc DVD set released in 2006 by Disney. You may encounter an earlier DVD release by Fox Video, which I would not recommend; the picture is cut down to a 4:3 aspect ratio and it includes only an English dub, with no Japanese soundtrack.
There is a sequel of sorts, but you would have to go to Japan to see it. A 13-minute short called Mei to Konekobasu (Mei and the Kittenbus) is shown only at the Studio Ghibli Museum, and of course is only in Japanese.
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
FAQ at Nausicaa.net.
 An organization called the Totoro’s Home National Trust Movement is dedicated to preserving the few remaining natural areas in Tokorozawa.