Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, is best known for many popular animated films such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001). Recently, I had the pleasure to watch My Neighbour Totoro (1988), one of Miyazaki's early films that propelled him on his road to success.
Being the very face of Studio Ghilbli, My Neighbour Totoro is considered one of Hayao Miyazaki's greatest films with universal acclaim. The story follows two wonderful daughters living with their father in a rural village of Japan, where they encounter a range of friendly wood spirits and the one known as Totoro. Its a delightful plot that will certainly bring a smile to your face.
Made in 1988, the animation and visuals are truly exceptional, with characters moving alive with purpose and charm over lovingly painted backgrounds. The two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, are definite highlights being simply adorable as they capture the blissful innocence and magic of childhood reminiscent in all of us, perhaps more than any other of Miyazaki's films.
Where Disney Animation techniques refers to the use of exaggeration to personify their characters, the animation techniques adopted in Miyazaki's films move with a deliberate economy of movement, a certain grace and stillness that provides a much more personal experience to the character that are meant to be savoured. A prime example is the scene where Totoro is introduced to an umbrella, the animation pausing to hold on the characters with secondary movements relishing and savouring the moment in its entirety.
Another example is when Mei meets the forest spirits for the first time as she squats moving with only a subtle blink of the eye.
Overall, My Neighbour Totoro is an exceptional film capturing the imagination and wonder of childhood with such innocence that is simply awe inspiring - a must see of Miyazaki's films.
On a side note, the character of Totoro also makes a cameo appearance in the upcoming Toy Story 3 (seen in the trailer 0:48 seconds in), as John Lasseter and Miyazaki are more than acquainted when Miyazaki makes a surprise visit to Pixar studios.