1994 – My Neighbor Totoro

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I don’t know what’s taken me so long to write about this one, maybe it’s just the sentimental time of year that got me on this. But one of my all time favorite movies is the early English dub of My Neighbor Totoro. That’s right, the 1994 20th Century Fox version of the Miyazaki original. In 2010, a re-dub was released starring some bigger name celebrities – but it’s the amature, yet perfect acting of the 1994 release that I connect with so well.

In this anime children’s film, two young girls and their father move out to the country to prepare a new home. Their mother is in the hospital with an un-named illness, but when she is well enough to return home, she will still need the peace and quiet of the countryside to rest. The young girls have a hard time coping with their mother in the hospital, and turn to the mystical spirits of the forest to watch over them while she is away. Enter characters like Totoro, Catbus, and Dust Bunnies / Soot.

When I was growing up, my sister and I went to the video store on a Saturday night and rented this on VHS. Upon our first watching, my sister commented on how the main Totoro character was similar to a friend of mine who was also somewhat tall and quiet. We laughed every time the Totoro would open his mouth and let out a roar. But apart from our own in-jokes, the movie really had a great balance of moments that made you smile and others that made you really feel for those characters. A year later I would own it on VHS, and now on DVD. Other Miyazaki films are memorable and enjoyable, but there’s something special about Totoro.

I haven’t brought myself to watch the Disney Presents version of the film, because the annoying yet bold voices of the 1994 English dub just seem too perfect. I never want them to change. When young Mei is crying her eyes out with her face stuffed in to her sisters dress, I never want to hear another upset child. It’s acted so perfectly, I don’t want to hear another performance! I absolutely love My Neighbor Totoro, but only one version, so far.

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