"My Neighbor Totoro." (Studio Ghibli / Disney)Link
"Howl's Moving Castle." (Studio Ghibli / Disney)Link
Two classic Studio Ghibli films are getting the Blu-ray treatment. Disney is releasing Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” on May 21.
This year marks the 25th anniversary for “My Neighbor Totoro,” which follows sisters Satsuki and Mei (voiced by Dakota and Elle Fanning, respectively, in the Blu-ray’s 2005 Disney dubbing) as they move to the countryside and discover their new neighbor, a furry forest spirit named Totoro. Only children can see the strange animal ghost — “a seven-foot forest spirit who looks like an outsized cross between a bunny rabbit and a fuzzy throw pillow,” critic and historian Charles Solomon wrote in his 1993 Times review of the film.
“Guided by their supernatural friend, the sisters share a series of adventures, soaring over the landscape while Totoro’s roars make the winds blow,” Solomon wrote. “But the story remains focused on the affection Mei and Satsuki share. Unlike many recent cartoon chums, the two sisters seem genuinely fond of each other, and their camaraderie never feels saccharine or forced.”
The most recognizable character from Miyazaki’s Japanese animation studio, Totoro could be considered Studio Ghibli’s answer to Mickey Mouse. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release will include several bonus features, including a look at the film’s original Japanese storyboards as well as an exploration of the real-life locations featured in “Totoro.”
Also slated for a May 21 release is the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release of 2004’s Oscar-nominated “Howl’s Moving Castle,” an imaginative tale based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones. In the film, a hardworking teenage girl named Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer and Jean Simmons) is hexed with an old woman’s body. She seeks out handsome wizard Howl (Christian Bale) in her quest to reverse the curse, joining forces with his apprentice Markl (Josh Hutcherson) and hot-headed fire demon Calcifer (Billy Crystal).
It’s a film with a story line that “moves at an idiosyncratic pace, detouring to seemingly unrelated points before suddenly erupting into pure magic,” Times critic Kenneth Turan wrote in his 2005 review. “The film follows a through line that is emotional, not logical, becoming a story beyond words we understand with our hearts more than our minds.”
Bonus features in the release include the original Japanese storyboards, an interview with Pixar Animation Studios director Pete Docter (Pixar oversaw the English dub), and a look at Miyazaki’s visit to Pixar Animation Studios.
The Blu-ray combo packs will retail for $39.99 each. Click through the gallery and watch the videos above for scenes from “Totoro” and “Howl’s.”
Ghibli fans don’t have to wait long for the studio’s next release. “From Up on Poppy Hill” — about two high school students who find love in post-World War II Japan — is due out in Los Angeles and New York theaters March 15, before expanding to the rest of North America on March 29. “Poppy Hill,” with a screenplay by Miyazaki and directed by his son Goro Miyazaki, was a box-office hit in Japan and went on to win the 2012 Japan Academy Award for animation of the year.
Studio Ghibli — founded in 1985 by Miyazaki, his mentor Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki — releases films that are immensely popular in Japan and have been growing in recognition in the United States. The films are known for their fantasy and magical realism, their hand-drawn look and their remarkable attention to detail.
“Parse it any way you like, Miyazaki’s gifts as an animator place him in a category of his own,” Turan wrote in 2005. “To see his latest film is to be somehow reminded of Italians who could hear Verdi’s operas as soon as they were sung or English readers who could experience the novels of Dickens episode by episode. Like those fortunate folk, we can have the excitement and joy of seeing new work by one of the greatest animators who ever lived just as soon as he creates it. Future generations will envy us our luck.”
– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark
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