My Neighbor Totoro: Miyazaki makes me happy
If you are a parent and you like good things and happiness, and you've somehow never heard of My Neighbor Totoro or the film studio Studio Ghibli, holy smokes, you might want to sit down for this. To oversimplify it, Studio Ghibli is often described as the Japanese Disney, and director Hayao Miyazaki as Walt Disney. But it's better than that. Suffice it to say, the movies are really, really stinking good.
My Neighbor Totoro was my first movie by Miyazaki when I was young, and we've gone on to buy all of the films he directs. Like most kids growing up in the 80s and 90s, Disney movies were a big part of my childhood, but it's hands-down Studio Ghibli movies that have made a bigger impression on me, fire up my imagination, and hit me in the feels right to this day. We even gave our littlest the middle name Mei, named after the younger sister in the film.
"...it won't take you long to see how wonderful the imagination of Hayao Miyazaki is."
The artwork in all of Miyazaki's films is second-to-none. We bought all of the available picture books as well because of this - they're full of images straight from the films. The stories are heartwarming and exploding with love and imagination and the innocence of childhood. The music is, without fail, stunningly beautiful, and it cannot be undervalued how much that adds to the experience.
My Neighbor Totoro is about a family with two little girls that moves out to the country. Their mother is sick in the hospital, and the girls are often on their own to explore their new home and the surrounding woods. Before long they begin to encounter magical creatures called totoro. There are cute, small ones that sling bags over their shoulders and scamper around collecting acorns, and there is a giant one that's big enough to take a nap on his big, furry belly. All of the creatures in the film heap nothing but pure joy upon the two young girls, and it won't take you long to see how wonderful the imagination of Hayao Miyazaki is.
"We even gave our littlest the middle name Mei, named after the younger sister in the film."
In a way, the entire movie is a respite from their worry, and there are certainly times where the film asks you to question if Mei is imagining things, but My Neighbor Totoro is also certainly one of the most light-hearted and accessible Miyazaki films for young children. Mei is just so cute and precocious and curious and full of wonder - we gave her name to our daughter because she feels like the perfect embodiment of childhood innocence.
Did you grow up with Studio Ghibli movies too? Do you have a favorite one? List it in the comments below.