My Neighbor Totoro: Miyazaki's Perfect Family Movie
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, honestly, it's better than that. Suffice it to say, the movies are unbelievably 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.
All of Miyazaki’s films always fired up my imagination, and they hit me in the feels right to this day. We even gave our littlest the middle name Mei, named after the younger sister in My Neighbor Totoro.
The artwork in all of Miyazaki's films is second-to-none. It’s a very unique style and instantly recognizable. We bought all of the available picture books as well because of this - they're full of images straight from the films and make a fantastic addition to our library.
The stories are heartwarming and exploding with love and imagination and the innocence of childhood. These are definitely some of the reoccurring themes in art that I am more than happy to share with our kids. I am constantly searching for books and films that will expose our children to this kind of beauty. I honestly believe that being exposed to this inspiring art can lead to a deeper appreciation for life.
And the music is, without fail, simply stunning. It cannot be undervalued how much the score adds to the experience in every single Studio Ghibli movie. I think it’s safe to say that no stone was left unturned crafting all of these films into complete masterpieces.
My Neighbor Totoro is about a family with two little girls that moves out to the country. Their mother is sick in the hospital with an unnamed illness, and the girls are often on their own to explore their new home and the surrounding woods. Just the heartfelt and realistic interactions between these two sisters is enough to bring a smile to my face.
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 supply nothing but pure joy to the two young girls. And I guarantee it won't take you long to see how wonderful the imagination of Hayao Miyazaki is.
In a way, the entire movie is a respite from their worry about their mother, and there are certainly times where the film asks you to question if Mei is imagining things. But, at the same time, My Neighbor Totoro is also certainly one of the most light-hearted and accessible Miyazaki films for young children.
Little Mei is just so cute and precocious and curious and full of wonder. We even used her name for our daughter’s middle name because she feels like the perfect embodiment of childhood innocence.
If you’ve never seen My Neighbor Totoro before, I strongly encourage you to share it with your children. It might even lead you to track down the rest of the films from Studio Ghibli. And, who knows, they might even surpass the Disney classics in your home as well. The imagination involved and the joy of childhood on display certainly make this film quite special.
Did you grow up with Studio Ghibli movies too? Have you shared them with your kids yet? Do you have a favorite one? List it in the comments below!