My Neighbor Tortoro poster

My Neighbor Totoro

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What it’s about:

It’s the story of two sisters, 11 and 4, who move to an old country house with their father as they wait for their mother to recover in a nearby hospital. As they explore their magical new world, they face the fears, excitement, and frustrations of adapting to the unknown while befriending fantastical woodland spirits, including a playful giant, a cuddly creature known as a Totoro, who leads them on a series of adventures.

Names you might know:

My Neighbor Totoro is one of the earlier films from Hayao Miyazaki, the Oscar-winning director of Spirited Away. The Americanized version is narrated by the voices of Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, and real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning—in one of their earliest roles.

Why it’s worth your time:

My Neighbor Totoro is a joyful, enchanting classic for all ages. Miyazaki’s delightful creatures and inventive visual style will mesmerize the kids as much as it charms the grown-ups. It’s ultimately a celebration of wide-eyed childhood wonder and imagination. Although it was made back in the 1980s, you’d never know it. The story, images, characters, and pastoral scenery are as timeless as they are endearing.

The takeaway:

An often overlooked classic, My Neighbor Totoro is that rare film that can captivate all ages, from young kids to their parents and grandparents. Vibrant, magical, and emotionally lightweight, it’s also just 86 minutes long, the perfect family vacation film to watch together.

Watch it with:

The entire family and aspiring film school kids. Rated G, My Neighbor Tortoro enjoyed by all ages–even the little ones. After you watch it, you may want to move on to other Studio Ghibli films. Thankfully, the entire catalog is available on HBO Max.

Worth noting:

One of master Hayao Miyazaki’s earlier films, My Neighbor Totoro was overlooked by most film critics when it was released in 1988, as Japanese anime wasn’t on many radars. Today, Miyazaki is considered a legend, and his films and distinctive storytelling techniques are taught in film schools around the world.

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