A DIFFERENT KIND OF SABRINA, SAMANTHA OR HARRY POTTER
Posted on Mar 29 2010 by Greg
Released a year after My Neighbor Totoro
, Kiki's Delivery Service
is among the most cheerful and lighthearted of Hayao Miyazaki's Ghibli features. A tween-age witch leaves home for a journey on her own as part of her training, settling in a small fictional town that is somewhat Germanic in look. The storyline is not as intricate as, say, that of Spirited Away
, but the characters are no less charming or memorable.
In this Disney-produced English translation (you can watch it subtitled in Japanese at once), Kirsten Dunst
's earnest performance reminds me of Pamelyn Ferdin, the go-to young actress of late 60s/early 70s TV and animation. Debbie Reynolds
has a small role as a kindly old woman, partnered with Edie McClurg as her housekeeper.
But the scene-stealing role is that of the late Phil Hartman
as Jiji, the cat who accompanies Kiki on her journey, making acerbic comments along the way. It only serves to underscore the great loss of a gifted performer and the potential never realized.
One of the most interesting things about Kiki's Delivery Service
is the way the general populace reacts to her magical gifts. She belongs to a group of individuals that are not feared, hidden or scorned, but instead treated matter-of-factly. A prime example is a scene in which Kiki's takes off on her broom and a village lady looks on with a "well, what do you know, how interesting" reaction. She doesn't go all "Gladys Kravitz."
This Special Edition issue of the movie is accompanied with a series of short bonus documentaries and an interactive "world of Ghibli" feature.
TOTE HOME TOTORO
Posted on Mar 28 2010 by Greg
As writer/director Hayao Miyazaki
explains on the the new subtitled documentary material on this new Special Edition DVD
, he was growing dissatisfied with the creative limits of working in television animation, he wanted to create a gentle, enchanting family feature regardless of the potential for commercial success. My Neighbor Totoro
apparently did not smash box office records on the big screen in 1988, but subsequent TV airings made it one of the most popular and beloved films in Japan (not unlike what happened with the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Totoro is on the Studio Ghibli movies, an icon status comparable to Mickey Mouse
with Disney and Luxo, Jr.
with Pixar. But it all started in this film, which in a its second DVD release in the revised Disney English version, which was preceded by an earlier English version released by Fox.
Each Miyazaki feature boasts a voice cast of marquee names as well as top Hollywood voice artists. The "name" talent is seen in brief "behind the microphone" bonus features -- in which you can sometimes also glimpse the strong supporting casts.Dakota and Elle Fanning
turn in superb performances as the young sisters in Totoro, a very crucial element in making the English version work. Also in the cast are Tim Daly
as the dad, Lea Salonga
as the mom and the wondrous Pat Carroll
as the warmhearted Nanny, a sharp constrast to her Ursula character in Disney's The Little Mermaid
The extraordinary Frank Welker
growls as the Totoro himself. Welker, a gifted impressionist who entered voice work as the one and only Fred on Scooby Doo, is perhaps the most heard voice in film and TV today.
The film itself is, to borrow from the Sherman Brothers
, lovely and lyrical, filled with breaktaking landscapes and rich characters in a simple, pleasant tale that is a welcome break from the frenetic pace of most current entertainment.