on December 28, 2002
It's obvious that Fox rushed this DVD out to capitalize on the acclaim for "Spirited Away" (and to cash in before their video rights lapse), as this is the shoddiest treatment imaginable, a disgrace considering that "Totoro" is one of the greatest animated films ever made. The pan-and-scan transfer is the exact same one as on the VHS edition (released nine years ago!), and there are no improvements in image quality-- this is one of the fuzziest-looking DVD's I've seen, and it doesn't begin to do justice to the detail of Miyazaki's art. The lack of a widescreen transfer hurts the film greatly-- notice how, in the scene where Mei first meets Totoro, most of his head disappears off the left side of the screen when he yawns, or how the scene where Mei runs around picking flowers loses almost half the original image. The dubbing is perfectly adequate (though nowhere near as good as the job John Lasseter did on "Spirited Away"), but really, all anime DVD's ought to be dual-language-- those of us who prefer the original Japanese audio track should have the choice available.
The only reason I'm giving this disc more than one star is because any edition of "Totoro" is better than not having "Totoro" available at all. But if you have a player capable of playing Region 2 discs, get the Studio Ghibli import instead; it includes both the English and Japanese audio tracks (the subtitles are really dubtitles, but that's a minor inconvenience), a beautiful widescreen transfer, and a second disc filled with extras. Until Disney gets the rights and issues a comparable Region 1 edition, the Japanese release is the only way to truly experience this wonderful film.
on December 7, 2002
I want to thank the reviewers who warned against this version on the grounds that it offers nothing over the VHS version. If you are an adult who loves the beauty of Miyazaki's films, you'll be disappointed by the unnatural English sound track of poorly translated Japanese dialogue and cutsified kiddie voices that sound like an amateur version of Saturday morning Smurfs. (the ONLY Miyazaki movie that recieved professional treatment in the English version was Princess Mononoke - 5 STARS!!)
For those of you that have REGION CODE FREE decks (or computers with software like "region free" that kills the code), I recommend buying the films from the Japan Amazon site.... Although slightly more expensive, ALL DVDs contain English subtitles and often they have the goofy soundtracks as well. They are also widescreen- not letterbox. Another plus is you don't have to wait - They're all available Now - even the newest Sento Chihiro no Kamikakushi-"spirited away", which includes English Subtitles)
Make no mistake. Miyazaki's movies are NOT DISNEY. Miyazaki does not paint his villains and heroes in black and white. Just as in real life, he shows that there is no such thing as pure good- or pure evil. Often the scariest character in his story becomes a subtle hero.
In short, I would recommend Miyazaki's movies 100 percent. However, for some reason, his best work is not being presented to the foreign consumers in its full glory.
on December 29, 2002
When I saw the US premiere of Spirited Away I was thrilled to hear the Gibli studio representative tell us that all of Miyazaki's movies would be released in the US within the next two years.
Disney studios (since they apparently feel the need to control all feature length animation in the US) was to handle the distribution. Apparently, like the fable goes, once they had it they didn't want it anymore and sold it to Fox to do with what they would.
What they have done, and this won't be news if you've read some of the other reviews here, is to release a very inexpensive product, but you get what you pay for.
Specifically, pan and scan instead of widescreen and English dub only.
If you are looking for a nice movie for children, and you are not familiar with Miyazaki's work, this version should be OK.
To most adults my advice is to get yourself to your nearest search engine and find yourself a widescreen version with a Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles.
on December 3, 2002
I must concur with the other reviewers of this DVD... I love this movies, and indeed bought a DVD player that could play the Original Japanese DVD release. This 'Fox' release is a poor substitute for the original film. In specific this production is Pan & Scan, and while you might be able to follow the plot, the beauty of the Miyazaki film is lost. Indeed the trimming of the picture often makes the color composition off. Also the DVD seems to be a bit over saturated, and a little off to the red side. Other basic things lacking: captions (of any form - even English!), other languages (Spanish, French would have been nice - this is a region 1 DVD after all, likewise it would have been nice to have the Japanese - some kids out there are learning this language), and indeed any extras. Given all of this the DVD is quite poor, but the story is wonderful... So get the best copy you can afford and enjoy.
on February 21, 2003
My Neighbor Totoro is one of the greatest animated films ever produced (for children or otherwise). It is a film that devoted fans such as myself love sharing with children and friends (I even teach it in my Children's Literature class.)
----The delicacy of Hayao Miyazaki's tale of two young girls who must cope with the stresses of moving to a new house, neighborhood and school--while their mother is kept in a hospital for a problem they do not understand!--is extraordinarily well-told through delightful and surprising events and beautiful animation. That the girls need the friendship and support of their father, the neighbors and the Totoros (friendly nature spirits) is subtly presented and then heroically answered through Miyazaki's unforgettable imagery.
---But you'll have to trust me on that because a good portion of that imagery has been butchered away through the pan-and-scan process. Not only have the producers of this DVD version cut away much of the visuals but they have also left off the Japanese language track and given us a rather pale transfer.
----English speaking kids deserve to see this better-than-Disney film. They deserve to view the widescreen version and they deserve the option of hearing the dubbed version (if they cannot yet read) OR hearing it in it's original language while reading subtitles. A quality production would offer these things and more.
----This DVD offers a Masterpiece, but a badly Mistreated one----
on January 17, 2003
I recently watched My Neighbor Totoro in its original Japanese language, in widescreen, with nearly perfect subtitles. It was a great movie, possibly Miyazaki's best in my opinion. Unfortunately, it was a bootleg copy and the respective studios got no money from my purchase.
20th Century Fox lost my money to bootleggers by issuing a substandard DVD aimed at kids. While I don't have an issue with them targeting children rather than older anime fans, they needn't have made a dumbed down release to do so. The only explanation for making a fullscreen-only version is that they meant for this to be viewed by kids, who are customarily distracted by the black bars. This could easily have been a two-sided disc at little extra cost, and they would have sold probably twice as many copies. The dubbing/subbing debate is less crucial, but since the Japanese language track already exists and the script has already been translated into English, it would have been a negligible amount of work to add subtitles, and would have satisfied picky anime fans like myself.
I will buy this movie from Fox when they decide to release the real version.
on February 26, 2004
This is one of the most heartwarming films of director Hayao Miyazaki's collection. I have seen practically all of Miyazaki's movies, and I love every one of them. I'd highly recommend this movie to anyone. However, if you want to experience this movie as it was intended to be seen, please wait for a better DVD release. This DVD, by Fox, is missing the Japanese language track (in order to watch it subtitled), and it is full-screen only, meaning the image has been cropped. Disney is set to re-release this movie, perhaps in 2005, so do yourself a favor and wait until then. In the meantime, there's nothing wrong with renting this version of Totoro!
on April 24, 2003
I couldn't wait for My Neighbor Totoro to be released on DVD. When I finally received the DVD, what a disappointment. Its full screen (pan&scan) and the audio is sub par. Fox rushed this out only to capitalize off of Spirited Away's success. Its basically the Videotape edition transfered to disc. Anyone who appreciates the advantages of viewing DVDs and the artistic genius of Miyazaki will be greatly let down. Disney has done a beautiful job on Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky. I only hope Fox will rerelease a better edition of this masterpiece.
on November 24, 2003
This film is one of my personal favorites. It is far above being an average kids movie. It is wonderful as a children's movie; it is a charming and clever work of art enjoyed by adults as well. It is also a favorite among the many fans of its creator, Academy Award winner Hayao Miyazaki.
Such a shame, then, to see the DVD presented so poorly, in TV aspect ratio and in English only. The Region 2 version of this DVD is much nicer, offering widescreen format, multiple language selections, subtitles, and extras including a map to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. Why, then, must we in Region 1 settle for such a lazy, lousy package? Why bother with the DVD? This is like having a videocassette.
If you just want something to pop in to keep the young kids out of trouble, you can't go wrong with this fascinating, magical yarn. If you are a film lover, DVD collector, or if you are looking to pad your experiences with the art of Hayao Miyazaki, I reccomend considering the fact that there are alternatives to this poor treatment, such as the Region 2 version.
on December 23, 2003
Ok, I'm a Miyazaki fan, we all know this movie is a masterpiece so there's no reason to bring that up. The movie easily gets 5 stars. The main concern here is the DVD. 20th Century Fox had very little to work with when they did this DVD. For those who don't already know, Disney has owned all of Studio Ghibli's movies since 1996. This includes My Neighbor Totoro in widescreen, Japanese, and anything they could hope to call an extra. That's why Disney is redubbing the movie and that's why this DVD has almost nothing on it and why they couldn't even remaster it. They worked with what they had and did the best they could. Of course, when Disney releases their version, it will have many more features(thought I don't think they will ever top this flawless dub unless they work their magic like they did with Spirited Away.)