Which version of "Totoro" should I buy?
December 7, 2008 10:19 PM   Subscribe

My Neighbor Totoro...........I want to buy the DVD, but on Amazon a lot of people are saying certain versions are not good. There is a 2006 Walt Disney widescreen version; and then there is a 2002 full screen version that is not Disney. What do you think the best version would be for me to get?

If it makes any difference, I want to hear it in English.

Also, I've heard that the film maker of this movie has made even better movies, but I have a four year old that does not watch violence, so do you think this is the "best" movie she could watch from this film maker right now?

Thanks so much for your help!
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Kiki's Delivery Service is probably the best Miyazaki film for young children after Totoro.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:24 PM on December 7, 2008

I strongly prefer the non-Disney English dub of Totoro, but YMMV. In this case my kids watch what I prefer, and that's that. :)

My kids are 4 and 6 and they also both love Kiki's Delivery Service. My 6 year old likes Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke, but they don't interest my younger daughter.
posted by padraigin at 10:30 PM on December 7, 2008

Can't help much with English dubbing preferences, since I watch anime subbed. But in terms of what other Miyazaki movies, Kiki's Delivery Service is fun to watch, and Spirited Away. Unfortunately, that's as kiddy as you can get. Miyazaki's works tend to be pretty mature in content (but T&A mature or dark/gritty mature, mind you, but serious enough to scare young kids). By far, Princess Mononoke is the most violent one he's done, though it's one of his best works.
posted by curagea at 10:39 PM on December 7, 2008

Not much help on the dubs, but I have noticed that my (pirated) version of Totoro features English subtitles that say one thing, and a dub that says something else. We watch Totoro in Japanese anyway, so it's more of a curiousity.

Totoro, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the most perfect and sublime movies for kids ever made. The movie is essentially taken from the point of view of Mei, the younger sister, who must be about four years old.

Our son, now six, has watched Totoro a zillion times. It's a great movie.

Spirited Away, on the other hand, scared the shit out of him. The DVD menu was enough to send him (at 4 or 5) screaming out of the room in terror. However, "Spirited Away" and "the Princess Monoke" are two of my favourite movies of all time.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:12 PM on December 7, 2008

The earlier version is (to my ear) sometimes a bit clunky in the translation, while English text in the Disney version sounds more natural and colloquial. The voice talent (Dakota Fanning and her sister, IIRC) also seemed more accomplished. Although I am most familiar with the earlier production, I would say, if you're new to it, get the Disney one.

I think Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service are the best of Miyazake's works for little kids.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:26 PM on December 7, 2008

You know, I have both versions, and I prefer the older one. But my reasons for liking the older version is because it has a VHS-tape, 90's dubbed-anime nostalgic quality to it that 4-year olds won't likely appreciate. So, I'd go with the Disney version, as the production value is better.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:01 AM on December 8, 2008

I too prefer the older one, simply because it's less slick/Disneyfied. But it's also out of print and expensive.

Please don't let worry about versions prevent you from getting this film - IMO it's the best Miyazaki movie for young kids, just a magnificent film. (It's on Ebert's list of "the great films," if that helps any.)
posted by jbickers at 1:20 AM on December 8, 2008

I wrote to Amazon last year complaining that their reviews for the two versions are intermingled and how it results in much confusion (also with the DVD vs. HD versions of "2001"). Their response was -more or less- "too bad."

I recently watched the Disney version and not having a nostalgic preference either way, I felt the English dubbing was excellent.

Is the mother's illness and hospitalization too much for a little kid? My niece is four and I wonder if that's too young to worry about Mom being hospitalized and not at home.
posted by yeti at 6:34 AM on December 8, 2008

I'll throw in my two cents and say that the Disney dub is just fine. They have the resources to hire very talented voice actors, so unless you feel like you need to have the "truly authentic" version, I'd say buy the newer DVD. It's for your kids, and let's face it; Disney knows what kids like.

As far as the other Miyazaki films go, I'd say that Totoro is the best, especially for younger kids. You can probably also show them Kiki's Delivery Service, but I'd steer clear of Howl's Moving Castle, Nausicaa, and Princess Mononoke. He has a few other films that fall somewhere in between, so you'll have to ultimately use your own discretion in choosing what is appropriate for your child.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:39 AM on December 8, 2008

I'm 28 and I love watching any Miyazaki movie, they have a timeless quality that you can enjoy at any age...and yes sometimes I make catbus sounds when I drive my car after watching Totoro.

Miyazaki had a new movie come out earlier this year called Ponyo on a Cliff, but I haven't had a chance to see it yet to give a review.
posted by wavering at 7:19 AM on December 8, 2008

features English subtitles that say one thing, and a dub that says something else.

I love this, as it can make repeat watches more interesting, watching subs one time and dub another, and comparing/contrasting. Unfortunately, for me, the Disney subs are just a transcription of the dub.
posted by owtytrof at 7:30 AM on December 8, 2008

If you're getting it for your child, I would say the Disney version.

If you're getting it for yourself, do yourself a favor and get the subtitled version.

Disney makes their money being safe and homogeneous, keep that in mind
posted by phritosan at 7:43 AM on December 8, 2008

As an outlier or minority report, Variety's damning review of Totoro is pretty interesting.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:46 AM on December 8, 2008

Variety's review is from 1993 and let's be frank, had no idea what it was watching nor any background in animation, anime or Japanese culture.
posted by jadepearl at 2:41 PM on December 8, 2008

I just watched all the Miyazaki films (at least, everything since Nausicaa) over the last few weeks, actually.

I'd go with the general consensus -- Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service are great and totally devoid of any objectionable content for young children. (Incidentally, that Variety review is pretty spot on in some respects -- nothing of consequence happens the entire damned movie! The movie does, however, feature a cat shaped like a bus, which makes up for a lot in my book. At any rate, I imagine kids will love it.)

Spirited Away: Non-violent, but has some bits that young children might find creepy (hell, I found some of it creepy!). Ditto with Howl's Moving Castle.

Princess Mononoke is definitely his most teen-oriented film. People actually get killed!

The rest feature various levels of endangerment/violence, making them relatively inappropriate for very young children.
posted by neckro23 at 4:18 PM on December 8, 2008

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