Monday, 7 April 2008


Hiyao Miyazake's animated masterpiece, My Neighbour Totoro has a very special place in my household. We've all been taken by its mixture of fantasy and reality. In particular, my 4 year-old son has taken it to heart.

But this post isn't about introducing you to the film, but to comment on a change made to the western version which is unnecessary and unsuccessful. There have been two releases in English. The first was released in 1993 from Fox and it is pitch perfect albeit with unknown actors. In 2004, the rights expired and two years later, Disney released a new version featuring Dakota Fanning and her sister Elle.

I have a lot of respect for Dakota Fanning as a young actress, but she just doesn't seem to be capable of expressing wide-eyed, childhood exhubrance and innocence. The rest of the cast are equally inferior. The Fox cast are more relaxed and seem to take a leed from the animation, gelling better with their animated selves. Still, the new cast are not horrible, they are trying but somehow the effort works against them coming across as less natural and more self-conscious.

You can see both versions below. The one on the left is the new Disney version which also presents the film in widescreen format. On the right is the Fox dub which is presented in cropped full screen.

It is really unfortunate particularly for this film as it is enjoyed so much by younger viewers who aren't quite ready for subtitles. This film really doesn't need a star's name to sell it. It stands on its own. The real tragedy is that the existing dub is superior.

So my recommendation is that if you can get one of the last few copies of the Fox version, do so. The picture isn't as good, but the performances are a real treat.

Hiyao Miyazake wiki
Studio Ghibli (Japanese)
Miyazake interview (Guardian)

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