My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Features, The Disney Review

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Published on May 25, 2013 at 12:01 am with 3 Comments

Disney has just released My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle on Blu-ray. With these releases, the only major films left are Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, which have not seen the hi-definition treatment. Do Totoro and Howl, two modern masterpieces, deserve to be in your collection? Jeff and George share their opinions.

George: My Neighbor Totoro, hands down, is one of the best animated films ever made. I wouldn’t hesitate to even say it’s one of the best films, period. I first saw My Neighbor Totoro after watching Spirited Away on DVD in 2003. I was instantly a Miyazaki fan. We’ve collected each movie that’s been released on DVD and Blu-ray. Easily, we’ve watched Totoro more than 20 times and it still fascinates and charms us.

Jeff: Just like George, I fell in love with the film on DVD in the early 2000s. I’ve been lucky enough to see it in the theater once for a special, limited engagement, and every time I see it, I fall in love more and more. It’s charming and adorable, and it just gets better and better upon each viewing. I have to say that this Blu-Ray conversion of the film is quite possible the best version of the film I’ve ever seen.

George: What shocked me about the Blu-ray was the sound. Of course, it’s absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray but I wasn’t expecting the soundtrack to pop and the addition of some of the sound effects. Granted, they’ve always been there, but they weren’t as noticeable on the DVD transfer. There were points when the music swelled and simply captivated us.

Jeff: Not only is the sound a stand-out, but the transfer is absolutely breath-taking as well. I couldn’t believe my eyes! How could a film released in 1988 look so good on Blu Ray?! It’s absolutely amazing. All in all, this film is a total win all around. While it may not even contain a coherent story (being more of a bunch of scenes loosely connected together), it is still an absolutely stunning film from beginning to end. This is a Blu Ray truly worthy of the film itself.

George: One of the things I love about Studio Ghibli films is that, often, there isn’t a clear villain or a villain at all. Like the incredible Ponyo, which is a story about love, Totoro is a film about a family and village that grow together and learn more about loving each other. It truly is a spectacular experience that begs nothing but for you to enjoy it. Disney has included a few extras with Totoro that add a lot to the Blu-ray. Unlike the other Studio Ghibli Blu-ray, where Disney just included the short DVD extras, Totoro includes interviews with Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki about the creation of the film and Studio Ghibli. By far, the best special was the locations of Totoro. We go on a journey to discover some of the real locations that inspired the film and the locations that were inspired by the film.


Jeff: Moving right along, Howl’s Moving Castle has been released as well. While it’s not as good as Totoro, it’s certainly up there in my opinion. The story of a young girl named Sophie, trying to break a curse from the Witch of Waste, boards Howl’s moving castle right into a world of fantasy. The plot is obviously more clear this go-round, and the film is still fantastic.


George: Agreed. Howl’s Moving Castle is a bit more romantic and always struck me as a film designed more for teens. It’s another film that we’ve watched countless times and never seems to lose its magic. Like Totoro, I wasn’t prepared for how spectacular Howl’s Moving Castle looks. It’s obvious that the skills of the Studio Ghibli staff grew tremendously over the 16 years that separate Totoro (1988) and Howl (2004). Not that Totoro isn’t beautiful, it’s just that Howl’s Moving Castle is simply stunning.

Jeff: Just like Totoro‘s transfer, Howl’s Moving Castle looks beyond words on Blu-Ray. The picture is crisp and clear, and allows you to see things you may have never noticed before. I’m absolutely impressed by how much work went into these conversions, as they are probably two of the best I have ever seen before, Disney or otherwise. 


George: Howl’s Moving Castle is hurt only by the lack of any major extras. There are a few, like one about the voices, but they don’t offer anything for dedicated fans. The history and ground-breaking films of Studio Ghibli would enable some amazing special features. There definitely needed to be an introduction to the studio on these Blu-ray releases, especially for the Ghibli newb.

Jeff: I was a little struck by the lack of major special features, especially after the wealth of them on Totoro‘s disc. However, the few provided are enjoyable, if not a little lackluster. George is right, though: having a sort of introduction to Studio Ghibili on these discs would go a long way to help newer fans learn a little more about the company. In all, though, the lack of extras shouldn’t deter you from buying the disc. It’s well worth the price. Adding both of these films to your collection is highly recommended, especially in their superior, Blu Ray form.

Have you seen these films before? What do you think of them? Now that they are available on Blu Ray, will you be buying these Studio Ghibli classics on Blu Ray? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

By Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor

The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor

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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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  • Dusty Sage

    Hayao Miyazaki is on of my favorites. I love showing his films to people who have never seen them before as they are almost always shocked by how beautiful and other worldly they are. Hayao is often called the Japanese Walt Disney, and for good reason. Not only does he take risks with the stories, but he continues to advance the art of hand drawn animation, even as the Disney Company has abandoned 2D animation.

    Totoro is a classic. This is Hayao’s Snow White. The film that launched his studio into the stratosphere and made him a household name (at least in Japan).

    Disney has done a great job tweaking these films for an American audience. The voiceovers and music are expertly done and help make the foreign feeling stories a bit more approachable for Americans.

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    I am a huge Totoro fan. I need to get my hands on the Blu Ray soon. Thanks for the reviews, guys!

  • DobbysCloset

    I am somewhat of a Luddite, always being the last to adopt new technology, but the release of Howl’s Moving Castle on Blu Ray might be the impetus I need to bring my entertainment system into the 21st Century. Ghibli takes me right to the heart of what I love about classic animation — the smooth movement, the color, the fantasy, but curiously enough I’ve not seen Totoro! (Just put it on hold at the library, though, so that will be remedied soon.)

    Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favorite romantic movies, trapped as I am in the body of a 57-year-old woman, still powerfully attracted to the thin, young, dark-haired Byronic rockers of my youth, yearning for someone who sees the inner me and not the middle-aged wrinkly frump I appear to be. Sophie is something of a role model for me, accepting the curse, continuing to be the best human she can be, nurturing and caring for those around her.

    I think that Disney marketing totally misses the boat when preparing their DVD release packages. The only reason I have to buy a DVD over downloading the movie are the extras available with it — otherwise, why own an artifact when I can watch a movie on demand over the Internet at $2.99 a pop? I’d have to plan to watch it at least five times to make a $16 DVD worthwhile, and most movies don’t appeal to me enough to think that far ahead. Buena Vista Records understood — they’d put out a basic version of a Disney movie soundtrack, but also a deluxe, picture-book LP that cost a bit more but was a lovely artifact in itself. I would rather pay an extra $10 for a DVD with features and commentaries that take me beyond the movie itself than buy a DVD with no frills. If I ruled the world I’d put out a “budget line” of older movies, no features, aimed at kids who will watch anything 20 times, and a version for adults with as many extras as possible as a “collectible.”

    Thanks for the heads-up, gentlemen.