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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Meant to entertain rather than educate.
Encourages kids to be compassionate to their neighbors and loving toward their parents. Friendship is a strong theme, as is the powerful bonds of family.
Positive Role Models
Satsuki is a loving, responsible older sister who's willing to help and look out for her younger sister, even when they don't get along. Both girls are courageous, independent, and curious. Totoro is kind and helpful.
Violence & Scariness
The main characters' mother is sick in the hospital. Their new house has tiny little "soot sprites" that crawl around and creep out the girls at first. At first sight, Totoro might initially intimidate younger viewers, but he's quickly revealed to be a gentle, good friend.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Neighbor Totoro is a fine pick for the entire family. Although there are slightly creepy "dust sprites" that appear in the house at first, they eventually disappear. Totoro himself might look and sound a bit odd, but he's quite sweet and gentle. The protagonist girls have an ill mother with an unnamed disease, but the moments in the hospital aren't sad or depressing. Some parents may not feel comfortable with the amount of freedom the girls (as is the case with children in all of Hayao Miyazaki's films) have to wander off alone, either around their neighborhood, the surrounding forest, or on a long walk to visit their mother. Overall, this is a family film in the truest sense -- it appeals to moviegoers young and old alike. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
For fans of Miyazaki's later work who haven't had the chance to check out his classics, this is a perfect movie to start. My Neighbor Totoro is considered Miyazaki's breakthrough film. Re-released and dubbed in English for a wider audience by Disney, the movie introduced Americans unfamiliar with anime to Miyazaki's signature themes: strong, independent girls as protagonists; whimsical creatures; an imaginative story; and a focus on how families interact with each other and their surrounding environment.
This isn't a spellbinding all-out adventure like Spirited Away or even the gentler journey that is Ponyo, but its leisurely paced story and lushly detailed visuals are part of the charm. Unlike the majority of animated movies, this isn't full of pop-culture or consumerist references that, while funny when handled correctly, can also bog down animated films or zap them of their childlike fantasy. Satsuki and Mei need Totoro to help them through a difficult time in their lives -- new home, sick mother -- and it's quite lovely to see the sweet little moments that cement their friendship. It's a shame more family movies aren't as simple and beautiful as My Neighbor Totoro.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.