My Neighbor Totoro Movie Poster Image

My Neighbor Totoro



Beautifully animated fantasy about friendship fit for all.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 86 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

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.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

What's the story?

In MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, it's 1958 Japan, and 10-year-old Satsuki (voiced by Dakota Fanning for the English-dubbed version), 4-year-old Mei (Elle Fanning), and their father (Tim Daly) move to the countryside where their mother is hospitalized with a long-term illness. As they get settled into their new home, the girls discover there are magical creatures, like dust sprites, that inhabit their house and neighborhood. One day, Mei sees two little rabbit-like creatures and follows them through their forest, where she meets a much larger version of the creature, whom she calls "Totoro." Eventually Satsuki also meets Totoro, who also introduces the girls to a magical soaring cat-bus. Totoro, who is "keeper of the forest," aids Satsuki and her father when Mei decides to walk to the hospital alone to present her mother with a fresh ear of corn.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Mei and Satsuki aren't afraid of Totoro in My Neighbor Totoro. Why are they able to befriend him so easily? How does he help them and their family?

  • How do the girls deal with their mother's sickness? Does the mother's hospitalization affect the sisters differently?

  • What is the animation style like? How are the humans depicted? Are the Totoros and the Catbus scary-looking? What makes it obvious they're gentle creatures?

  • How do the characters in My Neighbor Totoro demonstrate courage, curiosity, and compassion? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 14, 1988
DVD/Streaming release date:May 21, 2013
Cast:Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Patrick Carroll
Director:Hayao Miyazaki
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Character strengths:Compassion, Courage, Curiosity
Run time:86 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Adult Written byDeborahMama April 9, 2008

My 2-year-old loves Totoro best of all

My daughter needed a little hand-holding when Totoro (a friendly forest spirit) made loud noises, but this is her absolute favorite movie. Even though she didn't understand the whole movie at first (and may still not understand parts of it), she loves the imagery, the forest spirits, and the characters. I like that there is no villain -- too many kids' films for my taste feature the presence of absolute evil whose existence is never explained, and I'd rather not have my child see the world in terms of good and evil this way. Totoro has conflict, misbehavior, and scary bits, but all the characters have motivations we can understand and discuss.
Parent of a 2 and 4 year old Written bydorland July 31, 2010
The fact that it gives a solid view of a past Japanese culture (that still survives on the same foundations today in many respects) makes it educational for older children. The role-model presented in the older sister should be an inspiration for younger girls looking for how to handle the younger sibling, especially the ones that are a handful. If more people looked and acted towards this way to each other, even in families themselves, so many issues we see today would be much more controllable in a social sense. While the soot sprites and initial encounters with the various Totor's and Catbus might be a bit scary to younger children it's also something that you can use to help children get past the bogyman phase on several levels as well as teach a spiritual aspect to nature that we so often try to push on young ones but don't give them the concrete connection they need to understand it. The tie to Shintoism and nature and ancestor spirits is yet another learning area for people unfamiliar with Japanese culture. This is one of my 1 year old and 4 year olds favorite movies and with the message and ideas it presents it's definitely one I don't mind them watching again and again.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written bysquili July 11, 2009

Sweet, funny, unique

This is a terrific film. There is a bit of scary stuff with the talk of huanted houses and some loud growling and strange scurring creatures, but all that is side-stepped by the girls giggling and delighted reactions and their overall curiousity of the unknown. I found this movie to be delightfully sweet and wonderfully devoid of the usual fare of action-packed chases and predictable dramas. I love the strong girl message and the wonder and magic found in the mysterious creatures the girls befriend. The movie embraces and celebrates the magical world of childhood. I recommned this movie for the whole family.
What other families should know
Great messages