The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Poster Image

The Secret World of Arrietty



Deeply felt anime about loneliness and friendship.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 94 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Teaches kids about the importance of communication and the value of understanding other people's circumstances.

Positive messages

The movie's strongly positive message is to be brave and reach out to someone (even those you don't quite understand); chances are the world will embrace you, too.

Positive role models

Arrietty is a strong teen who's brimming with confidence, compassion, and a healthy sense of self. Though she does sometimes go against her parents' will, she never does it out of malice and is always acting out of the goodness of her own heart. On the other hand, the housekeeper shows a discomfiting mean streak, which is played for laughs.

Violence & scariness

A human destroys the Borrowers' habitat. An important character is kidnapped but later rescued. The main character befriends a child who is said to be dying, which could upset some kids.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable

A few brand names are seen, including Ivory dish soap.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Secret World of Arrietty is a charming and unexpectedly profound anime film from the Japanese studio responsible for movies like Ponyo, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle. It's full of heart but also has some sad moments and tackles some somber themes -- including illness (Arrietty befriends a child who is said to be dying) and estranged family relationships -- which may make it a little intense for the youngest moviegoers. There's a kidnapping, and a sick young boy's mother sends him away to stay with a relative for a while -- a separation that may upset some little kids. But overall the movie is very sweet, and there's no swearing, smoking, drinking, strong violence, or overly sexy content to worry about.

What's the story?

Suffering from a weakened heart that will soon land him in the hospital for surgery, young Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) is sent by his too-busy mother to the countryside to stay with his aunt. At first it seems like the housekeeper (Carol Burnett) will be his only companion, but then Shawn glimpses Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler), a fellow teenager who's anything but typical: She's only a few inches tall and comes from a family of Borrowers, mini-people who live in the walls and floors of the house and "borrow" small items for their use from the big residents. Despite Arrietty's doubts, she and Shawn become friends. But their kind and gentle friendship may be the very reason that Arrietty and her family must move away.

Is it any good?


The beauty of Studio Ghibli movies is that they have such depth and heart, and THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY is a perfect example. On the surface is the wonder of a teen discovering a miniature counterpart who lives in a world much like his own, only within the walls and under the floorboards of his house. But even more substantial is how the movie straightforwardly presents the plight of a boy who's often left alone and is lonely, and of a girl who doesn't get to interact with others like herself. In Ghibli movies, children and teens are allowed to be sad, despondent, worried, afraid, and burdened -- it's not a sugar-coated world. And yet the story unfurls with no heavy-handedness, just a realism that doesn't condescend to its young audience. Our kids can handle complicated material, as long as it's handled intelligently and with compassion.

Viewers used to the whiz bang, frenetic pace of other animated features may find The Secret World of Arrietty slow-moving and lacking in special effects, but that's its strength. The artwork is gorgeous and meticulous, the story beautiful. It doesn't need thunderous gimmicks or musical cues -- or characters so outlandish that they're ready-made for collectibles bought at fast-food restaurants -- to be a wonderful movie. It simply is.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Shawn's mother sent him away to the country. How did that make you feel? Do you think it was a good decision?

  • What do you think The Secret World of Arrietty is trying to teach audiences? Do all movies and TV shows for kids need to teach them something?

  • Families who want to learn more about this kind of animation may want to watch other anime films together. How are they similar to each other, and how are they different from most American-made animated movies?

  • Kids: If you've read the book this movie is based on, how does it compare? Which do you like better?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 17, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:May 22, 2012
Cast:Bridgit Mendler, Carol Burnett, David Henrie
Director:Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Friendship
Run time:94 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written bymom2twogirls1boy February 19, 2012

FINALLY a "true" G movie that's great for the whole family

I don't tend to take my children (ages 6 and 4) to many movies anymore, because a G rating doesn't seem to be as innocent as it was in times past. That being said, this movie was different; it's a "true" G. There isn't any violence, there is no cursing or rudeness. In fact, the only negative word throughout the movie is "idiot" spoken in reference to some exterminators by a woman who is perceived to have lost her mind and in the midst of a breakdown. The "kidnapping" referenced is actually an abduction of the mother borrow and she's rescued unharmed by her daughter. This is a magnificent story of perserverence, determination, friendship, and love. It's a throw back to the purity and innocence of movies like Milo and Otis, The Aristocats, and Lady and the Tramp. Movies written FOR children, without explosions, violence, threats, killing, reference to murder, and other ludicrous innappropriate themes found in most G rated movies at present. VERY WELL DONE!!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written byPinkCloudVT February 18, 2012

Lovely movie...Studio Ghibli is the best

I took my 6 year old to this because our family loves Studio Ghibli. The landscape in the movie is breathtaking with the sounds of summer and colors of flowers in full bloom. There are no loud crashes or booms in this movie. I have one daughter who has to wear earphones at movies b/c they are too loud. This is a quiet, sensitive and lovely movie. We went on opening night and we were only 2 of about 10 people in the theater. I think it could have been a little longer to develop the characters more, but then again it's for kids.
Parent of a 7 year old Written byMiyazaki Maniac February 18, 2012

Amazing Movie!

A great movie! There are some suspenseful parts, such as when one of the characters was about to shoot someone with his bow and arrow (he never did) and when the mother was kidnapped. Other than that, it was fine for a younger kid.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models