Children’s gems from Japan
Disney releases three beloved animated films

Film by film, translation by translation, and DVD by DVD, Hayao Miyazaki lives up to his reputation as the Japanese Walt Disney. The fans of his movies, young and old, however, know better than to call him such a thing. After all, has Disney ever combined such artistry with the very subtle, very real themes of Miyazaki’s work?

Walt Disney Home Entertainment released a trio of works by Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki’s film studio) in March, but don’t expect any show-stopping musical numbers. Instead, in My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Whisper of the Heart, you will find a whole new world for American audiences – one in which stunning animation accompanies rich stories for parents and kids alike.

My Neighbor Totoro
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
86 minutes, rated G Who wouldn’t want a big, fuzzy forest spirit as a neighbor? Sisters Satsuki, 11, and Mei, 4, are in for a surprise when they move into a small house in rural Japan with their father. Their mother in a nearby hospital, the girls learn to be strong and flourish with the help of magical creatures. These creatures take the form of tiny soot gremlins and the much larger, much furrier Totoro. When their mother’s visit is cancelled and Mei runs away to find her, it is the gentle Totoro who helps Satsuki find her again.

Whisper of the Heart
Directed by Yoshifumi Kondou
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
111 minutes, rated G
Is 14 too young to have a dream?

Junior high school student Shizuku dreams of something more than just passing the typical barrage of exams any Japanese student must take to enter a high school. Shizuku would rather read a book or practice her own writing than study, much to her parents’ dismay. Through a blossoming relationship with a young musician, and inspired by a statue of a cat, Shizuku realizes her ambition and begins to work on a fantasy novel that has a life of its own.

Howl’s Moving Castle
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
119 minutes, rated PG
Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film is based on a children’s book of the same name. A young woman named Sophie is unexpectedly cursed by the Witch of the Waste, finding herself trapped in the body of an old woman. Setting out to break the curse, Sophie quickly learns that her only chance is to rely upon the strange and flamboyant young wizard Howl. Though Howl is infamous for devouring the hearts of young girls, he is not quite what he seems, and by befriending him and his castle of assorted sidekicks, Sophie may be able to return to her normal age.

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