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Frank Tells Liz What Happened In “My Neighbor Totoro”

Dear Liz,

First of all, thanks so much for asking me to tell you about something this week. This blog has filled my life with so much warmth and information, and your efforts to shine an edifying light on the underdeveloped corners of my pop culture soul continue to make me a better human being. I know you’re having a busy week, so the least I can do is pick up the baton for once and tell you about a Miyazaki movie.

Liz, like many of us who spent our childhoods in the 1980s, I experienced a deep, early love of cartoons. It started with the animated shorts on Sesame Street and reached its zenith with the arrival of The Muppet Babies, whose imaginative flights of fancy and media mash-ups were the highlight of my Saturday mornings. But like many of us, I gradually realized that most of the other cartoons I was devouring were totally terrible: derivative, violent toy commercials of the crudest hand-drawn sort. (For me, the breaking point was probably the day I recognized the imperialist undertones of The InHumanoids.) In many ways, the 1980s were the nadir of American animation.

Meanwhile in Japan, the 1980s were an animation renaissance, spearheaded by the formation of Studio Ghibli, the company formed by animator-auteurs Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. I’ve seen a number of Miyazaki movies, but I’ve actually never seen My Neighbor Totoro, so I’m very pleased that we’re sharing it for the first time together. Read the rest of this entry

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