A couple of months ago I read a quick blurb about a Japanese movie by famous writer/director Hayao Miyazaki called Tonari no Totoro aka My Neighbor Totoro. It sounded like something that would be appropriate for my daughter, who like most 5 year olds is a big princess fan, but fortunately cannot stand to watch the movies because she (and I) find them too scary. So I ordered this non-princess DVD on the internet, dubbed into English since she can't quite read subtitles, and a most serious love affair was born.
In case you don't know it, the movie is about two young girls living in the Japanese countryside with their Dad because Mom is in the hospital. And I know, that sounds "bad" and sadder than anything the wolves might do to Belle in the woods, but really, it's handled so well. The younger sib Mei discovers a Totoro, a lovely mythical creature. There are a couple of emotionally scary bits, not physically scary bits, but all in all, I thought really appropriate for my (almost) 5 year old. And even she knew the emotionally scary bits weren't gonna turn sour. It's gorgeous, subtle, lovely and dreamy. I cried at the end. No really I did, a good sort of cry. We've now seen it, no joke, about 16 times (I still cry.) And she loves to sing the theme song so, I had to track it down. Only thing of it is, I found it in Japanese. Yep, the original. So my kid sings along, in a cross between phonetic Japanese and her memory of the (butchered) English lyrics.
The dubbed version of the film (with Dakota Fanning) was released by Disney, but there is nothing Disney about these movies. And of course, I haven't seen (or heard) the original, but from where I sit, the dub ain't bad.
Miyazaki also made Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Castles in the Sky, and others, but they're not good for this age group. However, his film Kiki's Delivery Service totally is. There is no violence. No scary parts. All plot turmoil is based on the main character's internal struggle to be true to herself and find her purpose. We've also seen this at least 16 times as it's tied for my daughter's favorite movie ever. I just don't have the soundtrack to that one yet. I like Totoro a tad bit better, because it's just so whimsical... I'd say its the best movie for kid's I've ever seen. Kiki is a close second.
The following tunes are from Totoro and if you haven't seen the film, they might sound a bit too Sushi-bar-video. But if you have seen it, they're awesome. I've given them random names since I don't read Japanese.
When They Bounce
More about: My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service