90. "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988)
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One of the highlights of my life was visiting the Ghibli Museum in the
suburbs of Tokyo. This miniature Disneyland for Japanese animation fans is a
temple to Hayao Miyazaki, the visionary artist who is the Asian equivalent of
The museum attracts an odd combination of Japanese schoolchildren on field
trips and emotional adults from overseas who are ecstatic to be there. I was
firmly in the latter category. I joined up with a pair of Goth teenagers from
Minnesota and together the three of us wept openly at the museum's collection of
rudimentary character sketches and polished animation cells.
Watching us from every corner was Totoro, a forest spirit who resembles a
giant cat. He is the star of "My Neighbor Totoro," Hayao Miyazaki's greatest
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See images from 'My Neighbor Totoro'
The film follows two young sisters who move to the countryside to be closer
to their ailing mother. For 86 minutes they play with Totoro in the forest,
contemplate mortality and ride Catbus, a bus shaped like an enormous cat.
The simple plot belies the movie's immense joys. "My Neighbor Totoro"
explores the terror children feel at the moment they first encounter adult life.
Its exquisite animation transports the viewer to a place of youthful innocence
where anything could happen.
The museum features a life-size recreation of the Catbus. I sat in it for
almost an hour. After a while, I swear I could feel it moving. — Frank
Paiva ("My Neighbor Totoro"/20th Century Fox)