My neighbor Totoro also known as Tonari no Totoro is an animated classic directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki for release in April 1988. This film established art director Kazuo Oga whose style has since become a trademark of Studio Ghibli. This film also helped to bring Japanese animation to international attention as well as setting Hayao Miyazaki up as a master of the craft.
A winner of the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize and the Maninichi film award this film has received many accolades and much praise from the likes of Ebert, Stephen Holden (New York Times), and Matthew Leyland (Sight & Sound). Holding a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes it is ranked #41 on Empire magazine's "100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010. The title character is the Japanese equivalent of Winnie-the-Pooh; which is why he is recognized as one of the greatest cartoon characters by The Independent. He is best known as a mascot for environmental efforts in Japan. He has also found his way into many cameos from Toy Story 3 to Southpark.
This 86 minute film is set in the post-war period following WWII. It follows the interactions of two young girls adjusting to their new home and the Forest King Totoro. Satsuki and Mei Kusukabe have moved with their father (a university professor) to a house in the country so as to be closer to their mother's hospital. Yasuko (the mother) is recovering from a lingering illness. The house has susuwatari, the grass has smaller editions of Totoro, and the forest is full of magic.
A movie that moves at a slow-pace this film does not focus on conflict nor does it include violence. As such this film is PG only because some of the themes, like illness, might be frightening for children. While there are several dubs, the most recent from Disney includes voice work by Dakota Fanning and her younger sister Elle.