Studio Ghibli continues its amazing success, this time with Hayao Miyazaki giving up the directing spot. The force behind too many brilliantly crafted animated films to mention, Miyazaki is only listed here as producing the screenplay, with longtime animator (going back to Princess Mononoke) Hiromasa Yonebayashi taking the reins.
The Secret World of Arrietty, based on The Borrowers, takes us into the tiny world of young Arrietty and her parents, Pod and Homily. The Clock family (though I don’t know that they are referred to as such in this version of the story) have their simple lives thrown into chaos when Arrietty is spotted by a young boy.
Shawn comes to visit the house the Clocks occupy in order to get as much rest as he can. The sickly youth is meant to be conserving his strength before an operation, but he soon learns that he has come to a home with its own folklore of small people sightings. Before even entering the home he thinks he’s seen one, and a curious relationship develops when he spots her again during a nightly “borrowing” trip.
It’s a story everyone knows, though in this case that means a lot more than the adventure we had with Ponyo. It’s a straightforward adaptation, with a quiet charm that draws you in, and the lovable teen angst of Arrietty steals the show.
Though every adaptation of this story has its own spin, the Clocks, already believing themselves perhaps the last Borrowers, are now faced with chief dilemma of their kind – they’ve been seen. Two other Borrower families used to live in the house, and now it’s their turn to brave the great unknown. Of course, things don’t go smoothly, because human beings are who they are, and before you know it, they may need some help from Shawn after all.
As with most films that come with Miyazaki’s name on them, Arrietty has a methodical development to it, but unlike those others, this one is mostly content to simply display a certain sense of wonder, and carefully construct that into its own meaning. Most of his films weave layers of thematic content into the story, like any good fairy tale, but Arrietty is content to let the magical be its own reward, and if it has a moral, that’s it.
That is not to say that the film doesn’t deliver on the inherent themes that everyone is familiar with, but it does so in a way that is uniquely satisfied to simply let the matter be, rather than discuss what it’s giving you. We are still rich with the metaphoric aspects that have made The Borrowers, not only a classic, but a well that is returned to again and again. Arrietty comes through perfectly as the embodiment of bold youth, faced with a world too big for her to even comprehend, filled with dazzling sights and confusing dangers.
It’s a touching story that is made all the more compelling by its lack of completion, and it’s a film that will easily fall into place alongside Studio Ghibli’s other treasures.
The Blu-Ray treatment looks as amazing as you’d expect, and while animated films do not usual fall into the category of those things that really make you glad of the full extent of HD, Studio Ghibli unsurprisingly provides the rich and downright amazing details that make this a Blu-Ray showpiece.
The only drawback is that it isn’t overly filled with bonus features, for those that hope for a lot of extras. There’s a storyboard presentation of the film, which is wonderful, but perhaps only of value to a select percentage of viewers. Beyond that, you get a couple of music videos and some Japanese trailers and TV spots, which don’t add up to all that much additional value for your dollars.
Still, this is one that is easy to recommend, and one worth owning, because it’s going to get watched repeatedly.
Walt Disney Studios and the legendary Studio Ghibli (“Ponyo” & “Spirited Away”) proudly open the doors to “The Secret World of Arrietty” on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, on May 22, 2012. This visually stunning animated masterpiece stars an illustrious voice cast that includes Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Bridgit Mendler, Moises Arias, David Henrie and the iconic and much beloved Carol Burnett.
Based on the acclaimed children’s book series “The Borrowers,” by Mary Norton, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is an imaginative tale of “little people” living furtively among us, and the unlikely friendship that forms when their hidden world is discovered. The heartwarming family adventure features beautiful, stylized animation and timeless themes of friendship, courage and determination.
In addition to the stunning Blu-ray hi-definition picture and digital sound, the 2-Disc Combo Pack includes an array of bonus features that will fascinate animation fans, including a storyboard version of the film and the original Japanese trailers and TV commercials. Additional features include music videos for the songs “Summertime” performed by Disney Channel star Bridgit Mendler, who is the speaking voice of Arrietty; and the movie’s theme song “Arrietty’s Song” performed by French singer/songwriter Cécile Corbel.
An enthralling story, with the English language version directed by 7-time Academy Award®-winner Gary Rydstrom, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a remarkable filmmaking achievement that families will want to add to their home entertainment collections and enjoy over and over.
2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack: (1 Blu-ray Disc + 1 DVD)
• Storyboard presentation of the film
• Original Japanese Trailers and Television Commercials
• “Summertime” Music Video – Performed by Bridgit Mendler, the speaking voice of Arrietty.
• The Making Of “Summertime” Behind the Scenes – Bridgit Mendler hosts a look at the making of the music video.
• “Arrietty’s Song” Music Video – Experience the movie’s theme song, performed by innovative singer and harpist Cécile Corbel, who also wrote the lyrics.