Studio Ghibli’s latest effort, The Secret World of Arrietty, easily earns its place among the studio’s most famous classics. Drawing inspiration from Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers, with a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (making his directorial debut), it’s a wonderfully simple story about trust and friendship that features some truly spectacular artwork and animation, gorgeous music, all of which should help make it mandatory viewing for animation fans the world over.
After watching the original Japanese trailer for the film, I wanted to see The Secret World of Arrietty badly. Having missed its limited-theatrical release, I was finally able to see it on Blu-ray and can happily say it’s everything I had hoped it would be – and then some. I’ll let fellow reviewer Chris Pandolfi shed some light on the film’s plot and characters, and those wishing to read his full review on his theatrical experience can do so HERE:
“The central characters are Borrowers, a race of tiny humanoid creatures that are so named because of their “borrowing” everyday human items. They’re not thieves per se; they merely take small amounts of things ordinary-sized people wouldn’t miss, like sugar cubes, tissue paper, pins, and herbs. It’s not about collecting, but survival. They live by a very strict code, namely to never be seen by a human being – or a “bean,” according to Borrower mispronunciation. If they are seen, they must move to a new home, which isn’t easy when you’re only inches tall. We meet a family of Borrowers living under the floorboards of an old house in the Japanese countryside. The daughter, Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler), is an adventurous teenager anxious to go on her first borrowing mission. The father, Pod (voiced by Will Arnett), is a serious but devoted man who understands only that he and his family may be the last of their kind, which is why “beans” aren’t to be trusted. The mother, Homily (voiced by Amy Poehler), is a high-strung worrywart who has a tendency to overreact.”
You know you’ve watched a great movie when it seems to end all too soon, and that’s exactly what happened to me as I watched this instant classic. I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful artwork and animation, as well as the wonderful cast of characters which are voiced well on both the English and Japanese dubs. All of this was made even better by watching it on Blu-ray, as the picture and sound here is the most stunning of the Studio Ghibli releases so far. All of the vivid, watercolor-like artwork and detail show up crystal clear in glorious high-definition, and the animation is wonderfully fluid as viewers have come to expect from the famous animation studio. The DTS-HD 5.1 sound for both the Japanese and English tracks are also well done, making sure that every sound, piece of the dialogue and perfectly fitting Celtic-like score by Cécile Corbel is heard loud and clear.
It’s sad that the extras featured here don’t match up with this masterpiece of a movie. There’s an option to watch the entire film in storyboard layout for those who would like to see how they match up to the actual completed movie. The “Arrietty’s Song” music video is mainly made up of clips from the recording sessions of the harp-driven title track by Cecile Corbel, while the “Summertime” music video by Bridgit Mendler is your standard bubblegum-like track that really doesn’t fit with the film. And if that wasn’t enough, “The Making of Summertime” features a brief interview with Mendler as she talks about writing the song and filming the music video for it.
Filled with wonderful characters, dazzling artwork and animation, along with a timeless story of trust and friendship, The Secret World of Arrietty is an instant classic that ends far too soon for its own good. While its special features leave something to be desired, Disney’s transfer of this modern Ghibli film is easily their most impressive yet, as the beautiful artwork and ethereal music make this Blu-ray a real showcase for your home theater equipment. This is the family movie of the year so far to me. Definitely grab this title along with the other Ghibli releases from Disney, as these titles are as close to real magic as you’re going to get.
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Walt Disney Video