“The Secret World of Arrietty” talkback

Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty opens today and Disney is quite excited about it. It’s the biggest US release of a Ghibli film (1200 screens), and the feature will be shown in selected theatres in Japanese with subtitles, as well as the more common English dub. The press reviews are looking good – The LA Times says the film is “imeccable and pure”; The Village Voice calls it “pure magic”.

As longtime fan, follower and one-time distributor of Ghibli films allow me to add my two-cents and say that Arrietty is one my personal favorites from the Ghibli factory. It’s a gentle film, a beautiful film and, yes, it may have the most accessible story for Western audiences to grasp. It should be, as it is a relatively faifthful adaptation of Mary Norton’s 1952 book, The Borrowers. Who knew this would fit so perfect into the Miyazaki canon?

The comments on this post are open only to those who have seen the film and wish to share their opinion of it. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to go see it this weekend – and tell us what you think.


  • Andy Smart

    While there were no spectacular moments on a par with Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, Arriety was a beautifully composed film. I liked the inventiveness shown in scenes of the Borrowers getting around the house like Pod’s use of double-sided tape and the ladders made of staples. There was also some great interaction between Arriety and the various insects.

    The biggest issue for me was the lack of a serious threat posed by the housekeeper, Haru. All her schemes against the Borrowers fall apart pretty quickly so that any sense of conflict the film has is diminished. That and the overly twee Celtic music were the main weaknesses. Overall though, an enjoyable movie.

    One question: does the US release use the British dub or Disney record one of their own?

    • http://www.davidfreedman.co.uk David Freedman

      There is a UK dub and a US dub. I’ve seen both. Each has it’s own strengths.

  • eldodo

    Arrietty got a pretty shy release in my country back in September; I’m really glad it’s been granted a proper distribution and publicity in the States*.

    This film is absolutely great; Ghibli’s trademark love for detail really comes together in this one and Yonebayashi’s direction is refreshingly focused and sophisticated. Most of the criticism I’ve heard about tends to sadly focus on what the movie is not instead of what it is; I actually found the small, My Neighbor Totoro-ish scale of the story more to my tastes than previous attempts such as Tales from Earthsea.

    *I still find the EEUU poster pretty terrible (I mean Disney home video-terrible). The original poster was beautiful, and even though wanting to get both main characters in there is understandable promotion-wise, the final result is wooden and sort of creepy (also, get some green in there, geez; it’s sort of the framing visual motif of the film)

    • Hannah de Spon

      Oh lord I thought I was the only person who didn’t like the US poster, thank you!

  • Matt B

    I saw an advanced screening of Arrietty here in Aus last November. I really enjoyed it & thought the movie was beautiful, & as an animator there were plenty of little moments in it that I’m really keen to study when it comes out on DVD, oddly all involving animals like the crow, the cat & the crickets.
    Arrietty is a lovely film but in my opinion the story isn’t super strong & generally just floats & bobs along until fades out, all be it beautifully & quietly to gentle music.

    Not like there’s anything wrong with that, as there are countless films & animations that do far worse.

    Like most Studio Ghibli films Arrietty has a relatively quiet pacing, but along with its gorgeous execution it is by no means devoid of a story, action or climaxes etc…

    The qualms I have with Arrietty are related largely to the fact that the plot has many occurrences or actions that often (and strongly) appear as if they are a set up for something to occur later on in the film, things that foreshadow something or the shape of things to come. I could list more than just a few of these, but as most are spoilers, especially if you analyse them in-depth, I’ll just give the least soiler-ish example of Arrietty’s “Sword”/Pin, which she picks up in the first quater of the film. For all intents & purpose it may as well have been something less interesting, like a necklace or shoe-horn, because that’s about as much show or use it gets throughout the rest of the film. This is just one example. Others have to do with the characters or stuff foreshadowed in their dialogue, but I really don’t want to further reveal what is otherwise a gorgeous little film. On the whole Arrietty is very charming, but it’s simply no Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service.

    Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a young Studio Ghibli lead Animator who directed Arrietty clearly has great talent, and at the very least I like the fact that they’re letting young blood get a chance to direct. Despite this all I can’t wait for Hayao Miyazaki to make a return to the directors’ chair, hopefully for one last hurrah.

    • Matt B

      In short there are never any real consequences, and any instances that DO build any suspense & interest quickly dissipate or go in a completely muted and unresolved direction.

      I’m sure some folks will say that most Studio Ghibli films are simply ruminations of the open & pondering narrative variety “it’s a foreign film after all”. But I think there is a great difference between a film with quiet moments builds that leads to somewhere (not necessarily big or grandiose, but somewhere) and leaves a profound feeling on the audience. Perhaps I’m expecting too much, but in my view this is what most of Miyazakis’ films do and Arrietty, sadly for the most part, doesn’t.

      But I’ll still needlessly reiterate, it’s still a beautiful little film and definitely worth watching.

    • eldodo

      I actually thought that one of the film’s most interesting new tricks in comparison with previous Ghibli films was exactly that mild playfulness with the audience’s expectations. There’s a lot of stuff going on that sort of triggers automatic thought processes on a seasoned viewer (such as Arrietty getting the pin as you mention, seeing “the rats”, as well as some other pretty big ones such as the oytay ousehay :), and which ultimately either don’t really go anywhere or have unexpected roles.

      I think this style of narrative tricks fit very well in the general theme of the movie (coping with uncertainty about the future), and I don’t see it as a mistake or a defect at all, but a snippet of real life binding the story together.

      • Matt Bell

        @eldodo:
        In many ways I agree with you, that theme does seem to be woven throughout the film, but let me say this… if that were the aim then I feel like Arrietty was, for the most part, an awful lot of work by many skilled hands simply to so “inarticulately” present such a simple theme or premise to an audience through a film.
        Yes, much of life & change is uncertainty, but that sentiment alone can hardly comprise an entire feature film.
        Personally I feel that films, particularly animated films, should not merely be dictations of life, but explorations of everything we know & see, imagine & believe, both in their visuals & metaphors. The best stories are insightful & experiential creations that operate beyond the realm of our own limited possible life experiences, yet ought to be in informed by & referential to them.

        I guess in many ways Arrietty is, but it also isn’t. I guess I just see lost potential.

        That’s my two cents.

  • http://www.daryl-rhystaylor.co.uk DarylT

    Arrietty Uk release was last July in the Uk. It has actually just come out on bluray over here so for the first time I can actually comment on one of these talkback posts.

    The film is pure Studio Ghibli work. So it’s beautiful to look at, quiet and serene but not a lot happens and the characters don’t emote much. Similar to their other films and equally as enjoyable.

    If you have seen other Studio Ghibli films you will know what to expect

  • http://animatedlane.com jwlane

    I heard a review on Nation Public Radio this morning. The review ended with the note that most of the audience stayed in their seats at the end of the movie. They didn’t want it to be over yet.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Just like me! Too bad though most pretty much left before the credits were over at the theater I went to (though I went to an early matinee and I’m sure they were in a hurry for something).

    • Dino

      I also stayed in my seat, not because I didn’t want it to be over but for two reasons:
      1) There was additional animation going on behind the credits, and
      2) The ending was such a non-ending, I guess I was expecting something else to happen.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        The worst I was expecting was a zoom-in shot of the dollhouse in the bedroom, all lit up (the room itself being dark), the camera pulls in and in, throw the window into the living room, and we see the clip Arrietty had on her hair left on a stand or mantelpiece. THE END

        I’ll give the film credit for going the way it did out of my expectations there, not at whole lot, but it did leave me guessing on whether or not a new relationship was developing there that we’re just left blindly on and have to accept it for what it is and move on.

        I sure hope I didn’t spoil too much there.

  • http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/the-mike-toole-show/ Mike Toole

    Saw a sneak preview last Saturday, and saw the UK dub last month when it came out on DVD. It’s a really delightful little movie. I’m particularly fond of the backgrounds (gorgeous watercolor work!) and the sound design – Ghibli do a great job of communicating the out-of-whack SCALE of the Borrowers by making routine household sounds huge and distorted.

    As for the dub itself, was particularly impressed by Carol Burnett, and by Will Arnet as Arrietty’s dad, Pod – he really disappears into the role. Not easy for the guy in the $6,200 suit!

  • andrew osmond

    I’ve seen the subbed and the British-dubbed versions. In answer to Andy’s question, the British dub has a different cast from the new Disney dub. I presume the UK distributor just wanted to release the film fairly quickly – it had a small UK cinema run last summer – and didn’t want to wait around for Disney to complete its own version.

    The British cast includes Saoirse Roan (Lovely Bones) as Arrietty and Mark Strong (recently seen in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as her father, Pod. Personally I liked the dub on its own terms (for the record, it also seems to stick closer to the Japanese dialogue than does the Disney version). The presence of British accents seems nicely appropriate, given the Borrowers was originally a British story.

    In Britain, it was called simply ‘Arrietty’ – I’m still not quite sure why it wasn’t called The Borrowers in the UK, like the source book, which is still fairly well-known. Indeed, there was a live-action BBC version just this Christmas; the R2 DVD at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Borrowers-DVD-Stephen-Fry/dp/B006C1FL00/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1329495241&sr=8-4

    I liked the film; unlike Andy, I love the French music, but I agree strongly with his other criticism.

    I’d agree that it’s not up to the level of the films that Matt cites. Re his point about foreshadowing, though, I was glad to see a film that doesn’t obey all the ‘laws’ of popular screenwriting (and no, I’m not going to claim it’s connected with Arrietty’s Japaneseness – plenty of US films bend those laws as well).

    IMO, a lot of Arrietty’s scenes are about quietly establishing relationships and contrasts between the film’s characters (and there aren’t many), that the viewer can reflect on afterward, or on a second viewing. It’s a ‘thematic’ approach, rather than simply plot-driven. Re the example of Arrietty’s ‘sword’ pin that Matt brought up, it reflects her adventurous, impetuous personality, as does her bright red dress.

    Re jwlane’s point about the audience staying; well, in fairness, the animation carries on until about halfway into the end credits. :)

  • tomm

    saw it in Dublin last year. my favourite ghibli for years. besides the gorgeous visuals, the sound design is great and I liked the music , even if it was a little sugary sometimes.

  • Hans W.

    A great film, but incredible that it took so long for the movie to be released in the States. I saw it a year ago in Brussels at the Anima Festival, and a few times in the cinema since then. Go and see it! Although not directed by Miyazaki, it has the same ‘feel’ as “Kiki” or “Spirited Away”. But the master stays superior!

  • Anthrocoon

    As a fan of “giant and tiny people” who has seen other versions of the Borrowers (including a recent BBC Christmas special), I have to say I enjoyed it. Superb backgrounds and character design, good voicing (Carol Burnett, I’m so glad we had this time, together) and an interesting plot. One part near the beginning, when Pod and Arietty go borrowing by night, is fairly quiet with no music and the plot generally moves slow, but I found the characters such as Arietty and the boy, Shawn, to be interesting. (The boy seems to have some sort of congenital heart defect and is due for risky surgery.)

    Seeing the borrowers’ adaptations to a huge world–and the danger the cat poses to them–and the lovely garden shots, the details of the dollhouse, and so on, it was well worth seeing. Did I feel for these characters? Yes I did, especially the ones who could fit in your shirt pocket.

  • AlanK

    Saw it this morning with two daughters of elementary-school age. We all loved it and had much to discuss on the way home. The tranquil tone was loosely punctuated by plot elements, including some not-so-tranquil events for a fine balance. There was more than enough emotional resonance with characters to capture and hold our attention throughout. Clearly there was great effort to convey the perspective of tiny people in a world of human beings, with wondrous success. All told, it was a thoughtful, nuanced film that well satisfied family tastes. Hooray for Ghibli, and thanks to Disney for making it available in the States.

  • Phil

    This is not directed by Miyazaki. Why would it fit in the Miyazaki Canon? Confused.

    Great film.

    • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

      Why are you confused? Miyazaki wrote the script adaptation and produced the film. He certainly influenced the art direction and overall production. He may not have directed it, but his fingerprints are all over it.

      • Lucious Parker

        Now I’m really disappointed. It’s probably got no big set piece musical numbers. And they call this a “Disney” film?

    • AlanK

      If memory serves, the credit was “Planned and Written by Hayao Miyazaki.” Terms like “director” begin to drift from their pigeonholes when highly talented visionaries guide a project. Classic example: The Thing (from Another World) [1951] was credited to director Christian Nyby, but the film is largely the work of Howard Hawks. So it is with Arietty, very much a Miyazaki work.

    • ajnrules

      Plus it is from Studio Ghibli. Even if it wasn’t directed by Miyazaki, it would still fit in with the Ghibli canon.

  • Matt P.

    I think this is a really sweet simple film. I love the backgrounds (particularly the design of the Borrower’s house) and I really did enjoy Corbel’s music. I also love Homily as a character with her paranoid personality as well the introduction of Spiller. I will say I think the near-end of the film felt a bit anti-climatic given it just feels like it comes and goes but other than that I really enjoyed this!

  • Tom

    Absolutely loved it. The world from a miniature perspective was so beautifully realized, and the first twenty minutes alone were, in my opinion, flawless.

    My main qualm were the human characters, or more specifically, the dubbing. Why couldn’t the boy be voiced by an actual person his age, as opposed to a twenty-something-year-old? It made it harder to take his lines seriously.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    The film certainly had some near-MacGuffin/Chekhov’s Gun moments, but it’s also interesting that it left me questioning things that occur without setting up (like how did Sho know where to find the Borrowers’ home), but I also found myself impressed at where it leaves you in the end. I have to admit the film had a very brisk pace for a 90 minute feature and I too thought it wasn’t over yet when it was, it never drags at all even with those moments like Pod and Arrietty’s trip to gather a few things in the house and the procedures that need to be orchestrated the way that it’s done.

  • Toonio

    I found the pacing a little slow for my taste but the whole visual experience surely makes up for the rest.

  • Roberto

    Like most of Miyazaki’s/Ghibli films it has good atmosphere and cute moments and I enjoyed it while I was watching it…but not much more. I scratch my head when I read some of the praise these movies get. I usually find Pixar a little overrated most of the time too, so maybe the problem is me.

    Thing with Arrietty is that the final credits include more magic/adventure than the whole film. The introduction is pretty nice and beautiful, but then there is so little story that the attempts of introducing a threat seemed like they came out of nowhere.

    I wouldn’t mind the lack of action if the film managed to have a big emotional impact through the story of the sick boy…but I feel like that doesn’t have a lot of pay off at the end either.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice, good-looking film and worth watching, but it’s nothing I’m going to remember forever and it feels like a series of good isolated scenes rather than a story that makes a great impact on the whole. Pretty much like every Miyazaki film I’ve seen so far (even though this one is not directed by him).

  • Dave

    I saw Arrietty in the theater in Japan when it came out here. I loved the sense of scale and the performances of the characters, especially the housekeeper and the mother. However, I found the actual characters to be boring. I didn’t see any redeeming qualities for the boy and I thought that he and Arrietty lacked the necessary chemistry to make the movie work for me. The housekeeper’s threat level was low, but I didn’t really feel anything at the denouement– there was not really the sense of loss that you might expect. I’m looking forward to the English version to see if things read better there.

  • Jeremy

    Obviously, it was a beautiful film. Love the creativeness of the borrowers’ tools (Arrietty and the earrings made me raise my eyebrows), and the characters were (for the most part) great. The mother and Hara got a lot of laughs out of me!

    Like someone else commented, though, the story fell a bit flat. I spent too much of the movie waiting for something to happen, and when something did happen, I was left with a very ‘meh’ feeling. I get that it may have been done on purpose, but I’m not sure if it was such a great choice. I heard a 5-6 year old kid in the row in front of me say ‘This is a long movie,’ which is a pretty bad sign since it was only about an hour and a half Miyazaki makes it a point to aim for kids.

    Despite my problems with the story and pacing, the animation. Wow. Absolutely amazing. Can’t say a thing bad about it.

    Wouldn’t recommend it to anyone as anything more than a matinee viewing, though.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      The best responses from kids in the audience I went to was “Why is she crying?” after the crow incident (where Arrietty leaves through an opening in the wall) and question why don’t they live in the doll house probably about an hour into it (at least they’re thinking).

  • Austin Papageorge

    I missed maybe 5 minutes of the opening because I was running late, but the vast majority of the film that I did see was very good. It’s not sublime like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro, but it’s significantly more enjoyable than the relatively tepid Ponyo. The action set pieces were expertly conceived, and the quiet moments were beautiful. The pop songs on the soundtrack of the American version were annoying, though.

    I noticed that the score was not done by Joe Hisaishi, but Cécile Corbel. The music is different from what the former would have written, but it is still very pleasant.

  • D

    Arietty was a much simpler film than most Studio Ghibli productions and I kind of dug that. It seemed that this film was just content to be a superbly animated piece of fantasy fiction revolving around themes that Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have utilized well in the past such as the bonds of friendship and peace amongst people and the environment. However I did feel that the film played it a bit safe especially when you compare it to pieces like Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbour Totoro. Overall its a good film with a nice light message, strong characters and mesmerizing animation but in the end it will inevitably be overlooked by the much stronger and more unique films in the Studio Ghibli library.

  • Funkybat

    Looking forward to seeing this, especially since it sounds like there will be some theaters showing it in Japanese with subtitles, the way I prefer to watch Anime.

    Does anyone have any ideas for how to track down which theaters are showing the “Japanese w/ subtitles” version? The Disney website was no help, and I see no distinctions made when I look on Yahoo Movies or Fandango. Trying to call individual movie theaters via phone is usually an act of futility, you just end up in some phone-tree hell and can’t get a human for the life of you unless it’s at the national office for the chain.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Sounds like my mom’s life right there.

  • Dave O.

    ‘Arriety’ has all the signature Ghibli subtlety which can be defined as a special appreciation of quietness and to the psychological pathos of its characters in magical settings that are masked by banal facades. Other animation houses can only ever have hints of this subtlety, never sustaining it throughout their features like a Ghibli film.

    ‘Arriety’ was magic through and through mainly because of the expert sense of scale. You can feel the impending danger in being so small with a kitchen as expansive as the Grand Canyon and other settings fading into darkness. A Western studio would have went for the obvious doom in these scenes with talking bug attacks and overly staged, loud peril sequences. (There is a crow used only once or twice for this purpose and then wisely never used again). Lush, imaginative highly detailed backgrounds really take center stage in this film. There’s a scene where Arriety scales the outer wall of a house using the ivy that crawls along its side. It’s quite beautiful for its attention to detail and painterliness. I can’t say I’ve ever had the experience of just purely enjoying a character inhabiting a background and certainly not with digital animation.

    A quiet, thoughtful film mildly tainted only by an awful hip-hop American Idol-style song at the end credits. What a testimony to how the Disney touch can ruin an otherwise artful, personal statement. I feel like the narration that ends the film is another superfluous Disneyism where the boy says that he came back the next summer, only there to reassure parents and kids that the boy’s surgery was successful. It unintentionally changes the lovely smallness of the film and the film’s message. I’m curious to know if the narration is in the original Japanese version.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      No, that narration wasn’t there at all from what I could tell. Another case of Disney adding something else that wasn’t there before, whether it’s Jiji’s voice coming back in “Kiki’s Delivery Service” or Chihiro telling her father she’ll get over it in “Spirited Away.”

  • hitface

    Writing from the US:
    When I saw it, there were only four other people in the theater besides me and my mother(she loves Ghibli movies as much as i do, and is a fan of small persons getting on in a big persons world). Two of them left before the movie even started, i think the sound was too loud in the previews for the child, I dont know why they didnt just move back, but eh.
    It is a beautiful movie. Gorgeous backgrounds, gorgeously drawn characters, beautiful attention to detail. My favourite detail is the fact that for the borrowers, water comes out as big droplets when poured through tiny openings, or clinging to their clothes. I loved looking at the backgrounds, and noticing what they used and did in place of what we have in the “big” world. I’ll say it again, a beautiful movie. As someone mentioned earlier, many people didnt go even after the credits were over, even in my end, even one of the children who cried her eyes out when shon was moving their house around. The sound was also a very lovely thing in this movie, I really enjoyed how they played with the sounds in it when showing things from Arrietty’s point of view.
    Someone asked if the narration was in the Japanese version: I saw the Japanese version online, I do not remember Shon narrating. Sometimes Disney adds things to their dubs to make sure people get the message, for example, In spirited away, the seal was just that, the seal. in the dub, theY said “golden seal” so people didnt think of it as the animal instead of a name seal.
    Anyway, It was a great movie, though I did also felt a bit let down by it not being longer or having more to things referenced earlier. I would have loved for Arrietty and her family to finally meet the other borrowers that Spiller talked about. Maybe they will have a sequel? I hear sequels are popular in japan.
    I am going to buy this movie on DVD for sure, so i can pause it and take in the backgrounds for an eternity. I plan on having kids someday, and I know I want them to grow up with this beautiful movie, and the other amazing offerings from Studio Ghibli. I’ve been urginig all my friends to go see Arrietty. i feel it is a movie you’ll miss out on partially if you dont see it in the theatre.

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    This is an excellent film, better than any animated feature done in the last year. The character animation is lovely and subtle with pure character definition in the movement. None of the nonsensical and amateurish popping moves we find in Western animation. There was some good acting in the American voices, though I found Amy Poehler shrill. The film fits well into the canon of Ghibli movies, and stands well for them. I look forward to seeing it again.

    My NYC theater was filled and generally quiet. This is no mean feat for any film these days, especially in one so gentle as ARRIETTY.

  • AJ

    I’m so glad glad ghibli made this film, the previous film based on the Borrower didn’t really use the visual idea of scale (or the story ) and how mundane things can be viewed in a differant way. Ghibli Knows how to use specticle very well.Baised sounding I know but to me any Ghibli film is a visual banquet.

  • Nik

    The film was very beautiful but I was bored the entire time. I’ve been a big fan of Miyazaki’s work for over 25 years and while I understand that he only worked on the script and planning, this film was a complete disappoint to me. Part of the problem could be that I never liked the original Borrowers story that the film was based on.

  • Austin Papageorge

    I’d like to add that the showing I addended in the suburbs of Atlanta was packed, even moreso than other showings for bigger animated features that I have seen. I guess not every showing was as packed as the one I saw, because the box office estimates for Arrietty aren’t that impressive.

  • LLJ

    The box office estimates for Arrietty are actually pretty good considering that it’s fighting against two strikes: it’s anime, and it’s 2d.

    It’s actually on track to match last year’s Winnie the Pooh, in about 900 less theatres, even.

  • Sevenfeet

    Saw Arrietty today with my five year old daughter. We don’t go to many movies in the theater but we try to see Ghibli films when they come out (my daughter’s first experience in the theater was Ponyo when she was three). I’m one of those who could basically watch painted Ghibli frames all day and Arrietty doesn’t disappoint. Like Ponyo and Totoro, there isn’t a lot of actual conflict but that’s the mark of Miyazaki films anyway. I’d prefer my daughter asking questions about subtle points anyway.

    And it shouldn’t be a surprise that everyone in the theater who was there with is were other parents with young daughters. Not a young boy in sight.

  • Chuck

    We went last night in Cary NC just outside of Raleigh and the theatre was PACKED. My 8 year old twins (boy and girl) absolutely loved the movie. They both have stuffed Totoros so they aren’t exactly “normal” :). They loved the story and my son had some great questions about the movie as it went on.

    There were boys and girls there of all ages. The audience truely enjoyed it.

  • http://thequietly.com spookymeggie

    We went to an evening showing in Toronto, and the theatre was surprisingly full — only one group that appeared to be animators (We’ve been going to the Disney rereleases lately, and the theatres tend to be entirely full of adults talking loudly about inbetweening, and absolutely no kids). Everyone else was either a young couple or a parent with children — boys and girls.

    The housekeeper and cat got a laugh whenever they appeared, but it almost felt like people were looking for something-anything-to laugh at. That said, there were some great little pipe-ups from small children here and there, and everyone stayed in their seats to see the full credits.

    Arrietty was lovely for small detail, especially in the wall-eyed bugs and the amazing plants. Like a lot of Ghibli films, it felt like it ended because the time was up, not because it was over. I often feel like Ghibli misses the mark when it comes to setup and payoff, but that may just be an expectation western narrative has driven into me… If I treat Ghibli’s films as meditations rather than stories, I’m happy as a clam. Arriety didn’t have the soaring, breathtaking scene I was hoping for, but it did have some wonderful details and a lot of charm… My young man declared it his favourite animated film, not for great story, but for seeming to have been made with his interests (re: cobbling things together) specifically in mind.

  • Gink

    Saw it today with my 13 year old daughter. It was lovely, but we kept thinking more would happen–as someone mentioned with the pin, although it was used–but we wished we could have seen them in their new set up. There old home was obvious the product of years and years of work that we worried about them getting by in a new place.

    Question–The photo of Shawn’s relatives–it went by so quickly, but was it of the family from Totoro? I realize the Howl’s dog was in it so maybe it was just paying tribute.

    • ajnrules

      I think that’s a picture of the grandmother (great aunt?)’s family from when she was a young girl. She was talking about how her father built the dollhouse for the borrowers, and the picture showed him as she was talking about him.

      It could be a tribute to Totoro, or it could just be that the picture was from Totoro’s time period, and that was a typical family unit from that period. Perhaps it’s both.

  • http://moo-cartoon.blogspot.com MooCartoon

    “Whimsical…I’ve really overused that word to describe Studio Ghibli films… but damn it! Seeing as how I’ve misplaced my thesaurus, I’ll just go on and say it. The Secret World of Arrietty is one frickin’ whimsical piece ‘o film!”

    Check out my full review at: http://moo-cartoon.blogspot.com/2012/02/secret-world-of-arrietty-review.html

  • Gray64

    Saw this the other day and enjoyed it quite a lot. I was most impressed by Pod’s characterization, particularly when he was walking Arrietty through the dollhouse. His “Borrowers are not dolls” line said worlds about him; he might feel his family have nearly as much to fear from human kindness as from potential human cruelty; he doesn’t hate or fear “beans,” but does feel they’re best kept away from. Even with the very best of intentions, humans could easily rob Borrowers of their identity. A lovely, charming, and surprisingly deep and affecting film. Pretty much Miyazaki’s (the screenwriter in this case, right?) stock in trade.

  • Hannah de Spon

    The movie is nice, I saw it a while ago in the UK and while it’s not my favourite Ghibli film (I have issues with the story and character performances) the backgrounds and animation were gorgeous as expected from a top end Ghibli film.

    But it’s a shame the american poster is so awful. Was that gorgeous shot of Arrietty in the leaves used for the Japanese and European posters was ‘too arthouse’ for American audiences?

    Seriously, look at the two side by side
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_EXgDI8DeN_E/TSC3AFKbnaI/AAAAAAAAGN8/A7qeJy1DzAE/s1600/arrietty_le_petit_monde_des_chapardeurs_poster.jpg – original
    http://geektyrant.com/storage/2011-post-images/secretworlarrietty8.jpeg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1318952915852 – US version
    Those blank dead eyes of the little boy (and why the hell is he standing outside a window looking in?) who’s not even looking at our protagonist, Arrietty’s really weird posture along with her completely void expression, the stock backdrop not giving any hint to the STUNNING detail in the film. It’s just so bland compared to the original poster.

    I just don’t get it. The US posters for Spirited Away, Totoro, Ponyo and Howl’s Moving Castle are really good even if they’re not close to the originals, but this poster is just a HUGE step back in quality and don’t sell the film at all compared to the original poster.

    But I’m not an advertising exec, so what the heck would I know.

  • Paul

    Delightful Film and yet watching it am reminded of how sad it is that Hollywood studios with all the talent on the world at their disposal have abandoned hand drawn feature animation. I am very happy for studio Ghibli that they can still make their thoughtful pictures and find a marketplace. With Anime I usually prefer the VO with subtitles but this The US dub was quite good and i soon forgot i was watching a dub and followed the story.

  • Ness

    I watched the film shortly after it came out in Japan and then came to see it in the theaters when it came to the states. Like every Ghibli production, it’s a gorgeous looking and sounding movie. However, like with some other Ghibli films, I found that the story/pacing were somewhat lackluster. It felt like certain parts of exposition would end up being more, like Sho’s heart problems or the pin that Arrietty finds. The dubbing was decent, though Sho, er, Sean sounded like a young Christian Bale Batman.

  • April

    I just saw the film yesterday. It was a good film. Definately more along the lines of My Neighbor Totoro but I found the dubbing was not as strong as other previous dubbing by Disney. And Carol Burnett’s voice did not connect for me with the character design of Haru. I would be really interested in seeing a subbed version to compare. A beautiful film and I hope it does good here in the states.

    • Bobby Bickert

      If you have a region-free DVD player, it’s already been released on DVD (and Blu-ray) in the UK. According to the amazon.co.uk listing, you have a choice of English audio or the original Japanese audio with subtitles.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    I enjoyed it immensely. The animation & backgrounds were
    beautiful. The cat who eventually helped Arrietty & her parents reminded me of Dragon from The Secret of NIMH except he was slightly nicer. Another great feature from Studio Ghbli.

  • SWS

    The charming simplicity of the story reminded me of Totoro, and the quiet reflection of it reminded me of Whisper of the Heart. It was definitely about the journey, the crossroads of Arrietty’s and Sho’s lives, and the “climax” seems to happen shortly after the movie ends. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    I really loved what Ghibli did with the tools and paths the Borrowers used, the crickets, the whole world they created. I also really enjoyed Spiller’s character design; having been a huge fan of the original books as a kid, it was fun to see him.

    Much better than Ponyo, but the US dub got a bit distracting (Sho’s voice was too deep for a kid and a bit clumsy as it tried to fit the mouth movements, and I agree with the person who said it was like a young Christian Bale Batman).

    I’d say it ranks in the middle for me, as far as Ghibli films. It didn’t feel quite as “magical” as most of their films do, but still had a lot of charm and is certainly better than most feature animation coming out of the US.

  • Sarah J

    I saw it tonight and thought it was really good. It’s not really an “epic” but there are still lots of moments with so much tension and suspense. I didn’t really like the voice actor for Shaun but it didn’t really bring the movie down or anything. There was a lot of creativity, and being a Ghibli film, the great animation is just to be expected. I can see why Disney tried a bit harder to market this more than past Ghibli films, a lot of American viewers would be able to enjoy the pacing, and there aren’t a lot of themes or cultural bits that typical American viewers would have a hard time understanding.

  • DJM

    The worst thing about that movie was the despicable Disney/Hollywood records pop track during the credits!

    Other than that, I absolutely loved how low-key it was. Ponyo had that same sort of feeling, but it was just trying too hard to be a children’s movie.

  • Iritscen

    Saw it dubbed two nights ago in Concord, NC. I expected more people in the theater on a Friday night, but there were only two or three groups seated when I got there, and then a couple families arrived after the movie had started. Hopefully there’s still decent crowds in the city theaters.

    It’s definitely on a par with Totoro or other slow Ghibli films. Definitely not comparable to Nausicäa or Mononoke, but it clearly wasn’t trying to be. I liked various points in that were already brought out above, so I won’t be redundant.

    My only issues were with Disney’s dub. First, the writers seemed unable to resist the Great Temptation for all dubbers, which is adding dialogue where there isn’t any. Now, I haven’t seen Arrietty in Japanese, but sometimes it’s clear where a dubber has taken some liberties.

    I didn’t know that Sean’s ending narration was added, and that’s disappointing, but one distracting addition that I noticed in-movie was Arrietty asking her dad if she would get one of those light-globes too, then awkwardly saying, “I guess not” when he didn’t reply. I’m pretty sure nothing was spoken there by Arrietty (may someone correct me if I’m wrong). The style of humor in that insertion was ill-fitting and I thought it was distracting — but maybe that was just me, as a long-time animé fan who has been scarred by one too many loose dubs.

    Secondly, Sean’s voice was too grown-up, as some have mentioned, lending some of his dialogue a slightly creepy aspect when talking to Arrietty.

    Also, some scenes seemed to provoke unintentional laughter, mainly centering around Hara. I liked Carol Burnett’s voice performance, but the acting of the character on-screen was awkwardly lingering, in a way that animé fans would hardly notice, but that seemed to provoke giggles from audience members. I can’t find the right words for it, but hopefully others noticed what I’m referring to.

    Definitely a great family movie, though, if your kids are not ADD-prone. I really hope it does well, to justify Disney’s investment in the film and in future Ghibli films.

  • BT

    I feel like Hara is supposed to be a comedic “villain.” Her character animation is deliberately exaggerated to show her feverishly ridiculous obsession and her subsequent failures. She also has the most exaggerated facial expressions in the whole film. I can’t find a single scene she’s in where you can’t laugh at least a little.

    A lot of people have pegged this as “minor” Ghibli but I don’t know if I’d brush it off that easily. Like SWS, I rank it comfortably in the middle. I daresay that over time, many might consider it on equal footing as Kiki. Or put this way–if Kiki had been released today, many would have considered it “minor” Ghibli as well.

    I’d even go so far as to say that Ghibli’s last 3 films–Ponyo, Arrietty and From Up on Poppy Hill–were more agreeable to me than the the more acclaimed Ghibli films of the late 90s and early 2000s, because they focus more on what originally made Ghibli so unique–quiet, subtle character moments–rather than keeping track of mind-bendingly complicated narratives like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

    • Robert Forman

      I saw the film at a matinee. A young girl in my row, maybe 5 or 6 years old, began crying hysterically and demanded to leave when Hara captured Arrietty’s mother.

      I agree with you though, and I think that the point of the exaggeration may have been to soften the fear aspect.

      • llj

        While Arrietty is certainly a more serious film than most of Ghibli’s “kids” films, I really can’t think of any scenes that I would say are more violent or “scarier” than anything I’ve seen from your typical Pixar or Dreamworks effort. I would assume that the girl you described may well be the type to cry during some of the more intense scenes in Toy Story or Shrek as well.

        On the other hand, I will leave the door open for the possibility that Arrietty focuses more on character reactions to situations, which might make scenes “seem” more intense than they actually are.

      • Robert Forman

        Emotional connection is everything, don’t you think? In this case, it was a young girl at a movie with her mom seeing the mother character in the movie being attacked by a “giant” villain. Although there were other scenes in the movie that were pretty “violent”, such as the crow attack, the girl in the theater was not upset until the danger made an emotional connection with her. To us as adults the Hara character was pretty innocuous, but perhaps not so to a very young child.

  • http://markpudleiner.blogspot.com/ pudleiner

    My 12 year old son picked to see this movie over a live action teenage super hero movie.

    We both loved the thoughtful fantasy world this movie created.