Hayao Miyazaki and his team of master animators at Studio Ghibli worked with American animators at Disney to produce a new film adaptation of Mary Norton’s popular book, “The Borrowers”. If your family loves Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, they’ll love The Secret World of Arrietty, which is now in general release in the US (after being a hit in Japan).
Film buffs have logged countless hours on the differences between classic American (Disney) animation and Japanese anime. Our criteria are more personal. We want to be transported to another world if we’re not watching a live-action film, so the question of why animation is integral to a particular story line is key. Kiki was a witch and flew around on a broomstick, which is easy to capture with drawing. In Mononoke, the forest came to life, and the battles between good and evil in Spirited Away were eerily animated. The little people of The Borrowers are another natural fit for animation – and, in this movie, the worlds of the human household and the tiny landscape of Arrietty’s world are rendered seamlessly, both fitting together and contrasting cleverly with objects being large in one world and miniature in the other.
Secondly, animated films in this country have tended to have remarkable female heroines (from Snow White to Belle). Arrietty is the pluckiest, bravest heroine of all – not a princess and hardly taller than your thumb, but her wide-eyed stare of determination will crack the hardest heart. She befriends the human, something no Borrower has ever dared to do, because she knows in her heart that he is good. What better screen heroine can there be for little girls and boys to admire.
Arrietty charmed us effortlessly – and does Mary Norton proud. But, don’t take it from us. Check out Kenneth Turan’s review in the Los Angeles Times. He calls the film “impeccable and pure.”