Blu-ray Review: The Secret World Of Arrietty

While Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki seem inseparable, the Oscar winning director doesn’t make all the movies. He co-founded the studio with director Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) The duo were responsible for the first seven releases. But studio’s more than just about them as seen in the rise of Hiromasa Yonebayashi. He started at the studio doing clean up and in between animation on Princess Mononoke. He kept progressing up the production ranks until one day he was given the script to The Secret World Of Arrietty, an adaptation of The Borrowers by Mary Norton. How would Yonebayashi do being given such a lofty project? He went big with a story about small characters.

The movie transplants the action to modern Japan from the book’s setting of post-World War II England. But the story remains the same. Inside a country estate exists tiny family known as Borrowers. They sneak into the big house at night to borrow items that they need in their hidden hovel. But of course everyone thinks they are just fantasy creatures that don’t exist and are just an excuse why big people lose things. Shō (Walt Before Mickey‘s David Henrie) goes to visit his great aunt Sadako in the Japanese countryside. He sees a cat pursuing a what looks like a tiny girl. But she vanishes before he can get proof. Turns out she was real and it is Arrietty (Wizards of Waverly Place‘s Bridgit Mendler) as she returns home to her mother (Amy Poehler). That night her father (Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett) takes her on her first borrowing trip. They need sugar and paper. She is amazed at the big people house and blown away when she sees a doll house. Things get complicated when Sho sees her. She drops her sugar cube and flees. Sho tries to give her back the cube, but this has unexpected consequences. The father can’t allow them to live there now that the big people know they exist. She doesn’t want to go, but there might be no choice since a pesky maid (Carol Burnett) wants to capture them to prove she has been losing stuff around the house.

The Secret World Of Arrietty is a superb adaptation that does a great job creating the immense universe for the tiny people to roam. The simple action of repealing with a fish hook and string comes off strong and dynamic. The Borrowers has been adapted as live action movies four times including a production released a year after Arriety starring Stephen Fry and Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who). The animated version is more enjoyable to watch since you’re not judging the miniaturization special effects. The viewer is watching the story and not judging if things look realistic. The focus is on the emotions and not whether there’s a thin line of green screen in the character’s hairline. Miyazaki made the right choice elevating Yonebayashi into the director’s chair.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the tiny details of the big world. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 versions of both the original Japanese cast and the English cast. There’s a 5.1 mix of the French dub. There’s a delicate mix between room sounds to make things sound more expansive. The subtitles are in English and French.

DVD with movie and some bonus features.

Feature Length Storyboards is the rough of the movie with the final audio mix.

Interview with Hayao Miyazaki (23:53) has the renowned director talk about how he decided to pick
Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The move was a gamble since Yonebayashi didn’t want to be a director, but Miyazaki saw the man had the ability to step up. The interview was conducted while the movie was still in production so Miyazaki is quite unsure of the final film, but he has faith in his selection. He also discusses adapting The Borrowers.

“Arriety’s Song” Music Video (3:39) shows Cécile Corbel and her band recording with a harp in the studio.

“Summertime” Music Video (3:01) is star Bridgit Mendler singing about her summer love.

Interview with Hiromasa Yonebayashi (40:48) has the newbie director talk about what inspired him to work as an animator at Studio Ghibli. The chat is kind of strange since sitting at a desk behind him and working on a computer is producer Toshio Suzuki. It’s hard to figure out is Suzuki is stealth babysitting his fledging director. Yonebayashi

Original Theatrical Trailers (13:53) includes how the film was promoted in Japan including teasers.

8-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statements.

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present The Secret World Of Arrietty. Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa. Starring: Bridgit Mendler, David Henrie, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett. Rated: G. Running Time: 94 minutes. Released: November 21, 2017.

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