Plot: What’s it about?
I’ve never been a fan of change. I am very much fine within the confines of my daily routine. Sure, I mix it up from time to time, but mostly with minute things that simply must be adjusted. That’s what brings me to Spirited Away, a 2001 film that, until my review, I had never seen despite hearing nothing but praise for it. Ten year old Chihiro Ogino and her parents are on their way to their new home, and it’s clear that Chihiro has her reservations. Perfectly understandable. Her dad takes a wrong turn, but they can see their new house. It’s not long before Chihiro realizes they’ve entered a magical world (a result of her father’s wrong turn). She discovers her parents, but see they’ve been transformed into pigs. She meets a boy named Haku who acts as her guide. He wastes no time in explaining the world and their rules. Naturally, Chihiro is worried and only wants to find her parents, but Haku assures her that everything will be ok. That’s the setup here, but the rest of the film is best left for the audience to discover.
The widely acclaimed Hayoa Miyazaki wrote and directed the film, and now I wish I hadn’t waited almost 15 years to finally view it. The Bluray just made it’s a couple of months ago, but I do wish I sought it out before. The animation is nearly flawless, and really brings you into the world. At times it looked like a painting was literally coming to life in front of me. Watching it in HD only helps matters. I’ve read comparisons to Alice in Wonderland and while true to an extent, this film works in its own way. The story kept me involved, but the visuals were always a delight. I couldn’t wait to see what images would appear next. The story is a bit predictable, but that’s beside the point. With a film like this, the journey is part of the fun. The voice work for the English dub gets fine points as well. It all feels natural to this world. I read that some dialog was added to help explain the Japanese text. These are only subtle additions, but clearly the filmmakers felt necessary to take that route. Had I not known beforehand, I would’ve never guessed. I’m sure the film has been seen countless times by those that will pick up this disc, but for anyone new to it, it’s well worth watching, especially in HD. Highly Recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
I could go on and on about this amazing transfer, but that would prove repetitive. Needless to say, we get a first rate image from the opening moments. The visuals are one of the best things about this film and some of the best I’ve ever seen. Colors are always as they should be with strong details throughout. I mentioned some of the images appearing like paintings that have come to life. There’s an early scene that demonstrates this. All around, Disney has done fantastic work here. The image is AVC encoded with a 1.85:1 ratio.
Audio: How’s it sound?
We get two DTS HD mixes here: The original language track and the English track. I opted for the latter and like the image itself, was perfect in nearly every way. From clear dialogue to nice sounding effects, the track involves the viewer from the opening moments to the last. The rear channels stayed reasonably active throughout. Fans will be more than pleased.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Introduction by John Lasseter
- Original Japanese Storyboards – I admit these have never been my favorite feature, but fans of storyboards will be pleased with checking them out. We can watch the entire film this way, which makes the feature rather unique.
- The Art of Spirited Away – A pretty nice behind the scenes feature. A lot of time is given discussing the animation.
- Behind the Microphone – This shows up the work of dubbing the film for its English track.
- Nippon Television Special – A 42 minute TV special that explores the making of the film. A lot of ground is covered here which makes this feature well worth watching.
- Original Japanese Trailers and TV Spots
The Bottom Line
While not my favorite animated film, Spirted Away is still quite amazing. It really brings us into its world and doesn’t let go. The story (while simple) is involving and the animation simply stunning. Disney’s new Bluray looks and sounds amazing, and includes some nice bonus features. Fans should definitely check it out. All others should at least rent it.