The Borrowers get animated: Disney and Studio Ghibli’s join forces to create Arrietty
At 19-years old, I know that walking into a movie theater filled with loud, energetic children and their exhausted, bored parents is a sure sign that I am not going to enjoy the film or the experience. I also know that a couple of 19-year olds walking into what is branded as a children’s movie looks even stranger than I probably felt at the moment. These awkward feelings, along with a nearby child’s crying, hung in the air until the film began and magically filled the audience with a quiet, spirit for the make believe and the whimsical.
It is fair to say then, that Disney and Studio Ghibli deserve quite a bit of praise for their latest effort, The Secret World of Arrietty, which is based off of Mary Norton’s famous children’s book, The Borrowers.
The film, directed by Studio Ghibli newcomer, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, centers around a small family of small people who call themselves “borrowers.” They are doll-sized humans who take items the gigantic “human beans” would never notice were missing, like a sheet of tissue or a sugar cube.
This family of borrowers lives peacefully and undetected until the youngest and most adventurous member, Arrietty, is accidentally discovered by a young boy named Shawn. The film takes off from there as the two characters and their relationship mature and develop.
As wonderful as Arrietty and Shawn’s relationship is, the magic does not lie within the writing or the story, rather in Studio Ghibli’s laboriously hand-made and lush animation. It makes the existence of people smaller than ants more realistic than any CGI effects, brilliant uses of green screens and real actors. The animation made the imagined world of borrowers and human beans as real as the human beings I see around campus. The animation team utilizes a bright and varied color palette consisting of subdued neutrals and bright primary colors. These colors help in making Arrietty’s world not only believable, but an enormously satisfying visual feast.
The animation is not the movie’s only highlight; the soundtrack is also something worth mentioning. The soundtrack is different from most of Studio Ghibli’s other films, exchanging complex, epic orchestral pieces for simpler, Celtic-inspired melodies. Arrietty is as eye-catching as it is ear-catching because of its pleasant, light sound and toe-tapping catchiness. The soundtrack supports the film well without being obtrusive or forgetful, and it also makes for great study music afterwards.
The superb animation and Celtic-inspired soundtrack work together, allowing the viewer to suspend logic and ride along with the fantasy, making the film’s 94-minute duration time breeze by quickly. The moment of childlike wonder almost feels fleeting, which is Arrietty’s biggest problem, that the film itself is a fleeting moment and is ultimately forgetful as it is not nearly as majestic or impactful as some of Studio Ghibli’s other works.
The Secret World of Arrietty is a quiet and subdued movie that tried too hard to suppress the grand adventure just waiting to burst out. The music, the animation and the characters seem like they are aiming for something more than a short hour and a half stint.
Arrietty sells itself and its audience short in this respect, though it does not detract immensely from the overall quality of the film. The film is fantastical and whimsical, but unfortunately the feeling does not last for more than Arrietty’s run time.
Although The Secret World of Arrietty feels a little on the short side, it is an extremely satisfying and enjoyable film. Studio Ghibli and Disney may not do anything groundbreaking; however, Arrietty is a standout among children’s films that mostly consist of cuddly animals and fart jokes. It is something that everyone from energetic children to exhausted parents and awkward 19-year olds can appreciate, despite the fact that its chief audience is children. To quote someone who is a little more qualified than I am, after the film was over, my 12-year old little sister said, “that was so cool.”
The Secret World of Arrietty is playing this weekend, April 20 and April 21 at 9 p.m. at Railroad Square Cinemas. The first 100 Colby Students get free admission upon showing their Colby Cards. Challenge the author’s opinion and see the film for yourself!