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Spirited Away
DVD disk
Oct 8, 2004 By: Indiana Sev
Spirited Away order
Director:
Hayao Miyazaki

Actors:
Daveigh Chase
Jason Marsden
Suzanne Pleshette

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
SPIRITED AWAY is an animated wonder that tells the story of a little girl named Chihiro, who gets swept away into a strange and fascinating spirit world with her parents. Once there, her parents are put under a spell and our little heroine must do whatevers necessary to free them and return back to the human world.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
In my humble opinion, animated features have been getting smarter, more exciting, intelligent and creative since the early nineteen- nineties. It began with films like BEAUTY & THE BEAST, TOY STORY, THE IRON GIANT and more recently SHREK and ICE AGE, which all mix high quality humor with equal doses of heart and beautiful animation, with the end result usually producing a film that entertains almost as much (and sometimes more) than a non-animated feature. SPIRITED AWAY raises the bar for the animated film even higher as it touches on themes of love, trust, friendship and courage without being heavy-handed and also includes a fascinating assortment of fun, cute, evil and odd characters that youre likely to see for some time. My emotions ranged from sadness to joy to amazement as I followed this little girls quest through this strange world with total commitment. I was not bored once or distracted during its two hour run time and I attribute that to the good writing, brilliant direction and of course, the truly imaginative vision that Miyazaki brought to the screen as writer and director of the film.

Some people are describing this film as a "masterpiece" already and I can certainly understand that argument since I honestly cant recall any real flaws in this film either. What I appreciated the most was the subtlety by which the important themes are handled in the movie. In many of the American animated features (as great as most of them are) sometimes they over-do the message delivering in the film to the point where you feel like youre being preached to. In SPIRITED AWAY, its done in a very natural, original and beautiful way up to the way the movie ends and this is just one of the special qualities it has that sets it apart from others of its kind. A powerful and engaging movie, this film is truly deserving of the Oscar it garnered for Best Animated Film of 2003.
THE EXTRAS
A special two-disc set.

Disc 1 features Spirited Away Introduction by John Lasseter, in which the famed Pixar studios giant and executive producer of this film sets the movie up nicely by sharing with us his love of the film and his total admiration of director Miyazaki. Another extra entitled The Art of Spirited Away is a 15-minute interview and behind-the-scenes filled journey by which the producer, director, voice talents and many others who were involved with the film share their thoughts about subjects ranging from the other brilliant works of Miyazaki to the grueling effort it takes to translate an animated film into another language. Worth the watch, especially after just viewing the film. I wouldnt have minded it being a tad longer though. A few sneak peeks of animated films (including a couple of the director's earlier films) are also thrown in with the rest of the extras on this first disc.

Disc 2 includes The Nippon Television Special-The Making of the Film. Wow, this a forty-minute Japanese special that delves deep inside the life and times of director Hayao Miyazaki. I appreciated this film all the more after witnessing first hand the hard work and dedication that the man puts into his films. You truly get a sense of who Miyazaki is; this special shows him at home, playing with his dog, cooking and being totally involved in almost every single aspect of SPIRITED AWAY. This is an extra feature every DVD should have, its a must see for anyone who not only loved the film, but who wants to see a great man doing great things with his life.

Then there is the Select Storyboard-To-Scene Comparison, which is pretty self-explanatory. It's basically the first ten minutes of the film presented in sequence on storyboards with the option of the English or Japanese languages playing along. Im always fascinated by the details and effort put into these storyboards so it was fun to see how close they were to the finished product. Next up was a five minute ditty called Behind The Microphone which takes you into the studio to witness the fun, the trials and the tribulations of the voice-over actors doing their thing. Just short enough not to get boring. Btw, its official...John Ratzenberger (Cliff from CHEERS) is now a voice-over artist for EVERY animated movie thats being made. Finally there are the original Japanese trailers (tons of them, actually) of SPIRITED AWAY. There is an option for English subtitles on all these features.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I can honestly say this is unlike any other animated feature that Ive ever seen. Id recommend it for purchase as its got something for young and old and the vision of a truly gifted and imaginative director. The extras offer much insight into the film as well, although I was hoping for a commentary track by Miyazaki to boot. Go out and pick this up folks, you wont be disappointed.
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