My Neighbor Totoro 1993 US Trailer

Here is a very nice find: the original 1993 theatrical trailer for My Neighbor Totoro in the United States, courtesy of original distributor Troma, Inc. This would be the first Studio Ghibli movie to be released in the States, the beginning of a very long and complicated journey towards mainstream acceptance on our shores.

The Troma version of Totoro featured an English-language dub that is beloved by fans to this day. Many still consider it superior to the 2006 Disney version that later appeared on DVD and Blu-Ray. 20th Century Fox would release the movie on VHS, LaserDisc and DVD, although the latter release was merely sourced from the LD, with the traditional "full screen" pan-and-scan picture.

The original 1993 press release was preserved by the Miyazaki Mailing List, and it's a fascinating read. I'd like to find an original copy, if only for posterity. This marked the first serious attempt to bring Hayao Miyazaki to the American mainstream. Troma's strategy would become the standard sales pitch: Miyazaki as Japan's Walt Disney. This has never been entirely true (if I would compare Miyazaki to any American filmmaker, it would be Steven Spielberg), but understandably necessary when the family-friendly cartoon market was dominated by Disney, which was experiencing their great renaissance in the early 1990s, thanks to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

Here's the relevant text from the Troma press release:

"Japan's Mickey Mouse" 
Troma's release of the award-winning family film MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO will introduce American audiences to TOTORO, which in Japan is a household name. "In Japan TOTORO is more beloved than Mickey Mouse and the Troma Team is honored to introduce this superb family entertainment to American audiences," says Lloyd Kaufman. Throughout Japan, one can see the furry, fat and lovable creatures, called TOTOROs on a wide variety of licensed products including plush toys, tote bags, pillows, lunch boxes and many others. 
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO also introduces the creative imagination and art of Japan's top animation director, Hayao Miyazaki. "Mr. Miyazaki's animation is magnificent and sublime; funny yet very touching. In my opinion he is a genius" comments Kaufman. He is as revered in Japan as Walt Disney is revered in America and has had enormous box-office success, attracting audiences of adults, as well as children.

The tagline "more popular than Mickey Mouse" was commonly used in those days, and was always aimed more at parents than children. I remember that phrase was previously used to describe Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. For Baby Boomer parents, Mickey was the touchstone for children's entertainment. For Generation X/Y and young Millennials? Not so much.

This illustrates once again the immense difficulty in bringing Japanese animation to the States. "Japanimation" wasn't just a variation on familiar cartoons, it was an entirely different art form.

I am aware that it's unlikely to ever happen, but I would like to see a home video release of My Neighbor Totoro that includes the original 1993 Troma dub and trailer. You could include the 2006 Disney dub as well. There's plenty enough room for everyone. I think the fans would be thrilled.

1 comment:

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Oh, don't we all, even Japan got the "Troma dub" on their original DVD release anyway, so it shouldn't be that hard to use it at all. Of course that dub was made about 3-4 years earlier before the '93 release I believe, when Carl Macek got to do English dubs of Totoro and Kiki that were said to be used on Japan Airlines' intercontinental flights.

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