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Hiromasa Yonebayashi
David Henrie, Bridget Mendler, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Moises Arias, Carol Burnett, Peter Jason
Writing Credits:
Mary Norton (novel, "The Borrowers"), Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa

Do not be seen by humans. That's been the law of children of the underfloor.

Discover The Secret World Of Arrietty where your imagination comes to life! The studio that brought you Ponyo and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away once again delivers a heartwarming tale of friendship and courage ... In a secret world hidden beneath the floorboards, little people called Borrowers live quietly among us. But when tenacious and tiny Arrietty is discovered by Shawn, a human boy, their secret and forbidden friendship blossoms into an extraordinary adventure. Featuring the voices of the Disney Channel's Bridgit Mendler, David Henrie, and comedic all-stars Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Carol Burnett, and based on the award-winning novel "The Borrowers".

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$6.446 million on 1522 screens.
Domestic Gross
$19.101 million.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/22/2012

• Original Japanese Storyboards
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Music Videos
• “The Making of ‘Summertime’” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Secret World Of Arrietty [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 21, 2012)

From a screenplay co-written by noted Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, we get 2010’s The Secret World of Arrietty. An adaptation of Mary Norton’s Borrowers series, we meet Shawn (voiced by David Henrie), a sickly boy who goes to live with his great aunt Jessica (Gracie Poletti) and her helper Hara (Carol Burnett) to recover his health.

When he arrives, he sees a tiny person named Arrietty (Bridget Mendler). She’s a “Borrower”, a species of super-miniature folks who survive by “borrowing” food and other items. Almost 14, Arrietty gets to go on her first “borrowing mission” with her father (Will Arnett). This requires her to infiltrate the world of normal-sized humans and come back with needed supplies.

During this task, Shawn wakes up and tells Arrietty that he saw her when he first arrived. The lonely boy wants to befriend her and leaves her a sugar cube that she dropped during the mission. This creates problems with her family, as they believe they need to move on when they know the humans are aware of them. Shawn and Arrietty launch into a friendship while both sides deal with various threats.

Back in 2000, I reviewed Princess Mononoke, arguably Miyazaki’s most acclaimed film. I promptly earned the wrath of many anime fans because I thought it was… okay. Not a bad film, but one that left me distinctly underwhelmed and without much comprehension of why it earned so many rave reviews.

I won’t say that all the nasty e-mails scared me away from reviews of subsequent Miyazaki flicks, but they sure didn’t encourage me to check out his other works – and my general lack of enthusiasm for Mononoke didn’t prompt me to seek out his flicks, either. David Williams handled 2002’s Spirited Away - and came away much more impressed by Miyazaki than I – but the site’s not touched on the legendary filmmaker’s efforts over the last nine years.

So why did I decide to tempt fate and review Arrietty? For one, I have a childhood-based affection for The Borrowers, as I maintain fond memories of that book series. For another, my cousin loves anime and wanted the Blu-ray; wonderful relative that I am, I agreed to review the film so he could take the product when I finished.

Perhaps because Arrietty came with less critical hype than Mononoke - or maybe because I still kinda dig the Borrowers - I thought it worked fairly well. My biggest complaint remains consistent with my criticism of Mononoke: the jerky animation.

Visually, Arrietty looks pretty terrific – when it lacks motion. Backgrounds and settings provide lovely, detailed elements that leap off the screen. The characters themselves have the same “big-eyed” anime look we’ve witnessed for years, but they still show good expressiveness and personality.

Unfortunately, when characters/objects move, they lack the framerate to allow them to seem realistic. There’s an awkwardness to all motions that always distracts me. Add the traditional anime “lip flap” for speech and the animation can make it hard to totally embrace the film.

Nonetheless, the rest of Arrietty works well enough to allow me to (usually) ignore these flaws. The story definitely develops at a much slower pace than typical for American animated films. It takes its own sweet time to progress, and it doesn’t throw out gratuitous comedy or hijinks to stave off feared boredom.

Don’t take that as a criticism of the pacing embraced by most American animation, but it does feel like a refreshing change of pace here. Arrietty moves along at a deliberate rate but it doesn’t feel slow or stagnant. It allows its characters and narrative to develop in a natural way that makes them all the more interesting and charming.

Arrietty also confronts some darker topics without terrible sentimentality. Shawn’s mortality becomes a significant plot issue, but the film doesn’t milk this in a cheap, obvious way. His medical status adds depth to the proceedings but doesn’t mire the flick in easy tear-jerking.

Will Arrietty win me over to the ways of anime? Probably not, as I get the feeling it’s much better than average for its genre – and I think I’ll always be at least a little put-off by the stiff animation. However, I certainly can embrace its charms better than in the past and think it delivers a fairly high-quality experience.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

The Secret World of Arrietty appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a consistently solid transfer.

Sharpness seemed positive. A few wide shots showed a smidgen of softness, but those instances were rare. Instead, the majority of the flick portrayed fine clarity and accuracy. Jagged edges and moiré effects appeared absent, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I witnessed none, as the movie looked clean and fresh from start to finish.

Arrietty opted for a low-key but fairly natural palette. The tones tended to favor greens and earth tones, and they held up well; across the board, the colors appeared warm and full. Black levels looked solid, with appropriately dark and rich material. Low-light images were concisely displayed and tight, with no excessive opacity. Overall, Arrietty gave us a fine presentation.

The Blu-ray also came with a positive DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Though oriented toward the front, the soundfield appeared pretty engaging and active. The forward speakers offered very good placement and localization. Effects cropped up in logical spots and meshed together well, with some nice movement and panning. Some speech came from the side speakers, and those bits were well placed. Music showed good stereo imaging as well, and the forward channels generally presented a fine soundscape.

The surrounds bolstered the presentation well. The rear speakers kicked in with good ambience and provided a strong feeling of atmosphere. Occasional examples of more surround specific information occurred, and those created a fine sense of the setting. The rears weren’t consistently involving, but they added enough to the mix to make them effective.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech sounded distinctive and concise, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects appeared dynamic and lively. They showed full, rich tones, and presented loud and firm bass response. Music sounded warm and vivid. This wasn’t a killer soundtrack, but it added to the presentation.

Note that Arrietty included both the movie’s original Japanese soundtrack as well as its English dub. The disc delivered both via DTS-HD MA mixes, and I thought that other than the dialogue, both seemed identical. I flipped between them as I watched the film and didn’t notice any differences in terms of soundscape or audio quality. (The two do come via alternate video streams, though, as the US version changes some of the text to be read in English instead of Japanese.)

Don’t expect a lot of extras here, though the first is pretty substantial. Under Original Japanese Storyboards, we essentially get a story reel version of the film. This lasts one hour, 34 minutes and six seconds as it matches final movie audio with storyboards.

The program’s length is a strength and a weakness. On one hand, it’s cool to be able to see storyboards for literally the entire film, and the semi-animated format makes them more involving than thousands of still frames would’ve been. We also can follow the boards with either English or Japanese audio.

On the negative side, though, the presentation comes with one notable omission: the ability to easily compare the boards to the final film. Why not place the end product in the bottom right corner of the screen so we can view it alongside the boards? That’d have made a good feature significantly more useful, I think. Still, it’s hard to complain about such a wealth of storyboards, so fans should like this extra.

Two Music Videos appear. We get “Arrietty’s Song” from Cecile Corbel (3:40) and “Summertime” by Bridget Mendler (3:01). The video for “Song” is a snoozer; it’s just mimed performance footage from the studio, so it lacks anything to make it interesting. I can’t say the New Agey song does much for me, either.

As for “Summertime”, it’s a more creative video but still not especially good. It mixes movie footage with some lip-synch shots of Mendler as well as a few elements that posit her as a Borrower. We only get a few shots of that last conceit, so they don’t add much to the proceedings; it’s mostly standard “song from a movie” fare. The song is also lackluster Disney teen pop and it doesn’t fit the world of Arrietty at all.

For a look behind the scenes of the video, The Making of ‘Summertime” goes for two minutes, three seconds. It features comments from Mendler; she tells us a little about the song and the shoot of the video. Mendler delivers minor details but doesn’t offer much information in this brief, promotional piece.

The disc opens with ads for Brave and Cinderella. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with clips for Austin & Ally, Secret of the Wings, The Aristocats, The Rescuers and Planes. In addition, we find a whopping 27 trailers and TV spots for Arrietty. They fill 13 minutes, 52 seconds and all exist to promote the film’s Japanese release. They’re good to see, but it’s too bad we don’t see ads for the UK and US versions as well.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Arrietty. This delivers a standard retail DVD version of the film.

Although I doubt I’ll ever fully embrace the pleasures of anime, I like The Secret World of Arrietty more than expected. It takes a classic children’s tale and creates an effective, involving version of the story. The Blu-ray comes with excellent picture and very good audio. It doesn’t include a ton of supplements, but fans will like the feature-length collection of animated storyboards. The Blu-ray brings the movie to home video in fine fashion.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main