Based on Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty is the perfect story for Studio Ghibli to tackle, with its meeting of two worlds—fantasy and reality. The directorial debut of Hiromasa Yonebayashi, it’s hard not to find something to like about The Secret World of Arrietty. As with all Studio Ghibli releases, it’s a marvel to look at, proving that even in this age of computers and 3D, hand drawn animation can be outstanding. The backgrounds, the character design, everything is perfectly rendered.
The Secret World of Arrietty opens with the sickly boy named Shō (Ryûnosuke Kamiki in the Japanese language version, David Henrie in the U.S. dub), having found a family of “Borrowers”—tiny people who, aside from their small stature, are just like your average human being—living underneath the floorboards of his great aunt Sadako’s house. His main focus is Arrietty (Mirai Shida, Bridgit Mendler), a girl on the verge of turning 14, she accompanies her father (Tomokazu Miura, Will Arnett) on his midnight borrowing runs; dangerous missions where he gathers the supplies his wife Homily (Shinobu Ōtake, Amy Poehler) needs for the family.
On just her first mission, Arrietty is spotted by Shō. Shō has seen then scampering about before, and has no intention of revealing the Borrowers secret. Arrietty’s parents immediately believe they must find a new home. Arrietty though, can’t believe that Shō really represents a threat to her family, and tries to convince her father that they don’t have to move.
Shō wants nothing more than to befriend the little people. However, his attempts serve to alert his housekeeper Haru (Kirin Kiki, Carol Burnett) to their presence. A harsh woman, Haru lives for the day she finds the Borrowers, can prove she isn’t crazy, and get rid of them.
At just four inches tall, Arrietty’s perspective on the world is unique. Nearly everything is potentially dangerous. Crows and cats are ferocious beasts. Yonebayashi and developer/screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki effectively capture the scope and scale of Arrietty’s world. They’re able to engage audience members even through long stretches that are devoid of dialogue. The Secret World of Arrietty is the kind of family film that wins over children and family alike, treating them both with respect.
Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1, Studio Ghibli’s 1080p transfer is reference quality stuff. The colors and detail are incredible. The dynamic range of the watercolor backgrounds is expansive. As with most Disney Blu-rays, digital anomalies are nowhere to be seen.
The disc includes an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix. We are also given a DTS-HD Japanese 5.1 Master Audio mix as well. Both are reference quality. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout. Voices actually sound as though they’re nestled in the Borrowers miniature world. The soundfield is wholly immersive, with sound effects also given their due.
A French Dolby Digital 2.0 track is included, as are English ESL, English SDH, and French subtitles.
Along with a standard DVD, the following special features are available:
- Original Japanese Storyboards (HD): The entire film, presented with its original Studio Ghibli storyboards.
- Music Videos (HD, 7 minutes): Cecile Corbel’s “Arrietty’s Song” and Bridgit Mendler’s “Summertime.”
- The Making of “Summertime” (HD, 2 minutes): A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the music video.
- Trailers & TV Spots (HD, 14 minutes)