Warning: I'm going to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but there may be some minor ones.
1.) There Was No Info Dumping - In many kids films, it seems as if the writers think the audience is solely children and not very bright children, at that so often lazy writing is implicated. One of the biggest writing sins committed in those situations is info dumping which is when the writers spell out the situation for the viewers/readers. This was done a lot in the beginning of Big Hero 6. I enjoyed the film later on, but at first the contrived dialogue between Hiro and his brother was just killing me.
My Neighbor Totoro didn't do this. In fact, you didn't know completely what was going on until nearly a third of the way into the film. Instead of taking the easy route, the writers hinted at the characters' situation as the film went, allowing this intrigue of the unknown propel the story. This film isn't intense. In fact, it's pretty mild, but because you didn't know everything from the beginning, you wanted to keep watching.
|My favorite scene of the movie.|
2.) The Movie Started in a Great Place - I could see this film starting in many places. One could have been back before Satsuki and her family ever moved and shown their mother sick or another after they moved into the house, but the writers began where they did because it was the closest to the inciting incident while still giving some background to the story. This gave us time to grow attached to Satsuki and Mei and their awesome dad, before the mysterious Totoros came into play.
|The iconic scene.|
3.) They Captured the Nature of a Child - These screenwriters did their research. I've often observed in movies that children move very similar to adults and sometimes think similarly to adults as well. I like that in Totoro, Mei and Satsuki act like children, simplistic yet natural and it doing so it captures the voice of a child and you feel with them throughout the story not like an overseeing adult. I loved how Mei tripped while she was running and copied Satsuki.
|Mei running after some Totoros.|
My Neighbor Totoro is an adorable film for adults, teens, and children. I would strongly recommend giving this movie a watch not just for its great writing, but also for this heartwarming story about two sisters and a trio of forest spirits.
Have you seen this movie? Who's your favorite character? Are there any writing learning points I missed?
You may also like:
What Anime Can Teach Us About Writing
Writing Lessons from Anime: Characters
Writing Lessons from Anime: Interior Monologue and Thoughts
Writing Lessons from Videogames: Assassins Creed II
Writing Lessons from TV Shows: Avatar: The Last Airbender