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Spirited Away

Winner of the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away tells the story of young Chihiro (voiced in the English language version by Daveigh Chase) who's been uprooted by her parents to a new neighborhood. Peeved about leaving her friends and old school behind, Chihiro is further annoyed when her father gets lost on the way to the family's new home and they end up in what Chihiro's parents believe is an abandoned theme park — a temple, empty shops, and an abandoned restaurant. When the adults stop to help themselves to the offerings at the suspiciously unattended food kiosk, Chihiro wanders around the "theme park," bumping into a spirit who warns her to leave before sundown; when she returns to her parents, however, Chihiro finds that they've been turned into pigs. In order to get her parents back, Chihiro must make her way through a bizarre and frightening new world. A boy with magic powers, Haku (Jason Marsden), takes her under his wing and helps her get a job with the greedy witch Yubaba (Suzanne Pleshette), who runs the bath house where Chihiro now works, tending to the needs of any number of strange, frightening and/or comical spirits who make up Yubaba's customers. As she works hard, solves the various problems that are presented to her, and slowly figures out how to save her porcine parents, Chihiro's whiny childishness disappears and she becomes a stronger, more complete person in the process. During its two-hour length, Spirited Away contains more characters, ideas, laughs, thrills, and story elements than the last four Disney films combined. The third act occasionally drags but still keeps the viewer wondering what will happen around the next corner — right at the same time that most Disney films devolve into predictable chase scenes, sappy song-and-dance numbers, and teary reunions. Never boring and never predictable, Spirited Away is already on its way to classic status, standing as an important achievement in the art of animation. Buena Vista's DVD release of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away is truly beautiful to look at with a pristine anamorphic transfer (1.85:1). The English-language audio is crystal clear, in Dolby Digital 5.1; also included are the original Japanese language track in DD 5.1 and a French track in Dolby 2.0 Surround. Disc One features an intro by Pixar's John Lasseter and the Disney-produced featurette "The Art of Spirited Away." Disc Two offers the featurette "Behind the Microphone" (5 min.) focusing on the voice talent for the English language version; "The Making of Spirited Away," a terrific behind-the-scenes special made for Nippon Television (presented with English subtitles) (40 min.); a storyboard-to-screen comparison of the first ten minutes of the film (accessible using the "angle" button on your remote); and the original Japanese theatrical trailers. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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