Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service DVD Review: Disney, Studio Ghibli Film Starring Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman

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Studio Ghibli released Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no takkyûbin in Japan) one year after My Neighbor Totoro, making it an impressive one-two punch for the anime studio. Japan’s box office champ for 1989, Kiki’s Delivery Service was also the first Studio Ghibli film to be overdubbed and distributed in North America by Disney.

The 3rd movie in Miyazaki’s catalogue to be re-issued on DVD as part of Disney’s promotion for Ponyo’s Blu-Ray debut, it’s a wonderfully imaginative and charming adventure about taking chances and believing in oneself.

Hayao Miyazaki Directs Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, Starring Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman

Thirteen-year-old Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst in the English dub) is looking forward to her first year by herself. Armed with her trusty broomstick, and accompanied by her snarky cat Jiji (Phil Hartman, in his last voice performance), the little witch soon finds herself lost in an impersonal seaside town. However, she soon learns to use her flying skills as an errand girl, delivering packages for various clients and making friends with a pregnant mother (Tress MacNeille) and a teenage artist (Janeane Garofalo), who teach her to believe in herself.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a gentle movie, filled with wonderful moments (the scene where an elderly housekeeper pretends to be a flying witch is priceless). Although its themes have been seen in countless other family-friendly films, Hayao Miyazaki brings enough joy and heart to the party that the overdone plot points really don’t matter. This being a Ghibli film, it looks wonderful: the European atmosphere gives it a warmth and exotic flavour that heightens the mood of the film.

Disney’s 1998 dub was heavily criticized by fans both for the choice of talent and for subtle alterations to the original script, but the voice actors do a solid job. Kirsten Dunst is no Dakota Fanning but she handles the lead role well. Hartman steals his scenes with his usual schtick, and Debbie Reynolds is suitably warm and gracious as Kiki’s aristocratic client. logistics company

Kiki’s Delivery Service DVD Extras

John Lasseter (Toy Story) delivers another introduction, restating his admiration for Miyazaki’s work, and congratulating the viewer on their good taste. Like all the other Disney/Studio Ghibli releases, there are extensive interviews with Miyazaki himself, plus producer Toshio Suzuki and members of the English voice cast. The ‘Enter the Worlds of Ghibli’ has been covered in other reviews

Although there’s nothing wrong with the English voice dub, purists will be happy to note that the original Japanese track (subtitled for your viewing pleasure) is also included in the DVD.

Kiki’s Delivery Service a Fine Animated Film For the Whole Family

This movie is skewed a little older than My Neighbor Totoro, but doesn’t have the darker tones of Princess Mononoke. It’s a gentle, warm-hearted film that older children and their parents will enjoy.

Hopefully the success of this, and other Studio Ghibli DVD’s, will encourage Disney to offer similar releases for Miyazaki’s other films, such as Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. For that reason – and for its considerable merits as a film – Kiki’s Delivery Service gets a 5/5.

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