My neighbor Cinderella

Tonight my extended family had a big solstice/holiday-themed gathering, and as part of the official airing of grievances I made my annual complaint that you still cannot find an inflatable lawn Totoro anywhere in the US*. Totoro is the big guy on the left.


My brother in law missed the reference, so I explained My Neighbor Totoro as a sort of Japanese Snow White, Toy Story or Frozen : one of those children’s classics that more or less every kid in Japan has seen or recognizes immediately. To illustrate the point his daughter has not yet seen Frozen (I am witholding names to make sure no one calls youth services) but she can sing that song like a pro. You know, the song you can hear in your head right now even though you don’t own a TV and have not watched a movie since Taxi Driver. The conversation turned to what qualifies as a stone cold childrens’ classic outside the US. I guess that in many places the answer is Snow White, Toy Story and Frozen. Still, I know we miss out on quite a lot. You have thriving film industries in India, China, Hong Kong, many countries in Europe and of course Japan. From Russia, shows like Nu, pogodi! and Crocodile Gena would probably count.

Did you grow up outside the US or spend time abroad? When you imagine a great kids’ classic, what comes to mind? I think it would be a fun project to make a collection of films that small kids rewatch until the DVD wears out in the non-English speaking world.


(*) Also, I have a new grievance this year: it should be much easier to find a toddler shirt that says ‘La di da di we like to potty’.

82 replies
  1. 1
    Botsplainer says:

    Clearly the call center people at Macy’s spend all their time abroad, as I can’t understand them. Plus, they’re raging assholes.

  2. 2
    Suzanne says:

    Finding Nemo and Mulan are probably the two that both of my girls have loved more than life. They are both very into Frozen right now, as well, but they don’t ask to watch it over and over the way they ask(ed) for Nemo or Mulan.

    For me as a kid, it was The Princess Bride. Over and over and over. I still have the entire thing memorized.

  3. 3
    Karmus says:

    Only as a personal note, my number one childhood classic was Disney’s Robin Hood, probably because I was just the right age, and it was romantic in a way that could appeal to me then. Robin Hood was pretty cool to me in general anyway.

  4. 4
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    You know, the song you can hear in your head right now even though you don’t own a TV and have not watched a movie since Taxi Driver.

    Nope, no song here; though I’m not around children often.

  5. 5
    Guachi says:

    In the Arab world it would be Future Boy Conan. It’s a Japanese anime serial from 1978. In the Arab world it was called Adnan and Leena.

    My Neighbor Totoro is awesome and everyone should watch it. My mom even likes it.

  6. 6
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Suzanne: Couldn’t do that when I was a kid, no video tape. We had to go to the theater, in the snow, uphill both ways.

  7. 7
    Rashi says:

    My childhood favorite was probably Last Tango in Paris.

    @Suzanne: Love The Princess Bride. As you wissssshhhhhhhhh….

  8. 8
    Johnny Coelacanth says:

    FWIW, My Neighbor Totoro is one of my favorite movies, fatuous juvenile that I am. I think all of the Miyazaki movies are great, but our kids really loved Kiki’s Delivery Service, Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle. But, back when the kids were wee, nothing was screened as much as The Lion King, which I never have to see again because I’ve seen it almost as much as I saw Toy Story, also unwillingly committed to memory.

  9. 9
    Johnny Coelacanth says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Just let it go.

  10. 10
    Rashi says:

    @Karmus: Robin Hood is still cool today though he goes under a new name now: Bernie Sanders.

  11. 11
    Johnny Coelacanth says:

    @Johnny Coelacanth: 632 million views on that video. I mean, it’s not “Gangnam Style,” but that’s a lot of eyeballs.

  12. 12
    MomSense says:


    Oo de lalley oo de lalley, golly what a day.

  13. 13
    Onkel Fritze says:

    Ok, since you asked for it….

    Spent my childhood in Germany mostly in the 70s. Had lots of Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons, but something specifically German that all kids knew would be the ‘Augsburger Puppenkiste’.They use marionettes and have lots of different characters. Two of the best known, also from my childhood, would be ‘Urmel’ and ‘Jim Knopf und Lukas, der Lokomotivführer’. Here’s a little musical taste for you:

    ‘An island with two mountains’.

    There’s actually a techno-version of this from the 90s. They’re still going strong nowadays and in the FC Augsburg stadium they play the theme song of the Puppenkiste every time they score a goal.

    Edit: Couldn’t figure out how to close the link, so now the whole bottom part links to the video.

  14. 14
    Suzanne says:

    However, right now, I am watching Arrested Defelopment with Spawn the Elder. She is a big fan of “Big Yellow Joint”.

    There’s always money in the banana stand.

  15. 15
    hilts says:


    Neal Conan: “Since my previous use of this word [schlonged] has apparently provided Donald Trump a veneer of respectability for yet another in a disturbingly long series of nasty, hateful diatribes, I apologize.”

    (Conan works as a news analyst for Hawaiʻi Public Radio.)


  16. 16
    Satby says:

    My sons loved My Neighbor Totoro when they were young. And the Never-ending Story. Even though their aunt worked for the Mouse.

  17. 17
    Gravenstone says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Same. No concept, no song, and blissfully happy to be that unaware about yet another cultural “phenomenon”.

  18. 18
    Mike J says:

    @Rashi: There’s butter in the kitchen.

  19. 19
    beltane says:

    When my middle son was eight or so, he watched our old VHS copy of Yellow Submarine until it died a horrible death. Before that it was Thomas the Tank Engine, the theme music to which I will never, ever get out of my head. There was also a relatively brief, though intense, Wallace and Gromit phase.

  20. 20
    Anne Laurie says:

    Oh, c’mon Tim, you could surely find an import inflatable Totoro somewhere on the Internet! (Maybe not the commercial model on Alibaba — I suspect a 15m inflatable would get the hairy eyeball in most neighborhoods… )

    I treasure a Japanese-made Nekobus-with-Totoro-riding-the-roof plushie the Spousal Unit gave me as a birthday present at least a decade ago, and internet commerce was much less frictionless then.

  21. 21
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Japanese-made Nekobus-with-Totoro-riding-the-roof plushie

    I have no idea what that means, but I think it is nice that you like it.

  22. 22
    Rashi says:

    @Mike J: I don’t remember that from The Princess Bride. :)

  23. 23
    Guachi says:

    Thankfully, I’ve never heard Let It Go or whatever the song from Frozen is called.

  24. 24
    NotMax says:

    Haven’t the foggiest notion of what song you are referring to.

    And don’t care to know.

    And just because we’re ostensibly talking animation, scene from Fantasia.

  25. 25
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I’m pretty sure that I don’t even want to know what any of that means, but like you, I am pleased that AL has it. I’m also delighted that she treasures it.

  26. 26
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I am a childless Old, and have no idea what most of you are talking about :-)

  27. 27
  28. 28
    Tim F. says:

    @Anne Laurie: I think that thing might be bigger than our property.

  29. 29
    Suzanne says:

    @efgoldman: But I have many more movies than those two, and they asked for those two over and over and over.

    However, my house is Peak Let It Go.

  30. 30
    Walker says:

    The entire continent of Europe would like to submit Asterix the Gaul (in multiple media formats) for consideration.

  31. 31
    sdhays says:

    In Chinese locales (PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore), the Chinese classic Journey to the West is a common source for movies and TV serials. I’ve read the (English translation of the) book and it’s perfectly designed for television; each chapter is basically a self-contained episode with action, suspense, heroes, and humor. Kind of a 16th century Doctor Who, but with magical Buddhas and monkeys and Taoist immortals instead of aliens.

    My Neighbor Totoro is also quite popular, as is the Japanese animated TV show Doraemon, at least in Hong Kong and Taiwan and probably Singapore; the mainland has a more complicated relationship with Japanese cultural exports.

  32. 32
    sdhays says:

    @Guachi: I watched Frozen on an international flight and just don’t get the fuss. I think it’s probably the worst Disney animated movie I’ve ever seen and the music was, at best, ho hum. Let it Go just didn’t work on me; I can appreciate how awful music can still be catchy (I think that was Britney Spears’ main “contribution” to music), but I found it completely forgettable. I guess I should consider myself lucky!

  33. 33
    philpm says:

    @Anne Laurie: I just had to send that link to my daughter. She’d absolutely kill for that. We got her a Totoro shirt and sweatpants for Christmas. She used to have a Totoro hoodie with his face on it, but her best friend “borrowed” it, never to be seen again.

    Did I mention my daughter is 23?

  34. 34
    frosty fka Bro Shotgun etc etc says:

    Not really kids movies, but …

    …as a toddler my son wore out League of Their Own and Man from Snowy River watching them every day for months. I was convinced he would grow up thinking baseball was played by girls and cowboys were Australian.

    Funny, as many times as I sat down to watch them with him, they never got old. Both of them stood up pretty well to repeated viewing.

  35. 35
    Original Lee says:

    Asterix definitely. Emil and the Three Detectives (because I’m old). Thomas the Tank Engine. Babar.

  36. 36
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    It will always be Shintaro the Samurai (aka Onmitsu kenshi) for me. This show was a huge deal in Australia in the 60’s. As the saying goes, “bigger than the Beatles!”.

    There is a documentary on Youtube which kind of gives the gist.

    We all wanted to be Shintaro and Tombei the Mist, fighting Iga Ninjas with sticks for swords and cardboard shurikin.

  37. 37
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    I have said—right here on this blog, even—that if everyone was required to watch My Neighbor Totoro once or twice a year the world would be a much better place.

  38. 38
    Suzanne says:

    I am so loopy from NyQuil that I just fell on the stairs. Fuck. Ow.

  39. 39
    Suzanne says:

    @efgoldman: well, I took the NyQuil and was headed to bed when I ate it, spilling my tea on myself. So I needed a shower.

    I’m fine. My head hurts, but it already hurt. Will have some bruises, but nothing serious. THX for asking. Fuck.

  40. 40
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Suzanne: Don’t eat NyQuil. Drink it. Jeebus.

  41. 41
    Greg in PDX says:

    My kids loved Babar. In French and in English (we lived in Paris when they were small).

  42. 42
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Suzanne: Are you sure you’re not related to Cole?

  43. 43
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Kids these days.

  44. 44
    Suzanne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: “Ate it” = “ate shit” = fell.

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Hah. That was seriously my first thought, because I was holding a glass of tea and my I pad, and damnit, both of them are in perfect shape! Lol. I thought of Cole falling and busting his shoulder, so Lily wouldn’t get hurt. Dawwww.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman: I come from Puritan roots. Sometimes tasting the NyQuil is important. And on that, I am going take some NyQuil and go to bed.

  46. 46
    Suzanne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: don’t take the stairs.

  47. 47
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    One last comment since I don’t know if my schedule will permit further comments: Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it and Happy Holidays to everyone, one and all.

  48. 48
    srv says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: May all your bacon burn.

  49. 49
    gwangung says:


    I am a childless Old, and have no idea what most of you are talking about :-)

    I’m also one of those, but since I do theatre, I knew PRECISELY what they’re talking about…

  50. 50
    normal liberal says:

    @Tim F.:
    Looking at alibaba, it says you can customize the size from 2 to 15 meters, and choose preferred colors. Surely your neighbors wouldn’t mind the 6.5 ft version.
    There’s a Japanese company, by way of France, from which I’ve bought various bento boxes: for some inexplicable reason they have stocked a whole line of Totoro diorama kits, detailed and quite pricy. Wouldn’t work on the lawn.

  51. 51

    I am ga ga for anything Miyazaki. I even found things to love about Ponyo By The Cliff which even many Miyazaki diehards found a tad, confusing. I love them all, but I think Howl’s Moving Castle has to be my favorite.

    Oh, and those after Miyazaki gashpon as it’s called, should check out Etsy. Where I just purchased a necklace of soot sprites, which I just love to death.

  52. 52
  53. 53
    redshirt says:

    Spiderman is the hero we should need, but don’t deserve.

  54. 54
    Calouste says:

    @sdhays: I watched about 10 or 15 minutes of Frozen, until the second song came on, which turned out to be even worse than the first one. It was I-want-to-pierce-my-eardrums awful.

  55. 55
    Anne Laurie says:


    I am a childless Old, and have no idea what most of you are talking about :-)

    Somewhere I have a button that says “Some people have children so they can play with their toys. I prefer to cut out the middleman and buy my own toys!”

  56. 56
    magurakurin says:

    I’ve lived in Japan for 17 years. Totoro is far more like the Wizard of Oz than Snow White and way, way more than Toy Story or the brand new movie Frozen. It’s not that children know the story,it’s that every single sentient being in Japan knows Totoro. Everyone has seen it, like the Wizard of Oz.

  57. 57
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym says:

    One nice thing about spending so much time awake in the middle of the night is that I have a chance to delete ill considered Facebook comments before much of anyone sees them. In this case, it’s that I’m really frustrated by the set of friends who think that making people miss their flights home for Christmas will in any way advance the cause of Black Lives Matter.

  58. 58
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym: Saw that on the local news; I guess it was attention getting, but possibly not in a way that will persuade folk to your cause.

  59. 59
    ThresherK (GPad) says:

    So, I’ve never heard of Forgot I. It looks like a cross between an owl and a rabbit.

    Funny, because I thought when you crossed an owl and a rabbit you got a well-fed owl.

  60. 60
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: It’s a good thing I decided not to go to my parents’ for Christmas this year, because the 23rd is the day I usually travel.

  61. 61
    Sam Dobermann says:

    @frosty fka Bro Shotgun etc etc:

    e out League of Their Own and Man from Snowy River watching them every day for months. I was convinced he would grow up thinking baseball was played by girls and cowboys were Australian.

    I’ve been visiting here in Boston and this guy with a great show Greater Boston had two of the old “girls” from that league. They are promoting more Women’s baseball teams and leagues and were quite lively in their appreciation of what they had been able to do and the need for more support of baseball, not softball, for Girls/Women. They were great.

  62. 62
    Schlemazel says:

    Me too but it wasn’t the hike that made it hard, it was fending of the woolly mammoths.

    Our oldest was perfectly timed for the worst Disney movie of all time, The Black Caldron, children left at the end crying. I don’t know he ever had a movie favorite though Thundercats was on way too often. The next 2 hit the golden age, Aladen & Little Mermaid along with VCR so that I can still here those songs in my head.

  63. 63
    Schlemazel says:

    I am very happy to say the same though I know my granddaughter knows the words. I just have not had to endure repeated viewings

  64. 64
    BillinGlendaleCA says:


    fending of the woolly mammoths.

    That wasn’t much of a problem here in CA, most of them ended up in the tar pits.

  65. 65
    NotMax says:


    Someone inflicted Aladdin on me once and my immediate comment was that it didn’t truly make the cut of being a proper Disney movie as there was no villain song.

  66. 66
    mm says:

    My vote for best Miyazaki film is Kiki’s Delivery Service about a young witch who leaves home to prove herself. I could never understand why Disney didn’t release it in theatres before they released Totoro. It seems like much more of a hook to capture American audiences. (Except their initial dubbing was horrible. Disney felt like they had to fill all the quiet time with jokes or musical sounds. The Japanese track with subtitles makes for a more satisfying experience)

    For a young boy, Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso is a great choice. It’s about an Italian fighter pilot who was changed into a pig.

  67. 67
    zattarra says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Not sure if this link will come through. We’re a Jewish family currently raising a Christian foster daughter. So we don’t do a formal tree thing. This is what her Christmas gift pile looks like right now. That’s 5 different size Catbusses scattered around there plus a giant Totoro, all brought back from various trips to Japan this year – they belong to my wife, not the kid. My wife is 39.


  68. 68
    zattarra says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Not sure if this link will come through. We’re a Jewish family currently raising a Christian foster daughter. So we don’t do a formal tree thing. This is what her Christmas gift pile looks like right now. That’s 5 different size Catbusses scattered around there plus a giant Totoro, all brought back from various trips to Japan this year – they belong to my wife, not the kid. My wife is 39.

    <a href="@Anne Laurie:

    Not sure if this link will come through. We’re a Jewish family currently raising a Christian foster daughter. So we don’t do a formal tree thing. This is what her Christmas gift pile looks like right now. That’s 5 different size Catbusses scattered around there plus a giant Totoro, all brought back from various trips to Japan this year – they belong to my wife, not the kid. My wife is 39.


  69. 69
    AJS says:

    My American/Estonian kids (living in Spain) love Lotte from Gadegetville

    Big hit in Estonia,Lativa and Finland. There is even a LotteLand theme park. It was actually quite sweet and fun.

    Another localized favorite is Moomi. Moomins in English. Finnish story with Japanese animation. There is a Moomi theme park in Finland. Have not made it to that one yet.

    Also the 3 Pippi Longstocking movies made from the TV series with Inger Nilsson . My kids can not get enough of them.

  70. 70
    WaterGirl says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: merry Christmas, Omnes!

  71. 71
    ruemara says:

    Some of you are seriously cranky.

    For me, Battle to the Planets & Star Wars. Plus a healthy dose of Tom & Jerry, Loony Tunes & other American cartoon classics.

  72. 72
    jon says:

    Don’t the English get forced to watch Bugsy Malone every Christmas? It’s not exactly The Snowman, but there’s plenty of white stuff to be found.

    But if anyone is in need of a new holiday tradition, I can’t recommend this strongly enough. It’s a must-see for fans of Snuff Box and The Mighty Boosh and IT Crowd. And if you’ve endured Jesus Christ Superstar or a performance by Up With People, you will enjoy it even more.

  73. 73
    Jacel says:

    We picked up a Totoro tote (a lovely bag) to give to our daughter in law. Now to remember where we stashed it before Christmas.

  74. 74
    J R in WV says:

    Merry Christmas Eve, all.

    It’s so warm here I opened up some windows to let in fresh air. The cat went outside, which she doesn’t do if the weather doesn’t suit her. Well, one does, every night at bedtime, regardless of the weather. She goes into the woodshed to stay dry, and lurks waiting for a rodent to make a fatal mistake. Most nights someone does, the dogs always sniff around her Koolaroo in the morning to see what her midnight snack was.

    It isn’t even noon yet, and it’s 66 degrees, and sunny. So weird.

    We used to have a really long haired black dog who loved the snow. The first big snow he would go out and rub his face on the porch floor, and roll in it, and lay in it until he was buried by the snowfall. He died several years ago, and would have hated Global Climate Change. We had to get him shaved in the spring, which he was OK with because he was getting overheated. He wouldn’t come inside when it snowed, he would spend all night lying in the snow letting it pile up on him.

    I made a pot roast last night, so we’ll have leftovers soup later. No big Xmas deal this year, just glad to have the use of my arms back after joint replacements.

    And by the way, if someone gives you a hard time about writing it Xmas, in the Original Greek, the X was how they wrote Christ in Greek. So it isn’t insulting nor is it leaving Christ out, it’s just an antique way of spelling it. So get over it. Greek came before KJV English by 1500 years. So get over it!

  75. 75
    kped says:

    Well, in Canada, so we have the same movies. But as for shows, every Canadian over the age of 20 or 30 grew up with Mr Dressup (an American who came up here after his friend Mr Rogers made it big on PBS). it aired from 1967-1996, and for us, I guess it would be a classic kids show that everyone knows.

  76. 76
    Dirk Reinecke says:

    Well in South Africa it was mostly dubs of various European and American shows, but one thing that was local is Jock of the Bushveld

  77. 77
    Shana says:

    @efgoldman: You were lucky to have feet.

  78. 78
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    @srv: Hey now! Let’s keep it civil!

  79. 79
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Sister Inspired Revolver of Freedom: Howl’s Moving Castle was on the bill at the Venice International Film Festival, in line for a major award there. The organisers asked the famously reclusive director Miyazaki-sensei to come to the festival. He refused and suggested instead they invite Diana Wynne Jones, the writer of the story the film was based on. They didn’t bother.

    So Miyazaki took a subtitled print of the movie and went to Wales where Diana lived, hired a cinema for the evening and held a private showing of the movie for her. That’s class.

  80. 80
    BeezusQ says:

    Hey, I create stuff (hoodies, shirts, mugs, etc.) at ZAZZLE – really excellent quality and superfast. Make your OWN “…‘La di da di we like to potty’… shirt.

  81. 81

    @Robert Sneddon: That just makes my day and makes me worship him even more. Thank you for telling that story. I never heard it before.

  82. 82
    Caravelle says:

    For children of my youngest brother’s generation (so, late teens-early 20s now) in France I think Kirikou et la Sorcière would qualify. Though I don’t hear about it as often now.

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