The Secret World of Arrietty

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bridgit Mendler, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi (debut), Gary Rydstrom (debut)
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”), Keiko Niwa (“Tales from Earthsea”), Karey Kirkpatrick (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”)

As impressive as computer-generated 3D animation has become in recent years, there is something still incredibly charming about hand-drawn animation. There are flaws, odd movements and static elements that all add to the experience and even inform the personality of the film. Perhaps nobody believes in hand-drawn animation more than Hayao Miyazaki (“My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away”), the man behind the beloved Studio Ghibli from Japan. After flirting with the help of computers for a short span, Miyazaki has gone back to his roots. With a screenplay penned by Miyazaki himself, Studio Ghibli continues its American partnership with Disney with “The Secret World of Arrietty,” a beautifully understated animation centered on a forbidden friendship.

Adapted from the 1952 classic novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton and dubbed from the original Japanese animation, “The Secret World of Arrietty” centers around the Clocks, a family of tiny people who live in the floorboards of a house and “borrow” supplies they need from humans. When 14-year-old Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) goes on her first “borrowing” with her father Pod (Will Arnett), she gets noticed by Shawn (David Henrie), a young boy who has just moved into the house. Though it is discouraged by her father and mother (Amy Poehler), Arrietty slowly develops a friendship with Shawn, while still attempting to remain incognito to protect her family.

One of the stronger points of “The Secret World of Arrietty” is the fantastic voice acting across the board. Known mostly for her TV work on the Disney Channel, Mendler is great as the young Arrietty, particularly in vocalizing her curiosity. While the rest of the voice cast is strong, the highlight of the cast is Poehler as the constantly flustered and anxious Homily. Her overexcited inflection and screams alone provide the film with some of its funniest moments. Though dubbing foreign films over in English can sometimes cause a distracting discrepancy between mouth movement and speech, that isn’t the case in “Arrietty.”

There is an underlying sense of tranquility that weaves its way throughout “Arrietty,” a tone that is established early and reinforced especially through the stoic Pod character and the leisurely pace of the film. The scenes where we see Arrietty and her father journey through the nooks and crannies of the house are filled with mesmerizing long takes that display an environment in which the smallest items like nails or sugar cubes serve as foils in their adventures.

Although there is one monologue in the film that might be a little intense for younger kids, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a film that is enjoyable for audiences of all ages. There are plenty of visuals and adventurous scenes to keep children invested. The film works largely in part to Miyazaki’s fantastic script filled with empathy and sentimentality, mostly for the Borrowers themselves and Shawn’s earnest desire to make friends. If nothing else, “The Secret World of Arrietty” proves you don’t need high-tech animation to create a captivating world with its own intricacies.

Moises Arias – The Secret World of Arrietty

February 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Best known for playing Rico Suave in “Hannah Montana,” actor Moises Arias is looking ahead in his career now that the Disney Channel sitcom came to an end last year.

In the U.S. version of Japanese animation “The Secret World of Arrietty,” Arias lends his voice to the character Spiller, one of the four-inch people who live under the floorboards of human households.

During an interview with me, Arias, 17, talked about the types of shows he used to watch as a little kid and what kind of adventures he’d like to go on if he was only four inches tall.

Were you a fan of Japanese animation before making “The Secret World of Arrietty?”

I would have to say I became a fan after making this film. This type of animation has its own style and people love it.

What kind of cartoons did you watch as a kid?

“Dragonball Z” was a big one. It wasn’t a cartoon, but I used to watch a lot of “The Power Rangers.” That was my main show. It’s all I would watch. Now that I think about it, a lot of the shows and cartoons I watched when I was a kid came from Japan.

“The Secret World of Arrietty” features a family of four-inch people. If you were that small, what kind of adventures would you want to go on?

I think I’d want to get into one of those remote control cars and drive all over the place. (Laughs) There are advantages of being small. I actually am small. I’m probably just a few inches bigger than the little people in the film. Personally, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy this movie and wanted to be a part of it. There are a lot of things you can do when you are little.

You’re also lending your voice to another animated film this year, “Despicable Me 2.” What was that experience like?

It’s been great. I’ve been really exited to work with everyone in that film. I did my first session a couple of weeks ago. The directors are great, the writer is great. Everyone is amazing and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Everyone knows you as Rico from your days on “Hannah Montana.” Do you hope to you can shed that skin and show people there’s more to you as an actor?

Rico is very memorable because he is very different. I think that’s why he’s the character most people know me by. I don’t think people will ever forget about Rico. It’s part of my life.

What kind of roles do you hope to get now that “Hannah Montana” is behind you?

What I’m looking for now are more roles in films. I’ve done TV for a while, so I’m really looking to get some more roles in films.