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“With a unique sensibility that is as much mystical as magical, the animated films of master storyteller Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have garnered a worldwide audience thanks to a decade-old partnership with Disney and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away (2002). Unapologetic in their willingness to probe darker subject matter with an intelligence and clarity seldom seen in Hollywood animation, the films follow classical patterns of story and provide a telling example to screenwriters looking to plumb deeper for more resonant tales that do not dumb things down for the kids. Based on a much-adapted novel by Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty charms with its simplicity and sense of wonder.
Screenplay written by: Hayao Miyazaki & Keiko Niwa
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Logline: On the eve of a major surgery to fix his weak heart, a boy returns to his ancestral home only to discover a miniature girl and her family living under the floorboards. When he tries to help her, he risks exposing her secret world to adults who would destroy her family’s way of life.
Genre: Buddy Love
The elements of a classic Buddy Love story are here: star-crossed adolescents from two different worlds risk the balance of both when they dare to cross the threshold between them. There’s also a strong Rites Of Passage element as both Shawn and Arrietty learn about growing up as they transition through adolescence in one magical summer and understand what it means to have a home and family.
Opening Image: Adolescent Shawn, suffering from a heart condition, is brought by his aunt to her childhood home to convalesce under the care of the frumpy housemaid, Hara. As the image pans down from the sky to the city, the house he’s coming to seems to exist in a kind of wild Eden, hidden within the metropolis.
Theme Stated: “The world is a dangerous place for a Borrower.” Miniscule Arrietty is a “Borrower,” a four-inch tall girl who lives with her mother and father in the hollows of the house Shawn has come to stay in. Her father warns her of being seen by the Beans (“human beings”), who will destroy their secret home and way of life if discovered.
Set-Up: As Shawn arrives, he catches a fleeting glimpse of Arrietty scuttling through the overgrown yard and wonders if it’s a dream. Meanwhile, Arrietty doesn’t see the danger as she flits about in the outdoor garden gathering flowers and leaves, one step ahead of the housecat, Nina.
Catalyst: Arrietty prepares to go on her first “borrowing,” a rite of passage to collect needed items for survival: a sugar cube and tissue paper.
Debate: Arrietty’s father is cautious but determined; her mother is frightened for her daughter. Arrietty departs with her father, discovering the world of the “beans” and encountering a dollhouse that embodies the perfection of a home. Her father warns her not to take anything from it, because its loss will be conspicuous: Borrowers only take what they need and what no one will miss. Arrietty finds a pin – an ordinary item made extraordinary – her first treasure. She and her father secure the sugar cube…..”