Ghibli announced the film in late 2009 with Yonebayashi making his directorial debut as the youngest director of a Ghibli film. Miyazaki supervised the production as a developing planner. The voice actors were approached in April 2010, and Cécile Corbel wrote the film's score as well as its theme song.
Released in Japan on July 17, 2010, Arrietty received very positive reviews, all of which praised the animation and music. It also became the highest-grossing Japanese film at the Japanese box office for the year 2010 and grossed over $145 million worldwide. The film also won the Animation of the Year award at the 34th Japan Academy Prize award ceremony. Two English-language versions of the film were produced, a British dub produced by StudioCanal which was released in the United Kingdom on July 29, 2011, and an American dub released by Walt Disney Pictures in North America on February 17, 2012.
A boy named Sho/Shawn tells the audience he still remembers the week in summer he spent at his mother's childhood home with his maternal great aunt, Sadako/Jessica, and the housemaid, Haru/Hara. When Sho/Shawn arrives at the house on the first day, he sees a cat, Niya/Nina, trying to attack something in the bushes but it soon gives up after it is attacked by a crow. Sho/Shawn then discovers Arrietty, a Borrower, emerging from the bushes and returning to her home through an underground air vent. Later at night, Arrietty's father, Pod, takes Arrietty on her first "borrowing" mission above the floorboards to show her how he "borrows" sugar and tissue. After obtaining a sugar cube from the kitchen, they walk within a wall to reach a beautifully intricate dollhouse (with working electric lights and kitchen utilities) in Sho/Shawn's bedroom, to get a tissue. However, Arrietty is spotted by Sho/Shawn while retrieving a piece of tissue from a tissue box and loses the sugar cube. Sho/Shawn asks her not to leave and although Arrietty hesitates, she still leaves the room with her father.
The next day, Sho/Shawn leaves the dropped sugar cube beside the underground air vent where he first saw Arrietty. Pod warns Arrietty not to take it because their existence must be kept secret from humans, but his daughter nevertheless sneaks out to visit Sho/Shawn in his bedroom. She drops the sugar cube he left on the floor, letting him know that she is there. Without revealing herself otherwise, she tells Sho/Shawn to leave her family alone and that they do not need his help. On her return, Arrietty is intercepted by her father. Realizing they have been detected, Pod and his wife Homily decide that they must move out of the house. Sho/Shawn learns from Sadako/Jessica that some of his ancestors had seen Borrowers in the house, and had the dollhouse custom-built in the hopes that Borrowers would use it. The Borrowers had not been seen since, however, and the dollhouse stayed in Sho/Shawn's room.
Pod returns injured from a borrowing mission and is helped home by Spiller, a Borrower boy he met on the way. He informs them that there are other places the Borrowers could move to. While Pod is recovering, Sho/Shawn removes the floorboard concealing the Borrower household and replaces their kitchen with the kitchen from the dollhouse, in hopes the Borrowers would be more accepting of his knowledge of their existence. However, the Borrowers are frightened by this and instead speed up their moving process.
After Pod recovers, he goes to explore some of the places Spiller has suggested. Arrietty goes to bid farewell to Sho/Shawn, but in the course of the conversation, he suggests to her that the Borrowers are becoming extinct. Realizing that he has upset his small friend, Sho/Shawn reveals he has had a heart condition since birth and will have an operation in a few days. The operation does not have a good chance of success. He believes that there is nothing he can do about it, saying that eventually, every living thing dies. Arrietty convinces Sho/Shawn that he will fight for the life he has now nevertheless.
Meanwhile, Haru/Hara notices the floorboards have been disturbed. Sadako/Jessica is out and Sho/Shawn is still in the garden speaking with Arrietty. Haru/Hara unearths the Borrowers' house and captures Homily. Alerted by her mother's screams, Arrietty leaves Sho/Shawn in the garden and goes to investigate. Saddened by her departure, Sho/Shawn returns to his room. Haru/Hara locks him in and calls a pest removal company to capture the other Borrowers alive. With the help of Sho/Shawn, Arrietty rescues Homily. Sadako returns soon after the pest removal company's arrival and sends them away. Haru/Hara and Sadako/Jessica discover that the Borrowers have left and that Sho/Shawn has destroyed any trace of their presence.
The Borrowers stop for dinner during their move, and Sho/Shawn's cat, Niya/Nina, spots Arrietty. Niya/Nina leads Sho/Shawn to Arrietty. He gives her a sugar cube and tells her the Borrowers' fight for survival has given him hope to live through the operation. Arrietty gives Sho/Shawn her hair clip as a token of remembrance and they go their separate ways. (The Disney dubbed version contains a final monolog, where Sho/Shawn states he returned to the home a year later in the next summer, indicating that the operation had been successful. He is happy to hear rumors of objects disappearing in his neighbors' homes.) Arrietty, Pod, and Homily leave in a teapot with Spiller. Spiller comforts Arrietty by giving her a red berry after she joins him on the teapot's top.
|Characters||Japanese Cast||United Kingdom Cast||United States Cast|
|Arrietty||Mirai Shida||Saoirse Ronan||Bridgit Mendler|
|Shō (Shawn in the US version)||Ryunosuke Kamiki||Tom Holland||David Henrie|
|Homily||Shinobu Otake||Olivia Colman||Amy Poehler|
|Sadako Maki (Jessica in the US version)||Keiko Takeshita||Phyllida Law||Gracie Poletti|
|Spiller||Tatsuya Fujiwara||Luke Allen-Gale||Moisés Arias|
|Pod||Tomokazu Miura||Mark Strong||Will Arnett|
|Haru (Hara in the US version)||Kirin Kiki||Geraldine McEwan||Carol Burnett|
On December 16, 2009, Studio Ghibli announced Karigurashi no Arrietty as their film for next year. This film is based on the novel The Borrowers by the British writer Mary Norton. The novel won the Carnegie Medal for children's literature in 1953 and had already been adapted into two films and a TV series at the time. Studio Ghibli founders Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki had been contemplating an adaptation of this novel for around 40 years.
The director of the film was announced as the animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi on the same day. Hiromasa Yonebayashi was one of the animators for the Studio Ghibli films Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, and Spirited Away. He was also the reserve director for the film Tales from Earthsea. Miyazaki was announced as the production planner for the film.
The Japanese voice cast of the film was announced on April 13, 2010. Actress Mirai Shida was cast as the voice of Arrietty. Arrietty was Shida's first voice acting role. In addition, Ryunosuke Kamiki, who has voiced characters in other Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, was cast as Shō. His most recent voice role was in the 2009 film Summer Wars. Kamiki said that he "was very happy to meet up with the staff" he previously knew when he worked on other Studio Ghibli films.
Besides them, the film’s cast includes Tomokazu Miura, Shinobu Otake, Keiko Takeshita, and Kirin Kiki. The four actors have previous voice acting experience, but none of them have been in a Studio Ghibli film before. Miura and Otake were respectively cast as Arrietty's parents Pod and Homily. In addition, Takeshita voiced Sho's aunt and Kiki voiced one of the helpers in the human family.
On January 8, 2011, actress and singer Bridgit Mendler was cast as Arrietty for the film's North American release. Besides Mendler, the cast included Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, and David Henrie . The film had a different voice cast for Optimum's United Kingdom release, making it the first Ghibli film to have different voice actors for each of its English-language releases. The cast included Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Mark Strong, Olivia Colman, Phyllida Law, and Geraldine McEwan.
Arrietty was first released in Japanese cinemas on July 17, 2010, by Japanese film distributor Toho. The film was officially released at a ceremony attended by the film's cast and Yonebayashi. Corbel performed the film's theme song at the event. In addition, Yonebayashi hinted that he wanted the film to beat the record of over 12 million audiences set by previous Studio Ghibli film, Ponyo. The film was screened in 447 theaters throughout Japan during its debut weekend.
In the United Kingdom, the film was released on July 29, 2011, by Optimum Releasing. The film was released in the United States on February 17, 2012, by Walt Disney Pictures, with the title The Secret World of Arrietty. The North American dub was directed by Gary Rydstrom produced by Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy and written by Karey Kirkpatrick.
A screening of the North American release was held on January 21, 2012, in New York City. The film opened in at least 1,522 screens during its general release, surpassing Ponyo's roughly 900 screens to be the largest yet for a Ghibli production in the country.
Arrietty was released in both Blu-ray Disc and DVD formats within Japan. The DVD version of the film consists of two discs in the region 2 format. The Blu-ray version consists of a single disc in the Region A format. Both versions were released in Japan on June 17, 2011, and both contain English and Japanese subtitles.
StudioCanal (previously known as Optimum Releasing) released the movie on both region 2 DVD and region B Blu-Ray format in the United Kingdom on January 9, 2012. A DVD/Blu-Ray Double Play "Collector's Edition" was also released, featuring art cards.
Arrietty earned $19,202,743 in North America and $126,368,084 in other territories for a worldwide total of $145,570,827. It is the 4th highest-grossing anime film in the United States, and the highest not based on a game franchise.
Arrietty debuted at the first position in the Japanese box office. More than one million people went to see the film during its opening weekend. It grossed around 1.35 billion yen that weekend. Distributor Toho announced that as of August 5, 2010, the film managed to gross more than 3.5 billion yen and attracted more than 3.7 million viewers. According to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Arrietty is the top-grossing Japanese film in their box office for the year for 2010; it grossed approximately 9.25 billion yen ($110.0 million).
In France, the film was well received by the public. More than 100,000 people went to catch the film on its debut week in France, allowing the film to gross more than US$1.4 million that week. Overall, ticket sales for Arrietty, le petit monde des chapardeurs in France totaled just shy of 740,000 between its release on January 12, 2011, and March 1, 2011. In the United Kingdom, the film generated £76,000 ($120,232) in its first weekend.
In North America, Arrietty opened in 1,522 theaters, a record for a Studio Ghibli film. The film opened in ninth place with $6.45 million during the 3-day President's Day weekend and went on to earn $8.68 million during the 4-day weekend. This was the largest opening ever for a Studio Ghibli film (beating Ponyo's $3.6 million). The film also scored the best weekend per-theater average in North America for the studio ($4,235 against Ponyo's $3,868). Arrietty closed in theaters on June 8, 2012, with $19 million. In total earnings, its highest-grossing countries outside Japan and North America were France ($7.01 million), South Korea ($6.86 million) and Hong Kong ($1.75 million).
Arrietty has received very positive reviews from film critics; Rotten Tomatoes sampled 120 reviews and judged 94% of them to be positive. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score, rated the film 80 out of 100 based on 27 reviews.
Cristoph Mark of The Daily Yomiuri praised the film, saying that the film is "likely a perennial favorite among children". He particularly liked the film effects, which he described as "Drops of water loom large and drip like syrup; the ticking of a clock reverberates through the floor and the theater's speakers; tissue paper is large and stiff...", adding that these effects give the audience "a glimpse into their own world, but from a different perspective". Mark Schilling of The Japan Times gave the film a rating of four out of five stars, and said that the film "speaks straight to the heart and imagination of [everyone]." Schilling also praised the film's animation, saying that Studio Ghibli animators are past masters at creating the illusion of presence and depth without [3-D effects]. However, he also said that some scenes in the film "threatens to devolve into the sappy, the preachy, and the slapsticky" but noted that these scenes were "mercifully brief".
Steve Rose, the reviewer for The Guardian gave the film four out of five stars and praised the film, describing it as "a gentle and entrancing tale, deeper and richer than more instantly gratifying fare." Rose also described the film as "the soul food of the animation world," however, he did note that this film "doesn't match previous hits such as Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke in terms of epic scale or adult appeal", even though it bears many of their hallmarks: bright, detailed animation..." Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter gave a positive review of the film. She said that the film "remains essentially a film for children". Young later went on to say that the relationship with Sho and Arrietty "touches the heartstrings with gentle yearning", and praised Yonebayashi for its direction. In the opening remarks made by David Gritten of The Telegraph, he said that the film was "ravishingly colorful and textured". He also praised the animation, saying that "animation doesn’t get better than Arrietty." Gritten gave the film a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars. In his review for Special Broadcasting Service, Don Groves gave a mixed review of the film and said that Arrietty was a "very slender, minor work." Groves also criticized the film's storyline, calling it "a gentle, humorless, uncomplicated tale of friendship in an alien environment." However, he praised the voice acting as "generally is as professional as [one would] expect." Groves gave the film a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.
Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network gave the North American version of Arrietty an overall grade of "B". Bertschy praised the voice acting in the film and also praised the intricate details of the film's backgrounds, but said that "there isn't more going on here, even when it comes to the film's basic story", however, he later went on to say that it is "foolish to deny the simple, warm, and familiar pleasures of Arrietty's world". Leslie Felperin of Variety praised the film as "old school, mostly in a good way." She also praised the film for its animation, as well as Yonebayashi's direction. Felperin noted, however, that the film lacked its "approach to storytelling that made Studio Ghibli's other films so compelling." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised the film for its hand-drawn animation and Yonebayashi's direction. Dargis later went on to say that the film has "a way of taking the audience where they may not expect."48 Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "beautiful, gentle and pure". Turan also praised the detail and animation in the film, as well as its storyline. He also praised Karey Kirkpatrick and Gary Rydstrom for their adaptation of the film, as well as their casting decisions for the British and North American versions. Lisa Schwarzbaum, the reviewer for Entertainment Weekly, gave the film a "B+" and praised Arrietty for its animation. Schwarzbaum later went on to say that the result is a "dreamy, soft-edge hybrid, equally interested in observing raindrops and the worries of a race of minuscule beings the Borrowers.
2011 34th Japan Academy Prize: Animation of the Year: Won
10th Tokyo Anime Awards: Animation of the Year: Won
2012 25th Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: Best Animated Feature: Nominated
14th Golden Tomato Awards: Best Reviewed Animated Film: Won
16th Online Film Critics Society Awards: Best Animated Feature: Nominated 13th Golden Trailer Awards
Best Anime Trailer: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Trailer Park: Won
Best Foreign Animation/Family Trailer: Studio Canal, The Films Editors: Won
The Don LaFontaine Award for Best Voice Over: Studio Canal: Won
Best Foreign Animation/Family Trailer: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Trailer Park: Nominated
2013 21st MovieGuide Awards: Best Film for Families: Nominated