What I found interesting was the world-building. Not the explicit plot-driven stuff, but the visualization. The automobiles were 1930s/1940s. The trains were 1950s. The aircraft were 1920s/1930s, except for the Rutan-inspired human-powered ultralight, which was very late 20th century. The city seemed like something out of 1913, right before the First World War, if the Austro-Hungarians had been blessed with ports on the Côte d’Azur. There were television antennae on the houses, but the phones seemed much earlier. It was a nostalgic Ruritanian never-never land of cherry-picked technology, architecture and sociology, yet still recognizably anchored in our world.
All of that was utterly lost on the_child, I'm fairly certain. Sharp as she is, she doesn't have a sense of period yet. She was simply following the story. But for me, it stood in marked contrast to the very careful period setting of Totoro, or by the same token, the fabulist setting of Castle in the Sky [ imdb ], which made no pretense of correspondence to mundane experience. The mood of each movie, for me as an adult viewer, was heavily influenced by these stylistic choices.
I love that sort of thing in fiction, and I delight in seeing it done well in movies.