Ponyo is a young fish-girl who loves to explore, but her father, a great wizard of the sea, fears the chaos her untamed powers could unleash upon the world. He's right to worry, since she, like every young undomesticated child, is an elemental force of nature who has little respect for the boundaries that grownups take so seriously. She escapes and meets up with a young boy whose imagination at least is a match for her magical powers - and it is love at first sight. Not romantic love but something more innocent and pure - like the youthful love of nature.
It starts out strong - and contains some of Miyazaki's most delightful and exuberant imagery, as when Ponyo runs blissfully upon the backs of her sisters who are at once giant fish and enormous waves. The story itself as it develops has gaps, moments that don't all add up, and unexplained elements. As another reviewer mentioned, for example, the test that Fujimoto and the sea goddess devise for Sosuke is somewhat anticlimactic, unlike the tests faced by the heroine of Spirited Away. I had the suspicion several times that perhaps Disney cut things out for its U.S. release - since the plot lacked some of the depth and richness in its backstory of many of Miyazaki's other works. A bit of searching shows I was wrong - this is the film Hayao Miyazaki intended. He is quoted in the L.A. Daily News as saying: "I intentionally tried to simplify things for this film. I figured that this movie should be seen by 5-year-olds, since they are the main characters. So I made the storytelling easy to understand. I figured they could watch it later as adults and understand the more complex parts of it, so I didn't foreground those elements." In hindsight he may be right -- from a young person's perspective what matters is just the magical relation between two young children, and from their perspective everything else, the fate of the cosmos, even, hinges on that.
Like most of his films, there is an ecological message here, that humans tend to ignore the wonders around them and treat carelessly the gift of the earth. Here it is expressed in an entertaining and magical story that will be easily understood by children. While, from the perspective of an adult viewer, I found this film less fully satisfying than masterpieces like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, or even the delicate and rich My Neighbor Totoro - which is the closest in spirit to this film - still it contains some remarkable and beautiful imagery and delightful moments. Well worth watching, and a very lovely and simple introduction to the work of one of the most inventive and important animated storytellers alive. There's no one else quite like him, and we're lucky to have another Miyazaki film, especially given his initial plans to retire upon completing the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away. Highly recommended.
on August 17, 2009
Miyazaki's films are refreshing for their even pacing and tempered characters. A far cry from the neurosis of Disney characters where everyone is shouting and riding on high octane. Ponyo is almost completely silent in its first 10 or 15 minutes, and even when the dialoug begins it has more of a sobering effect. If you pair that with the gorgeous hand drawn characters and hand painted backgrounds you suddenly remember what animation felt like twenty-plus years ago.
The story of Ponyo is truly Disney-esque on the surface - but only on the surface. A boy, Sosuke, finds a "goldfish" trapped in a jar and frees her. He also gives her the name Ponyo. It doesn't take very long for Ponyo to develop a pet-like affinity for Sosuke, leading her to the decision that she wants to be a human. It's really that simple. The rest is Miyazaki's masterful aptitude for making the plot less important than his signature slice-of life sequences of how people relate to each other and their environment. Watching Ponyo at times feels like people-watching. And, like people watching, it all amounts to a perplexing joy.
It's strangely relaxing to watch his visually vibrant and animated characters bring color to such banalities as eating soup and ham. If you've watched Howl's Moving Castle and the delicious scene of Howl cooking bacon and eggs, then you've seen Miyazaki do this before. The man has an eye for the small details of life. This is not to say that the movie is not forward moving. There are some semblances of Western story telling. For instance, Ponyo's father who is not particularly fond of humans is constantly seeking out Ponyo to bring her back home. However, as dramatic as this may be, it's marginal to the rest of the story. Miyazaki is less interested in the need for conflict and more interested in those unexplainable things that draw two people to each other.
In 2008, Studio Ghibli released their latest Hayao Miyazaki film "Ponyo" (aka "Gake no Ue no Ponyo") in Japan and followed with a U.S. release in August 2009. The film which is Miyazaki's eighth film for Studio Ghibli has amassed several awards including the Japanese Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. The film which is budgeted around $34 million dollars made over $199 million worldwide. Where his 1988 film "My Neighbor Totoro" was Miyazaki's tale for older children, this time around for "Ponyo" he wanted to create a film for young children and was inspired from Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid".
Magical, beautiful and everything that you can expect from Hayao Miyazaki. I was completely in awe when I watched this film. In this day and age, we tend to put so much into CG animated films and rarely do we see hand drawn quality animation anymore. I'm so glad that Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli continues to show this creative style through this film. The hand painted backgrounds are absolutely beautiful, the character design continues that Miyazaki look and style but looks absolutely fluid during its more action-oriented scenes.
Presented in 1080p High Definition, detail can be seen on the painted backgrounds. Vibrant during the day scenes with trees that are full of detail and water reflecting the trees, cliffs showcasing the detail as shadows and detail showcasing the curvature and the little pieces of grass that are placed within the rocks. The scene with the storm and the crashing features Miyazaki's handiwork as he created the water and his waves all by himself. It's an amazing sight to see.
There are no compression artifacts, edge enhancement, aliasing, banding or any problems in picture quality for "Ponyo" whatsoever. "Ponyo" achieves perfection!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Ponyo" is presented in English 5.1 DTS Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit) and in Japanese and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. First the good. The English dub track is fantastic. You want an immersive soundscape, "Ponyo" delivers. From the sound of the ocean, bubbles popping, the rush of the waves, the sounds of trees rustling, the sound of rain, sea animals swimming in the water and most of all, a beautiful musical score by Joe Hisaishi. This soundtrack is absolutely divine. Great use of front and center channels with dialogue and music that is crystal clear. The surround channels and the use of LFE as the sound effects bring "Ponyo" to life. This lossless soundtrack is perfect!
Now the bad. There is no lossless Japanese audio soundtrack. The Japanese Blu-ray release has a lossless soundtrack but what happened to it for this Blu-ray release? There is no doubt that audiophile purists who want the original Japanese soundtrack are going to be upset by this and one can hope that if Disney does bring out a Miyazaki release on Blu-ray in the near future, that a lossless soundtrack is included for both the English and Japanese audio.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
"Ponyo" has a good number of special features in 1080p High Definition and 480i Standard Definition. Audio is in English 2.0 Dolby Digital and subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish. Special features include:
* Meet Ponyo - (3:22) Executive producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy talk about working with Hayao Miyazaki and give a quick introduction to "Ponyo".
* Original Japanese Storyboards - Watch the entire film but this time with the video showcasing the original storyboards.
* A Conversation with Hayao Miyazaki & John Lasseter - (3:31) PIXAR's John Lasseter and a friend of Hayao Miyazaki talk about "Ponyo".
* Creating Ponyo - (3:58) Hayao Miyazaki talks about how he came up with the concept of "Ponyo" and him wanting to create a film for children.
* Ponyo & Fujimoto - (2:59) Hayao Miyazaki talks about the name "Ponyo" and the character Fujimoto.
* The Nursery - (2:00) Studio Ghibli Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about Miyazaki wanting to create a children's nursery and both men made Miyazaki's dream happen by creating the Studio Ghibli Nursery.
* Producer's Perspective: Telling the Story- (2:27) Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki talks about how Miyazaki works and creating the storyboards and story for "Ponyo" and more.
* The Locations of Ponyo - (9:32) An excerpt from a Japanese documentary on Miyazaki's animated films and visiting the areas that inspired Miyazaki to create the village of "Ponyo".
* Scoring Miyazaki - (7:19) A featurette about Joe Hisaishi's scoring Miyazaki films and more.
* Original Japanese Trailer - (3:22) The original Japanese theatrical trailers.
* Behind the Microphone - (6:04) Featuring the English dub voice talent talking about their role, their appreciation for Miyazaki and his films and interviews with the All-star talent.
* My Neighbor Totoro - Creating My Neighbor Totoro - (3:00) Miyazaki talking about the creation of his film "My Neighbor Totoro".
* Kiki's Delivery Service - Creating Kiki's Delivery Service - (2:27) Hayao Miyazaki discussing the creation of "Kiki's Delivery Service" and what inspired Miyazaki for the creation of the city in the film.
* Castle in the Sky: Character Sketches - (2:37) Miyazaki talks about the characters of "Castle in the Sky" and discussing how his audiences are loyal to his films over time.
* Enter the Lands - Visit the land featuring various small animated Studio Ghibli characters (from all films). Click on a character from that film (note: only "Ponyo", "My Neighbor Totoro", "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "Castle in the Sky" are available) to get a Q&A or a small video info. of that film and its characters.
A DVD of "Ponyo" is included with this Blu-ray release. The DVD is in Widescreen (1:85:1) - Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Japanese and French with subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.
Once again, Miyazaki continues to prove to us that hand-drawn animation is absolutely beautiful and there is no need to join the pack and create a CG animated film. "Ponyo" succeeds on all levels - storyline, animation, music and its soundtrack. I absolutely loved this film!
Before I saw the film, I figured that people were so used to Miyazaki's more serious work and for him to try to go back to something similar to "My Neighbor Totoro" was going to be difficult in this day and age but with "Ponyo", he managed to pull it off. The world he creates is magical, the characters are just enjoyable to watch. From every scene, I was literally just loving the animation and the painted backgrounds and to find out that Miyazaki actually drew the sea and the waves himself using 170,000 separate images is amazing.
In terms of any deep messages on society or ecology, in "Ponyo", we see how trash and waste has been collecting on the ocean floors and Ponyo being stuck in a bottle lying in a wasteland under the sea. For Fujimoto, as he tries to maneuver underwater, waste and garbage is everywhere. So, it was great to see Miyazaki convey how people have mistreated the ocean with their garbage and incorporating it to the storyline.
The Blu-ray is absolutely beautiful when it comes to picture quality, lossless audio and also contains a good number of special features. If there was only one thing that prevents this Blu-ray release from reaching perfection is the lack of a lossless Japanese audio soundtrack. But both English and Japanese vocals are well-done with the English track featuring all-star talent with Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Betty White, Cloris Leachmen, Lily Tomlin and Matt Damon providing their voices for this film. Even Jonas Brothers sibling Frankie Jonas (as Sosuke) and Miley's younger sister Noah (as Ponyo) do a great job as the primary vocals. The Japanese soundtrack features two of Japan's top celebrities with George Tokoro lending his voice for Fujimoto and Tomoko Yamaguchi as Lisa. And also Hiroki Doi (Sosuke) and Yuria Nana (Ponyo) do a wonderful job providing the main voices for the Japanese audio track as well.
Overall, Hayao Miyazaki is truly a remarkable filmmaker and "Ponyo" is a true masterpiece. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli show no signs of waning and they manage to capture the magic that I have felt when I was younger when I first watched Ghibli classics such as "Nausicaa", "My Neighbor Totoro", "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "Laputa: Castle in the Sky". This Blu-ray release is highly recommended!
Hayao Miyazaki is one of those rare directors who can take the magic of nature and childhood, then somehow capture it for the screen.
And his tenth Ghibli movie "Ponyo" is no exception -- it's a reimagined tale of a "little mermaid" who wants to become human so she can be with a little human boy she loves. It's a simple story told in a simple manner (occasionally TOO simple), but it has a lush oceanic beauty and an innocent sweetness that really capture your heart and imagination.
A little boy named Sosuke finds a tiny "goldfish" with a human face on a beach, trapped in a bottle. He names her Ponyo, and goes to great lengths to care for his little fishy friend.
But then the sea wizard Fujimoto, Ponyo's overprotective dad, appears and snatches Ponyo back into the sea -- and she decides that she wants to become human so she can be with Sosuke. Having tasted a bit of Sosuke's blood, she sprouts chickenleggy limbs and starts to change, but inadvertently disrupts a magical well that causes the moon to drop, the seas to rise over the land, and prehistoric magic to rise once more.
Sosuke and Ponyo are delighted to be reunited, despite the raging storm that is engulfing the city and causing ships to go missing. While the children go searching for Sosuke's missing mother, Fujimoto struggles to fix the balance of nature before the entire world is destroyed, with the help of Ponyo's sea goddess mother. The only hope of restoring balance lies in Ponyo and Sosuke -- and if Sosuke's love is not true, then Ponyo will be reduced to sea foam.
Compared to Miyazaki's other movies, "Ponyo" is a very simple story -- it's basically a boy-meets-fishgirl story, with lots of children running around being adorable and exquisite looks at the sea. Even its theme is simple -- the story is dependent on on true selfless love and how it knows no boundaries of age, experience or even species. Not to mention parents letting go of their children.
If there's a downside to the story, it's the lack of internal conflict. Example: the "test" that Fujimoto and the sea goddess use for Sosuke... well, it's far less impressive than it seems.
And Miyazaki does not disappoint animationwise -- he conjures a waterworld of luminous sea life, sparkling ships, prehistoric creatures, finned submarines and a town that has been swallowed by the sea (complete with boats floating over the rooftops). It's an exquisite piece of work that turns the ocean into a magical, otherworldly realm where wizards work in coral-encrusted towers and shimmering jellyfish take little mermaids to the surface.
Ponyo herself provides a lot of the movie's charm -- she's effusive, hyperactive, has a babylike fascination with the human world ("HAM!"), and an array of handy magical powers. Sosuke is a likable lad who is fascinated by Ponyo and her world, and Fujimoto makes a enjoyable anti-hero -- spindly, gaunt and with a mane of messy red hair, he's like a rock'n'roll embodiment of parental stress.
The extras are pretty promising on this particular edition, as you'd expect with a Ghibli film -- a slew of documentaries and interviews (including with Miyazaki himself), storyboards, explorations of the story's background. And most striking is the "World of Ghibli," an interactive creation which apparently allows people to "enter" the worlds of various Miyazaki movies -- "Ponyo's," "Kiki's," "Castle in the Sky's," and so on.
"Ponyo" is simpler and more childlike fare than most of Miyazaki's past films, but it's still a sweet and lushly-animated piece of work. At the very least, it will transport you to a magical childhood.
on March 3, 2010
I have enjoyed Miyazaki's films for years, and in the past have watched them with my 5-year-old son, but he has never been overly into them or asked to watch them, it has always been a fight between my picks (Howl's Moving Castle, Nausicaa) and his (Cars, Toy Story). However, when I saw the reviews for Ponyo I hoped he might like it, so we watched it together today.
Wow! It is rare for him to be so completely enthralled by, and emotionally involved in, a movie. He enjoyed every little nuance of the movie to the fullest (giggling at every instance of 'HAM!'), and when Ponyo's father took her back to her home under the sea he was seriously NOT happy. When she busted out her little chicken arms and legs and ran back to her beloved Sosuke on the backs of her behemoth fish/sisters, he was almost giddy. I truly enjoyed the film and didn't want to look away at any point - the story was enjoyable in its simplicity and the artwork completely amazing - and I especially did not want to miss my son's reactions throughout. I would highly recommend this for any mom with younger children!
One final note - in the past I have been disappointed with the American voice acting in these movies ... the Japanese voice actors have always been so superior. However, this one was very well done - at no point was I irritated by the voices or words that were chosen.
on May 6, 2010
As soon as my daughter saw Ponyo, she fell in love with it. She loves My Neighbor Totoro, The Cat Returns, Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service, so this was pretty much a safe bet with her. Getting the movie's already a good deal, but the plush Ponyo included here is of great quality, and easily beats any other Studio Ghibli plush I've seen [at least here in the US].
You can see right there in the stock picture how big Ponyo is since it's right next to the dvd in the packaging. It's made of a very soft, huggable material sure to comfort any child, and it's super cute. The material is easy to clean if anything gets dirty, and the construction is very sturdy. Of course there will be some issues with a longer 'skirt' here and there (that's quality control for you), but can you really turn away such a cute character even if it's suffering from such a thing? The plush Ponyo alone runs for about the cost of this set on most sites, so getting it included with the movie is great. While I would've liked them to give the blu-ray the same treatment, it's good to have on dvd since it's beautiful to watch on either format. And hey, most parents don't let 3 year olds handle 'expensive' movies, eh?
The dvd includes the usual special features that other Studio Ghibli dvds have- an interview with Miyazaki, a short featurette and a storyboard presentation of the entire movie. This is always a very important special feature for those interested in animation, or like to see the movie in a different format and seeing how it came together before the animators stepped in. And of course, the movie's in Japanese and English with Japanese, English, Spanish and French subtitles.
If you or your child(ren) love Ponyo, this is a must. I wish Disney would've given the recent re-re-releases of Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro the same kind of gift set. Now I'm kinda jealous that my daughter has her own Ponyo. Maybe I need to order one more?
The mother Lisa has the most poignant line in "Ponyo," saying the equivalent of "When you find yourself surrounded by magic and wonder, you don't try and understand it you just enjoy it."
To me, that is the theme and lesson of "Ponyo" ("Gake no Ue no Ponyou" or "Ponyo on the Cliffs"). After dabbling in darker themes and more adult-orientated fare like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Miyazaki has returned to the lighter, simpler themes of the magic and mystery of childhood as found in his groundbreaking My Neighbor Totoro. One can always tell the target audience for a Miyazaki film by the age of the main character: "Spirited Away" was made for 10-year olds, "Princess Mononoke" was made for teenagers. The lead characters in "Ponyo" are 5 years old.
Like "My Neighbor Totoro," "Ponyo" is a film based on a childlike sense of joy and imagination. There is no need for a "villain" or some arbitrary conflict or threat for the children to overcome. Like Satsuki and Mei, Sosuke and Ponyo are pure at heart, and open to exploring the wonders around them. They feel their emotions without cynicism or thought, instead living in the moment and experiencing its joys, sorrows and fears.
Which is not to say there is no depth here. In "Ponyo," Miyazaki has blended two unlikely sources; Richard Wagner's pounding opera Die Walkure from Der Ring Des Nibelungen and Hans Christian Anderson's melancholy fairy tale The Little Mermaid. The essential set-up comes from "Die Walkure," where the god Wotan holds the goddess Freia captive, and is also the possessor of the Rhinegold Ring which grants vast magical powers so long as one gives up all possibility of love. As a nod to this, the name Ponyo is giving by her father is Brünnhilde, one of the Valkyrie who feels the power of the Ring and must make the choice between love and paradise. This story is skillfully blended with Anderson's "Little Mermaid," about a sea creature who must win the love of a human or be reduced to soulless sea foam.
Miyazaki essentially presents two movies. The front film is basic, colorful and easy to understand for children. The animation in "Ponyo" is some of the best that I have ever seen, with Miyazaki personally drawing much of the underwater and ocean scenes, utilizing the influence of classic Japanese ukiyo-e pictures. Miyazaki has said that "Ponyo" is his most technically complicated film, using more unique images than any previous film.
The second, deeper story is something that can only be assembled from fragments and snatches of conversation. For example, the wizard Fujimoto, Ponyo's father, was a human being who fell in love with the ocean goddess Gran Mammare, and struggled for centuries to burn away his humanity and become consort and protector for the entity he loved. More than anyone, he understands the sacrifices and struggles awaiting Ponyo when she loves someone not of her world. These story/sub-story elements are one of the things I love so much about Japanese film, where more expectations are put on the audience to read between the lines and to give thought to the unspoken as well as the spoken
I am not sure how much of this deeper story survived the translation into English, as I watched the film in Japanese. There are some nuances that probably went missing, and I am curious as to how some of the scenes were handled, such as when Lisa sings Sosuke a part of the theme song to "My Neighbor Totoro" to cheer him up when his father is not home. Some other things, such as the significance of tunnels in Japanese folklore (considered the realm of female Mountain Gods who are prone to jealousy, it is assumed that the tunnel would not take kindly to a water deity passing through. However, outside the tunnel is a statue of Jizo, the protector of children, which sends a visual clue to the audience that Sosuke and Ponyo are going to be alright.) also might pass unnoticed or appear confusing to Western audiences, although every Japanese person would inately understand this without needing to be told.
Miyazaki proved in "Ponyo" that he is still the greatest director of animated films alive. I am so thrilled to have seen this movie, and I know I will watch it again and again.
on February 15, 2016
My daughter loved kiki's delivery service and I figured I'd go out on a limb and try another film in the collection from Japan. Happy to see Disney porting great films from around the world for us to see. Classic style renderings are moving works of art. Lots of fun creatures for the imagination to run with.
on February 7, 2015
The ocean is a good subject for Hayao Miyazaki, who often threads environmentally-conscious messages into his stories. In "Ponyo" the issue of humanity's impact on the sea takes on the creative and unexpected form of an explosive oceanic revival, rather than a slow, ugly degradation. Miyazaki's script, as is usual for Studio Ghibli movies, assumes a lot of intelligence on the part of its audience, which includes many children who are perhaps infrequently exposed to topics like the Cambrian period and the moon's gravitational interaction with the ocean. More often than not, animated movies talk down to kids and try to hold their attention with frenetic action and gags. But Miyazaki understands that young people have a great capacity for appreciating wondrous and sublime things, and especially for internalizing fun facts about the world, as anyone who ever went through (or is still in) a dinosaur or a space phase will remember. Thus the kids in "Ponyo," a young boy and a fish who can take the form of a girl, at one point rattle off the names of the long-extinct, Devonian-era creatures gliding beneath their vessel. Water, so pervasive in the story, seems to take on a new texture in every scene, and its different looks convey its diverse qualities from the tranquility of a moonlit sea to the curious physics of bubbles to the inescapable, town-destroying violence of a tsunami. The dramatic tsunami sequence, which plays to a song that sounds like The Ride of the Valkyries, is poignant in light of the destruction that visited Japan a few years after the movie's release.
There are times, and they have become more frequent in recent years, when Miyazaki struggles to bring his fantasies to believable conclusions. "Howl's Moving Castle" (2004) suffered from a nearly incomprehensible ending, and the problem is not wholly overcome in "Ponyo." The culmination of this movie has the 5 year-olds make major decisions that, in reality, could hardly be demanded of them. By comparison, the younger sister in Miyazaki's definitive "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988) was around the same age and acted more in accordance with it. In "Ponyo" the children's behavior seems to be increasingly at the service of the story's environmental message, and this prevents them from becoming quite as real and relatable as the girls from "Totoro," "Kiki's Delivery Service" (1989), and "Spirited Away" (2001). Nonetheless, "Ponyo" is further and welcome evidence of Studio Ghibli's unrivaled mastery of the animated medium.
on March 23, 2014
I got this for the Japanese language version. Everything Miyazaki has made is awesome. This is a kid's movie, but adults can enjoy the luscious visuals and the heart-warming story of loyalty and purity in children. Never has the ocean been portrayed in animation with such power and beauty. Think of it as a more bizarre version of The Little Mermaid. (Overall, adults might better enjoy Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or The Wind Rises, for their complex stories.)