As far as children’s movies go, Ponyo is not only one of the best made in recent years, but one of the best period. The film’s story is so fun, its imagery so original, its composition so entertaining that it’s hard to believe it came from anywhere other than Pixar. While Japanese animation has invaded America’s shores through certain avenues – manga comic books, anime cartoon shows, and trading card games – it still fails to conquer our movie theaters.
A major cultural crime was committed in the ‘90s when so many kids were first exposed to Japanese animation and storytelling in the form of the craptastic Pok�mon series. If only that franchise contained a teaspoon’s worth of master animator Hayao Miyazaki’s storytelling it might have been worth watching.
While Disney did bring this home video release to America, the creativity behind the movie lies with one of Japan’s greatest filmmakers; the above mentioned Hayao Miyazaki. The production house that made the film is called Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation studio that can best be described as the PIXAR of Japan.
Miyazaki (often compared to Walt Disney) is world renowned for his animated features, many of which he scripts and animates himself. Although his career started in the early 1970s, his best known work is 2001’s Spirited Away — a film that would go on to win the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2002.
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Miyazaki’s Ponyo is a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, “The Little Mermaid.” Ponyo is a small fish whose father is the caretaker of the planet and whose mother is earth its self. One day Ponyo ventures to the surface of the ocean where she’s found by a small boy named Sōsuke who takes her home as a pet. The two become fond of one another and the resulting friendship leads them on an adventure.
It’s impossible to not be impressed with the amount of imagination behind the film’s imagery, which is also its greatest strength. There are enough colors and creatures to entertain any child or parent sitting down to watch. Giant fish turn into waves, walls of water reach as high as the moon, and the film’s color pallet is as expansive as anything seen in 2D since Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. If there was a flaw to be mentioned it would be how wacky the story gets towards the end, but if you’ve made it that far into the film there’s no child or parent on earth that could really care.
The bottom line? Ponyo is a fantastic children’s film and one that’s definitely worth owning. If ever there was an argument that 2D animation still had something to offer audiences Ponyo would be its cornerstone. While the Japanese style of animation might seem spotty to some, its quirks are easily forgotten soon enough. Every parent should take this chance to show their children what high level of quality and storytelling that Ponyo is – at least before their kids are old enough to start collecting Pok�mon cards.
Blu-ray Special Features:
World of Ghibli – An Extraordinary Interactive Experience
Enter the Lands – Meet the characters and hear the story of the movie
Behind the Studio – Discover the film’s inspiration through documentaries, including all-new interviews with Hayao Miyazaki
Meet Ponyo – Introduction by the Producers
Storyboard Presentation of the Movie
Starring: Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Runtime: 101 Minutes
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