Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Voices by Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jones, Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey, Betty White, Matt Damon
“It is the childlike mind that finds the kingdom.”
I have stated many times on Cinegeek.com how much of a fan I am of Academy Award winning director and world renowned Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki. So, is there any question how excited I was to watch this Blu Ray release of his latest film when it hit my doorstep?
5-year old Sosuke lives a tranquil life on an oceanside cliff with his mother Lisa. As Sosuke is the son of a sailor and because of where he lives, he is connected deeply with the ocean.
One fateful day, he finds a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle on the beach and upon rescuing her, names her Ponyo. But, Sosuke soon discovers she is no ordinary goldfish. Ponyo has quite the history herself.
Ponyo is the daughter of a masterful wizard and a sea goddess. Ponyo soon grows tired of life trapped in a bowl and uses her father’s magic to transform herself into a young girl. She experiences so much of human life so quickly, it is quite overwhelming for young Ponyo.
She swiftly falls in love with Sosuke, but the use of such powerful sorcery causes a dangerous imbalance in the world. As the moon steadily draws nearer to the earth and Ponyo’s father sends the ocean’s mighty waves to find his daughter, Sosuke and Ponyo will embark on an adventure of a lifetime to save the world and fulfill Ponyo’s dreams of becoming completely human and leave her watery world behind her.
Ponyo is filled with a childlike wonder and a playfulness that was quite reminiscent of another one of my favorite Miyazaki films My Neighbor Totoro. While some Miyazaki’s fans may be a bit disappointed that the plot of this film is very simple and not action based, like some of Miyazaki’s other films such as Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away, I really enjoyed this film’s more emotional focus.
The voice work, by both the original Japanese cast and the English speaking cast is spot on and very enjoyable. While I tend to prefer films in their original language with subtitles, I was surprisingly impressed with the dub on this film. But, just take a look at the names involved.
I cannot put into words how truly beautiful this film is in every single frame. Miyazaki has returned to hand drawn animation in Ponyo and each frame of this film is filled with a hand crafted wizardry and mind blowing imagination that has to be seen to be believed. It feels all at once organic and eye popping. The backgrounds, textures, color palette and character design are magnificent and unlike anything else you are likely to see in any animated film you might watch this year. There is a reason why Miyazaki is considered a legend and this film captures that.
Another film reviewer ( Sukhder Sandhu, The Daily Telegraph) described Miyazaki’s films as “dream waltzes, all liquid motion and mysterious turbulences”. What a wonderful way to describe not only the imagination on display in Ponyo but in all of Miyazaki’s work.
Ponyo is a delight for the eyes and for the soul from a living legend. “Nuff said.
Ponyo is presented in a anamorphic 1080p AVC transfer. This is high definition lavishness with the most impressive level of detail and eye-popping color. The black levels are highly respectable and I did not notice an instance for grain or artifacts. This is a first rate transfer and this film by Miyazaki deserves nothing less.
Ponyo is presented in the original English language in 24 bit DTS HD Master Audio and in the original Japanese language with English subtitles in Dolby Digital 5.1. A French dub is also available in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a wonderful sounding Blu Ray release. The dialogue is crystal clear and you can hear every nuance with spectacular clarity.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Ponyo is presented in a blu ray amaray case with cute little picture of Ponyo on the cover.
Wow, there is a plethora of bonus material available on this release. Ready to dig in? Meet Ponyo is a brief featurette that introduces the viewer to Miyazaki’s work from his studio Studio Ghibli and how they came to work with Disney.
The World of Ghibli presents all of Miyazaki’s film as an “island” where viewers can explore the characters and stories from many of his films.
A Conversation with Hayao Miyazaki and John Lasseter( Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2) is self explanatory and it is great to hear two of today’s top animators have a discussion about their films and the art of animation.
Ponyo and Fujimoto explores deeper the relationship between Ponyo and her father. The Nursery explores the recent opening of a nursery at Studio Ghibli and how it affected Miyazaki, his employees and this film.
Producer’s Perspective: Telling the Story follows the producer’s responsibility from the beginning of the film to its completion while The Locations of Ponyo explores where this sweet story is set.
Scoring Miyazaki is a visit with Joe Hisaishi who has scored many Miyazaki films. Behind the Microphone: The Voices of Ponyo is a look at the English language cast for the film.
Closing things out are storyboards, trailers and a featurette on other Studio Ghibli releases.
Overall (Not an Average) 10/10
The Movie 10/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 10/10
Overall (not an average) 10/10