Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Ponyo by Hayao Miyazaki

As we celebrate the Blu-ray release of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, let's take a look at another must-have Studio Ghibli film and one of my all-time favorites. The following review of Ponyo appeared on Imaginerding on March 1, 2010.


Ponyo (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) 

Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite modern filmmakers. Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Castle In the Sky are some of our family's favorite films to watch. (How many of you are singing Totoro right now?)

We were fortunate enough to see Ponyo in the theaters during its theatrical release in August of last year. In my mini-review, I expressed my main concern about the film:
...Disney needs to make a film like Ponyo. It is hard to fathom that Miyazaki can create a work that enchants all ages without a major villain. You have to experience Ponyo to understand.  --http://www.imaginerding.com/2009/08/movie-review-ponyo.html
At the end of the theatrical screening, my ten-year old leaned into me and proclaimed that Ponyo was awesome. The five-year old thought it was one of the best movies ever. After watching the Blu-ray, my wife thought the work was incredibly charming.

I was thrilled to receive a preview copy of Ponyo on Blu-ray.

"Ham!"
Ponyo is the re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. The main characters are voiced wonderfully buy Frankie Jonas (Sosuke) and Noah Cyrus (Ponyo). Sosuke discovers a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle and names her Ponyo. After getting a taste for human life (and ham), Ponyo decides to risk everything to be with Sosuke. This decision creates an imbalance in nature that must be corrected. Filling out the rest of the voice cast are Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett and Tina Fey. All the actors portray strong characters and their voices lend themselves well to the world created by Miyazaki. And what a beautiful world it is.

Miyazaki departs from his traditional animation to create a lush and beautiful world that is realized through gorgeous watercolors. This movie was amazing on the big screen and shines on Blu-ray. Most of Miyazaki's films share common threads and Ponyo is no different. There is a strong female character (more wild and primitive), a heroic boy without real superpowers, a cry from the environment and a reverence for family relations and elders.


During discussions on Ponyo, I always come back to the fact that there is no villain in the entire film. At one point, you sense that a character could become a villain, but he is simply protecting his child. It is an amazing feat that a film has been created that works for everyone that watches it--without violence, entendre or slapstick comedy. The characters are believable and grow over the course of the film. The story is not sacrificed for a laugh--yet there will be plenty of smiles and laughter from the audience. Without resorting to contemporary spins to keep grownups interested.

This is the type of film that Disney should be creating. John Lasseter, chief creative officer at the Walt Disney Company, is a major fan of the films of Miyazaki and has pushed to bring the films to American audiences. Let's hope that Ponyo helps other Studio Ghibli films find shelf space in our homes.

Ponyo is a film that all Disney and animation fans should own. Especially the Blu-ray Hi-Definition version; the images pop and colors are presented beautifully.

You will love this film!






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