Welcome to a world of magic and adventure! Academy Award- winning director Hayao Miyazaki brings to life a heart-warming and imaginative retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's classic fairytale The Little Mermaid.
Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is perhaps the most revered figure in animated cinema today.
Since founding the now legendary animation studio "Studio Ghibli" in 1985, he has written and directed several of the greatest animated films ever made, repeatedly smashing box office records in Japan, inventing in Totoro a character whose status in the East rivals that of Mickey Mouse's in the West and directing the only foreign film ever to have won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
It could easily be argued that Miyazaki has made better films than 2008's Ponyo - Spirited Away won more awards and Princess Mononoke garnered more critical acclaim - but I don't believe any have offered quite the same level of pure entertainment.
As with most Ghibli films, the plot is somewhat baffling: a little boy catches a goldfish that turns out to be the daughter of a sea-wizard who then transforms into a young girl after drinking a drop of his blood. I'm never quite sure whether Western audiences suffer from a culture barrier or if these films are equally baffling to the Japanese.
Regardless, plot is never of great importance to Miyazaki films; the Ghibli magic stems not from the films' stories but from their traditional hand-drawn animation and the endearing, albeit rather eccentric, characters that populate them.
Hand-drawn animation has rather gone out of fashion recently - Only a few years ago, Disney were on the brink of closing their remaining hand-drawn studios to focus solely on CGI-based films - and the sadness of this situation is nowhere displayed more clearly than when watching a Miyazaki film.
Ponyo sees the Japanese auteur at the height of his powers; dazzling from the very first scene with images of a beautiful underwater world, thriving with thousands of weird and wonderful creatures each of which seems to have been drawn as meticulously as any of the main characters. This attention to detail has always been a huge part of what makes Miyazaki's films such a joy to watch: even objects relegated to the very edge of the frame are as intricately crafted as those at the very centre.
This has never been, and possibly can never be, captured quite as well in CGI.
Neither has the way in which characters move: the sense of weight that accompanies even the slightest movement of a Miyazaki character is a wonder to behold, making it a joy to watch them carry out the most mundane tasks, like lighting a fire or preparing a meal.
Despite being perhaps the only animation studio with the skill to make such simple acts entertaining, Ghibli films also deliver on large-scale visual spectacle like no-one else. Ponyo's most stunning sequence sees the sea come alive, with each wave briefly transformed into a gaping jaw, as Ponyo skips nimbly across them.
The unique art style of Ghibli films perfectly complements the child-like logic upon which they operate, making such feats of fantasy seem almost possible and allowing for adult viewers to suspend their disbelief at such bizarre spectacles as a little girl running across the surface of the ocean.
The protagonists of almost all Miyazaki's films are children; as such they all face the challenge of finding young voice actors whose high-pitched tones don't leave grown up viewers feeling suicidal by the end of the first act.
On paper, things do not bode well for Ponyo: the realisation that they are about to watch a film starring Miley Cyrus's little sister and the youngest of the Jonas brothers must have had many accompanying parents reaching for a pair of ear plugs or a very stiff drink.
In one of the great miracles of modern cinema, both Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas deliver excellent performances and the dynamic between their two characters is both exceptionally naturalistic and incredibly sweet. Cyrus in particular helps to create one of the most entertaining cartoon characters in recent years: the rambunctious and slightly bizarre goldfish-girl Ponyo is infinitely more entertaining than a child who spends much of the film shouting "HAM!" has any right to be.
Studio Ghibli enjoys such status in the West that they never struggle to find A-list talent for their English dubbing and Ponyo is no exception, rounding off the rest of its cast with the likes of Liam Neeson, Betty White and Matt Damon.
Not many studios can hire Matt Damon to voice a minor character with less than 5 minutes of screen time and only a handful of lines.
Visually stunning and utterly enthralling, Ponyo is that rare type of films that should appeal equal to all ages. The likes of Disney and Dreamworks often try to accomplish this feat with sly double-entendres and pop-culture references designed to fly over the heads of the younger viewers and keep the grown-ups amused. Ponyo is able to rely simply on its charm and beauty to make it universally appealing; a truly outstanding accomplishment, speaking volumes for both the talent of Hayao Miyazaki and the thoroughly vindicating his continued refusal to move away from hand-drawn animation.
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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 or region free DVD player in order to play. Acclaimed anime master Hayao Miyazaki (SPIRITED AWAY) returns for his ninth animated feature with PONYO, which deals with a friendship between a five-year-old boy and a goldfish princess who yearns to be human. Directors: Hayao Miyazaki Writers: Hayao Miyazaki Producers: Toshio Suzuki Language: Japanese Subtitles: English Number of discs: 2
Animated adventure by the Japanese anime studio Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's story 'The Little Mermaid'. When a feisty baby goldfish/mermaid called Ponyo (voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus) runs away from her home in the sea, she ends up stranded on the shore and is rescued by Sosuke (Frankie Jonas), a human boy who lives on a nearby clifftop. Ponyo yearns to become human herself so that she can be with Sosuke, but many obstacles stand in her way. Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Lily Tomlin and Liam Neeson lend their voices to the English version of the film.