Ponyo is the animated story of a little gold fish who runs away from home and turns herself into a little girl to be friends with a boy that saved her as a fish. It is a magical, and endearing story from Academy Award winning, Hayao Miyazaki.
This was originally released in Japan and titled, Ponyo, On the Cliff By the Sea. The title was shortened and was dubbed for English almost flawlessly. Sometimes you have to worry about what was lost in translation, but this story is so strong from the animation itself, that no words need to be spoken for everyone in the audience to see what is happening.
Keeping the story to 101 minutes allows the story to develop at it’s own pace without dragging on too long for children. There were times in my theater when I felt the restlessness of the children around me spike up a bit, but it may have only been because they were waiting for Ponyo and the boy, Sosuke, to reunite on screen. The movie was most vibrant when they were together, although the film took time to show you the life of each one alone.
The American actors that portrayed the voices did a great job. Most impressive to me, was Liam Neeson, who played Fujimoto, Ponyo’s Father or protector of the sea. A man, who left the normal world behind to use magical potions under the sea to keep it restored and beautiful. Other American actors in this were Tina Fey as Risa, Sosuke’s Mom, Matt Damon as Koichi, Sosuke’s fisherman Dad, and Cate Blanchett as Granmammare, Ponyo’s Mother and also The Goddess of Mercy of the Sea.
The animation itself, is reason enough to see Ponyo. The first five minutes or so of the film is simply a magical array of fish swimming in schools around the screen and no dialogue. It was beautiful and kind of trippy at the same time. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland meets an animated Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
This is a movie targeted towards kids and teaching them life lessons, but it is just as enjoyable for the adults, if not more. The story uses a lot of Japanese folklore to add to the film which simultaneously adds an important environmental message. I am a fan of Miyazaki, and will watch anything he puts his heart into. He has a talent for inspiring the actors to become the characters they are portraying and the animation seems to come to life on the screen. For example, The opening 12 seconds,with schools of fish lighting up the screen, required 1613 pages of conceptual sketches to develop. Another tidbit of cute information; Ponyo’s name is an onomatopoeia, based on Miyazaki’s idea of what a “soft, squishy softness” sounds like when touched.
I give Ponyo 4 balls of “soft squishy softness” out of 5.
by Angela Davis