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Ponyo
BLU-RAY disk
03.23.2010 By: Aaron the H
Ponyo order
Director:
Hayao Miyazaki

Actors:
Noah Cyrus
Liam Neeson
Tiny Fey

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In a sleepy seaside Japanese village, a young female goldfish floats ashore and slowly turns into a human girl with the help of a little bit of magic, and the love of a five year old boy.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
A word of advice for all you Disneyphiles (made up word of the day): Ponyo is not a Disney animated film. While it does possess many of the studio’s trademarks - sweeping visuals, children as leads, fantastical creatures- this is a decidedly Studio Ghibli project (aka a Hayao Miyazaki film). Anyone familiar with Miyazaki’s award-winning work (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke) knows what they are in for here. For the rest of us, the ones used to the zany, in-your-face digital age characters of Shrek and Donkey, Ponyo will take some getting used to. But once you learn to look past the “primitive” hand-drawn animation style and the lack of pop culture jokes, there’s something absolutely beautiful here to behold.

From the opening frames, you realize you’re being transported into another world. While the movement and detail of Studio Ghibli’s hand-drawn animation pales in comparison to what we’ve become accustomed to in the Pixar era, the color palette is no less vivid, and Miyazaki’s world is at least equally as imaginative (most would say more so). Its tough to explain the quiet, exquisite beauty of Ponyo’s world on paper, but, think Little Mermaid (which this film was inspired by) meets Finding Nemo with a healthy dose of Japanese flavor and you’re on the right track.

Despite the popularity of the two films I just listed, Ponyo certainly isn’t for everyone. The film is decidedly geared toward a very young audience, and the kids will absolutely be enamored with it, but some adults may not be so enthralled. The story takes its sweet time to develop, meanders brazenly at times, follows two 5 year-old children for the majority, and there’s no true villain here (other than Man in general, another point I loved). But if you can sit tight through that, relax, and immerse yourself in the magic of Miyazaki’s world, you’ll be smiling ear to ear by the time the credits roll.

Oh, and the voice cast featuring the likes of Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Betty White, and Cate Blanchett? They ain’t so bad either.
THE EXTRAS
Meet Ponyo (3:22) - A short intro viewable either with the film or on its own, featuring some Disney execs talking about finding the film and adapting it for American audiences.

The World of Ghibli: Behind the Studio - An incredibly elaborate and insightful look into the Miyazaki’s animation studio and into the making of Ponyo. Included among short segments are in-depth interviews with Miyazaki and Ghibli’s other producer teams, as well as location featurettes, original Japanese trailers, making-of’s for some of the studio’s other films, and more. Listening to Miyazaki speak and others speak about him is truly inspiring stuff. All this was lacking was a 'Play All' feature.

The World of Ghibli: Enter the Lands - This is an amazing feature and a gift to all Miyazaki fans. A highly interactive animated map with dozens of things to click on and lay with, many of which take you to previews, mini-games and info on many of Miyazaki and Ghibli’s legendary animated films. The narrator is a bit goofy and the navigation’s a bit tricky, but the latter is half the fun.

The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD copy of the film (though no Digital Copy surprisingly), and the film is viewable with a picture-in-picture track featuring the Japanese storyboards.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
A fine film in its own right and an absolute joy for the kids, the visuals alone will should give adults a visual feast for the eyes. Just don't go in looking for the next Kung Fu Panda and you'll be just fine.
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