Synopsis: In Ponyo, a goldfish sets out on a quest to save the world and become human.
Release Date: August 14, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Children and Family, Animation
Remember the books you loved as a kid? Do you remember how even if you could not understand every word, you just kept marveling at the illustrations, and somehow you knew the story exactly? Just about in every frame of Ponyo are those beloved childhood stories brought to life. The world of Ponyo is a magical one where the lives of all earth’s creatures are celebrated on every available inch of the screen. If ever one were still unsure of what true imagination looks like, one would have to look no further. After Ponyo is over you’ll feel good because somehow you’re a kid again. Your mind is lost in another world, not knowing that you’ve witnessed a piece of art.
It takes a masterful director to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense at all. The plot of Ponyo is never really a coherent one, but that never really seems to matter. Like a good children’s book, Miyazaki’s imagery is more than enough to showcase the story’s themes and Ponyo is full of them. There’s the importance of love and friendship, youth vs. old age, Moms and Dads, and the struggle to cooperate with the earth. These themes are never really exploited for dramatic effect. Instead, they’re placed here and there to go along with Ponyo‘s dream logic. Life as a dream is the appropriate viewpoint since the main characters in the movie are no older than five. Being five years old, tasting honey and eating soup for the first time can be just as majestic as a tsunami. Hayao Miyazaki somehow manages to weave all of this together flawlessly, that by the time the world is saved out of nowhere we embrace it.
There is no possible way to justify the imagery in this film with words. All the bright yellows and blues, the mystical greens, the emeralds and golds; they are empty meanings without experiencing it first hand. The pastel world of Ponyo is one where true craftsmanship is felt everywhere. Every texture, every movement, every raindrop is a labor of love. In a world where five out of five animated films are CG, the fact that this movie is patiently hand drawn is mesmerizing.
The fact that Ponyo is another take on the classic fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid”, doesn’t matter. There are no scantily clad redheads to be found; there are, however, hundreds of goldfish with faces. Also present are mountainous ocean waves that transform into giant schools of fish, there’s an underwater senior center, a tower of stacked sea ships due to an enclosing moon’s gravitational pull, and near the end a flooded Japanese town gives rise to a prehistoric water world. Not to mention, Ponyo herself is a magical creature that can grow human arms and legs when desired as long as she’s had contact with human blood. Does all of this sound like something you’ve seen before? I didn’t think so.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Hayao Miyazaki
- Screenwriters: Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Melissa Mathison
- Cast: Noah Cyrus (voice of Ponyo), Frankie Jonas (voice of Sosuke), Liam Neeson (voice of Fujimoto), Tina Fey (voice of Lisa), Cate Blanchett (voice of Granmamare), Matt Damon (voice of Koichi)
- Editor(s): Hayao Miyazaki
- Cinematographer: Takeshi Seyama
- Country Of Origin: Japan