Toon Talk: Ponyo Blu-Ray and DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt
Disney Blu-Ray and DVD
Fish Out Of Water
Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Little Mermaid, Ponyo (available this week on Disney Blu-ray and DVD) is yet another jewel in the crown of legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli. Marking his return to lighter fare following his darker and more mature Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo is a delight-filled feast for all the senses … and not just for its young target audience.
As is usual for his films, Miyazaki fills every corner of the screen with gorgeously intricate detail. His imagination practically seeps out of the edges, as one can see immediately from the very first sequence of Ponyo, a prologue set in a veritable octopus’ garden teeming with all sorts of exotic undersea creatures.
Here we meet the enigmatic Fujimoto, a human sorcerer who, à la Captain Nemo, has rejected mankind for what it has done to his beloved oceans. We are also introduced to the film’s heroine, a feisty little fish who swims off seeking adventure, only to find trouble in the littered waters of a nearby seaport village. She is rescued by a little boy named Sosuke, who names his strange new friend Ponyo.
But Ponyo is no ordinary little fish. She is actually the daughter of Fujimoto, with magical powers of her own. Once she gets a taste (literally) of human life, she wants to be a part of that world. Her overprotective father will have none of that, and he will do everything in his power to return her to him under the sea.
Like a certain headstrong mermaid we all know, Ponyo asserts her independence and, tapping into her burgeoning magical abilities (as well as breaking into her father’s mystical elixirs), transforms herself into a little girl and reunites with Sosuke. However, her childlike enthusiasm and naïveté toward her magic has upset the delicate balance of nature, causing Sosuke’s village to be flooded and threatening all of planet Earth.
Miyazaki wisely presents all this fantastical adventure through the young eyes of his protagonists. For example, when the sea bursts forth into raging waves, they take on the forms of giant fish. Although a little more stylized at times … more “cartoon-y” … then Miyazaki’s work usually is, the animation of Ponyo is still breathtakingly beautiful, from the gorgeous watercolor backgrounds to the incredibly naturalistic character animation.
Even more appealing and endearing is the film’s sweet themes of accepting others for who they are, and the love between the characters is palatable. One will easily be swept away by the power of Ponyo.