Blu-ray Review: Ponyo

The easy way to describe Ponyo is Hayao Miyazaki’s version of The Little Mermaid. But do not tell this to a six year old since they will spend the next 99 minutes demanding to know where’s the talking crab and when do they sing “Under the Sea.” Ponyo is not Ariel. But she is a sea creatures that wills herself to be human against the wishes of her father. But this little girl from deep in the ocean is not a clone from Hans Christian Anderson or the Walt Disney corporation. Miyazaki truly makes Ponyo her own character.

Deep in the ocean a submarine a wizard Fujimoto releases his odd potions to alter the creatures of the deep. Inside the sub is his daughter, Brunhilde, and her hundreds of tiny sisters. While she and her sisters have faces, they look a little bit like jellyfish as they flutter in the water. Brunhilde wants more and sneaks off the sub and heads toward land. In the tide she meets Sōsuke, a little boy. There first visit is short, but memorable as she heals the boy and he names this new creature Ponyo. Fujimoto retrieves his daughter, but she wants no more of her old life. She wants to be called Ponyo and enjoy life on land. She escapes once more and grows arms and legs. She reunites with Sōsuke in a stunning scene of racing on the top of magical waves as the weather kicks up. The boy’s mother isn’t sure what to do with the little girl who appears to have no parents. Things get more complicated when Ponyo’s mother and father discuss the return of the child which involves flooding the land and sending the ships (including one with Sōsuke’s father) to an unknown sea. Can Ponyo get her parents to set the world back without losing her friendship with Sōsuke?

The film keeps up Miyazaki’s fantasy feel as Ponyo adjusts to the changes in her body and reality. The colors from the underwater scenes glow on the screen.There’s beauty and whimsy in the animation. It’s a fine film for both kids and adults with the same tone as My Neighbor Totoro. At some point, your kid will point out that it seems like The Little Mermaid, but is so different.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p is breathtaking for the underwater scenes. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 versions of both the original Japanese cast and the English dub. There’s also a French dub. The sound is fine with the mixing of the music and dialogue. The movie is subtitled in English and French.

DVD with the film and some of the bonus features.

Feature-Length Storyboards (100 minutes) is the rough form of the film with the finished audio. It’s cool to see Miyazaki’s original art.

The Five Geniuses Who Created Ponyo (48:52) is a Japanese TV special that covers the main collaborators in the creative process. It’s not all Miyazaki. They even show off the Japanese voice cast.

Press Conference: Theme Song Announcement (11:12) is a packed room for folks eager to hear what Miyazaki’s new movie will sound like. They people are so humble and gracious on the stage unlike the carnival barkers we’re used to experiencing. More movies need to do this to hype their theme songs.

Behind the Microphone (6:03) takes us in the sound studio for English dub sessions with Liam Neeson, Betty White, Tina Fey, and Cloris Leachman.

Opening Event at Hibiya Scala-Za Theatre (9:58) is everyone showing up for the fun. There’s footage outside and inside the theater. It’s always fun at events for animated cartoons that the actors have to introduce themselves since you often don’t know who they voiced.

Interview with Hayao Miyazaki (14:45) is from when the film was originally released.

Interview with Toshio Suzuki (29:40) allows the producer to talk about Ponyo as it is being wrapped up in post-production. He speaks about how they often finish the film a few weeks before it premieres.

Theme Song Music Video (3:43) is live action with the singers and the cool Ponyo puppet doll.

Hayao Miyazaki Press Conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (39:40)is his first way to get the word out to the world about his film.

Creating Ponyo (3:58) has Miyazaki talk about how the film came about because he had a lot of studio employees with newborn babies. He wanted to make a film for the kids.

Ponyo & Fujimoto (3:00) let Miyazaki mention Ponyo is a word that means squishy. He admits the model for Fujimoto came from a staffer.

The Nursery (2:00) is about how the film influenced the nursery built for Studio Ghibli.

Scoring Miyazaki (7:22) talks with his longtime composer Joe Hisaishi about all their collaborations.

Producer’s Perspective: Telling the Story (2:27) is how Miyazaki relates the project to Toshio Suzuki.

The Locations of Ponyo (9:46) visits the seaside town adapted to the movie.

Original Trailer (3:15) is the Japanese trailer.

TV Spots (3:39) has the kid singing the theme song, but remember that this isn’t a musical version of The Little Mermaid.

8-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statements and Lyrics

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present Ponyo. Directed and Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Betty White, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin and Tina Fey. Running Time: 102 minutes. Released: October 17, 2017.

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