Alternate Disc-Tractions: Ponyo on Blu-ray, DVD

March 6, 2010 - 3:00 am No Comments

Alternate Disc-Tractions: Ponyo on Blu-ray, DVD

Section: Reviews, Originals, Features, Japanese Imports, Opinions, Consoles, PS3, Ads & Media, Movies, Home Video

ponyo box art

Title: Ponyo
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Format(s): Blu-ray, DVD
Price: $39.99 (Blu-ray+DVD), $29.99 (DVD)
Company: Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment (Studio Ghibli)
Rating: “G” (General Audiences)
Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes. (103 minutes)
Pros: Gorgeous visuals, mostly amazing voice acting, beautiful soundtrack and it appeals to the very young target audience.
Cons: A couple annoying voices (especially to older viewers) and a little darker than most Disney movies.
Overall Score: One thumb up, one thumb sideways; 87/100; B+; * * * 1/2 out of five.

Hayao Miyazaki’s films can arguably be described as a bit too weird for American audiences to accept, lacking a clear, super-hero style main character and,  instead focusing on normal people in not-so-normal circumstances. Most times he exudes a mood more than a clear, linear story in his films, though this may be one of the most linear of his productions (thanks to the film’s literary inspiration).

Some elements in Ponyo may not immediately endear older American viewers but the overall story will prove entertaining to its true target: very young viewers.

Under the Sea

Loosely based on Han Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, Ponyo stars a cute but strange looking magical fish and a little boy who finds her stuck in a jar close to shore. Mistaken for a goldlfish, the human-faced fish Brunhilda, aka Ponyo, soon becomes enamored with young Sosuke (and ham, of all things), wanting to leave her magician father’s literally protective bubbles to become a little girl.

ponyo running on water blu-ray screen shot

That, of course, throws everything out of balance, causing the seas to rise and nature to basically freak out. The only way to set things right is either for Ponyo to return her to her aquatic life or to abandon magic altogether and become a human.

Like most Miyazaki movies, some of the characters are a bit outlandish, emotions run from mellow to explosive and so does the animated action. There’s a strong nature them that gets a little preachy for only a couple minutes and a lot of big-weather action but, ultimately, it’s a cute, emotional story with amazing visuals.

Turning Japanese

The American voice cast includes some rather impressive names: Cate Blanchett (Gran Mamare), Noah Cyrus (Ponyo), Matt Damon (Koichi), Tina Fey (Lisa), Frankie Jonas (Sosuke), Kurt Knutsson (The Newscaster), Cloris Leachman (Noriko), Liam Neeson (Fujimoto), Jennessa Rose (Kumiko), Lily Tomlin (Toki) and Betty White (Yoshie). Only Neeson’s voice seems, at times, too far over the top – although it fits the stripe suited character – and most surprising is Fey, who sounds as if she’s been voicing anime movies for decades. All of the movie’s on-screen old ladies (Leachman, Tomlin and White) are perfect choices for their characters. Cyrus’ Ponyo is often a high-pitched yell which might be an instant turn off to older ears.

ponyo and sosuke on baot blu-ray screen shot

As with all Miyazaki’s movies, the soundtrack (like the visuals) is a wonderful blend of subtlety and swelling excitement.

The high definition of the Blu-ray makes the disparity in the film’s artistic styles obvious, occasionally making the lined edges and solid coloring of the main characters a bit too bright against the lush and intricately detailed backgrounds. It gives it a slightly older-than-it-really-is feel but this is a hand-drawn animated feature and not an uber-computer shaded creation. It’s rarely an issue in terms of overall film enjoyment and may even lend itself well to Miyazaki’s tendency to create a purposefully mixed-up era on screen.

After watching the extra features – which primarily consist of interviews with Miayazaki or interviews with Disney execs about him – it’s clear that the most critical audience of this movie is not the target. Instead, he was trying to make a movie for 4-year-olds, featuring slightly older-than-that main characters and more fish than you can find in a 3D release of Finding Nemo. And there he certainly succeeds.

ponyo queen of the sea blu-ray screen shot

Another success of this release is the interview with Miayazaki. He’s not only offers decent insights into the film but is also rather candid about his own failings as a filmmaker, admitting that most of his movies have taken several years, in some more than a decade, to gather fans and acclaim. These bonus features will help to make this release much more entertaining to older audiences, especially Miayazaki’s US fans.

I’m Turning Japa-Three

This is one of those instances where an adult cannot properly pass judgment. It’s simultaneously cute, weird, strange and magical. It’s not my favorite Miyazaki movie but, then again, it’s not supposed t be.

Ponyo is, at times, a bit scarier and creepier than most Disney movies (maybe Dark Crystal aside) but my 3-year-old certainly didn’t seem to mind. Instead, he asks for the movie by name almost daily.

Your kids may, too, if you give it a chance. (Trust me, it won’t be anywhere as annoying as Barney or the Teletubbies).

ALSO OUT: To coincide with the Blu-ray-DVD release of Ponyo, Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment has also released three other Hayao Miyazaki-Studio Ghibli films as Special Edition DVDs: My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky.

Photo Gallery [Ponyo @ Gamertell] Read [Ponyo Movie Review @ Gamertell] Site [Ponyo]

Full Story » | Written by PJ Hruschak for Gamertell. | Comment on this Article »

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