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'Ponyo (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)'
(Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, et al / 2-Disc Blu Ray+DVD / G / (2008) 2010 / Disney)

Overview: Welcome to a world where anything is possible! Academy Award® winning director Hayao Miyazaki (2002, Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away) and legendary filmmaker John Lasseter together with Disney bring to life a heartwarming and imaginative telling of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid. A young boy named Sosuke rescues a goldfish named Ponyo, and they embark on a fantastic journey of friendship and discovery before Ponyo's father, a powerful sorcerer, forces her to return to her home in the sea.

Blu Ray+DVD Verdict: It's wonderful to live in an era when one of the all time legends of entertainment is still actively producing works. I imagine that in years to come people will look back with tremendous fondness to the days when Hayao Miyazaki was still directing and it's a blessing to know (or at least hope) that more films are yet to come. I had heard after `Howl's Moving Castle' that Miyazaki might be retiring from but Ponyo laid that rumor to rest.

Ponyo is the story of a tiny mermaid who runs away from home only to end up in the bucket of a young boy who assumes she's a goldfish (despite her obviously humanlike face). Her father, Fujimoto, a human who now shuns humans and lives beneath the ocean tries to retrieve Ponyo using various water based magic at his disposal. Ponyo has other ideas in mind as she uses her own magic to try and become an actual human girl. Unfortunately all of this mucking around has created a rift in reality that threatens to bring complete disaster on everyone.

If you've watched more than a few Miyazaki films you'll notice that like Walt Disney he has a particular artistic style that the animators at Studio Ghibli adhere to. The first thing I noticed about Ponyo was that the art seemed a somewhat different. It's a bit rougher or perhaps more simplistic, particularly with the characters of Ponyo and her father Fujimoto, than what I've seen in previous movies like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke.

The backgrounds by contrast are absolutely lush and gorgeous and retain the dreamlike quality that is a trademark of Miyazaki films. Most of the film takes place in charming little coastal city in Japan based on the actual city of Tomonoura. The rest is underwater and it is positively glorious. It absolutely teams with life and naturally this is all hand drawn animation. It's almost impossible these days to find animation that is 100% hand drawn but unless I am mistaken there is not a CGI frame to be seen in the film. I have to applaud the effort of the animators here in drawing some if the most dynamic, vibrant images ever.

Miyazaki, like Pixar, has never produced a bad or even mediocre film only varying degrees of great. I felt that Howl's Moving Castle was below average on the Miyazaki scale and Ponyo is only somewhat better. My wife, on the other hand, felt that that Ponyo was every bit as good as Miyazaki's very best. For me the weakness was in the story which had a flaw or two. In particular it was hard to draw a distinction between what was supposed to be reality and what was supposed to be fantasy. Let me just say that the town in the movie undergoes a dramatic event, one which would generally be an utter disaster and yet here there seems to be no harm done.

It's kind of like when Wily Coyote falls of a cliff and creates that ring of dust only to be up and around in the next scene. Miyazaki is generally pretty consistent in his stories and in this case it was hard to tell the boundaries. I also felt that the animation wasn't as strong as in the previous three Miyazaki films save for the backgrounds which are absolutely top notch. [EDS] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with Special Features of:

World of Ghibli – An Extraordinary Interactive Experience
Enter the Lands – Meet the characters and hear the story of the movie
Behind the Studio – Discover the film’s inspiration through documentaries, including all-new interviews with Hayao Miyazaki
Meet Ponyo – Introduction by the Producers
Storyboard Presentation of the Movie