What do you get when you combine a Hans Christian Anderson story and renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki? A wonderful and amazing film, that’s what! Ponyo is the latest animation film from Japan that follows a magical goldfish named Ponyo and a little boy named Sosuke on an adventure of a lifetime.
“The son of a sailor, 5-year old Sosuke lives a quiet life on an oceanside cliff with his mother Lisa. One fateful day, he finds a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle on the beach and upon rescuing her, names her Ponyo. But she is no ordinary goldfish. The daughter of a masterful wizard and a sea goddess, Ponyo uses her father’s magic to transform herself into a young girl and quickly falls in love with Sosuke, but the use of such powerful sorcery causes a dangerous imbalance in the world. As the moon steadily draws nearer to the earth and Ponyo’s father sends the ocean’s mighty waves to find his daughter, the two children embark on an adventure of a lifetime to save the world and fulfill Ponyo’s dreams of becoming human.”
This review will focus not only on the movie itself but the blu-ray itself so sit back, relax, and enjoy!
With Miyazaki’s beautiful hand-drawn animation and Disney’s technical work the imagery of Ponyo comes through perfectly. The film is presented in an encoded 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. Vibrant colors flow through the film in lush greens as the wind blows through and blues as waves crash against the granite barrier wall. Every single image is hand-painted and through high-definition you can really tell as the lines pop on screen.
While the English dub is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track the original Japanese is only presented in a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. It would have been nice to have the Japanese track in the Master Audio but with a good sound system you can still get great audio with it. Sure it’s a letdown but not everything can be perfect.
The blu-ray doesn’t really boast anything spectacular when it comes to special features but with what little it does provide more than makes up for it.
- Meet Ponyo (HD, 3 minutes): Executive producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy provide a quick introduction to Ponyo and all its amazement.
- Storyboard Experience (HD): A feature-length Picture-in-Picture track allows fans to view the film’s original Japanese storyboards, the majority of which are in full color.
- The World of Ghibli – Behind the Studio: (HD, 41 minutes): This treasure trove of short featurettes provide a fairly extensive overview of Ponyo and its production. “A Conversation with Hayao Miyazaki and John Lasseter” gives the Pixar mastermind an opportunity to interview the legendary Japanese filmmaker; “Creating Ponyo” looks at the beginnings and development of the project; “Ponyo and Fujimoto” gives a glance at the creation of the film’s namesake and her father; “The Nursery” reveals several changes that altered the course of the story; “Telling the Story” finds the film’s producers sharing their impressions of Miyazaki and Ponyo; “The Locations of Ponyo” gives only a ten-minute look from a Japanese Ghibli documentary; “Scoring Miyazaki” examines the music; “Behind the Microphone” introduces the actors who bring Miyazaki’s characters to life in the English dub; and a pair of “Original Japanese Trailers” fills out the section.
- Other Ghibli Worlds Previews (HD, 8 minutes): Miyazaki enthusiasts can also access a trio of quick previews of the “World of Ghibli” material found on the new Special Edition DVD releases of My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Castle in the Sky.
- Sneak Peeks (HD): A series of previews for upcoming Disney Blu-ray releases include The Princess and the Frog, Fantasia, Fantasia 2000, Beauty and the Beast, all three Toy Story films, and Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.
- Disney BD Live: The studio’s online network.
While the film boasts amazing imagery it lacks with the original Japanese audio track. I feel like they could have matched it with the English dub if they tried. The story is amazing and different, something that is Miyazaki’s speciality. Ponyo is a film that one could watch over and over again and never get tired of it. The innocent love story between Ponyo and Sosuke is sweet and would make even the most cold-hearted person turn to mush. So if you’re on the fence about buying this blu-ray it’s time to take a dive and experience this amazing movie in high-def! I give this movie a 4 out of 5 stars. Had the Japanese audio been up to par it would have received a solid 5.