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DVD Review

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Ponyo

Ponyo DVD Review

By Mark Thomas     June 10, 2010
Release Date: March 02, 2010


Ponyo
© Disney

Miyazaki’s newest classic brings familiar magic to an old tale.

What They Say
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. But Ponyo's desire to be human upsets the delicate balance of nature and triggers a gigantic storm. Only Ponyo's mother, a beautiful sea goddess, can restore nature's balance and make Ponyo's dreams come true. Ponyo will delight your family with its magnificent animation and timeless story.

The Review!

Audio
For this release, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. There are also Japanese and French tracks also in 2.0, and subtitle tracks for English and French. Though it is a 2.0 setup, the mix is pretty basic, as the sounds and dialogue stay mostly centered on the two channels. There is a bit of directionality when it comes to sounds, but it is minor. I will say that the dramatic flood scene really boomed and brought out the action, too. And, as with any Disney release, the dub is well done and clear throughout. An A-list cast of celebrities does not always make for a good voiceover cast, but Disney seems to get it right more often than not. 
 
Video
The video on this release looks great. Colors and imagery are clear and crisp, and there are no technical problems with the transfer. For the most part, it is bright and colorful, but the deep blues and greens in the flood scene were just as diverse as the lighter moments. In particular, I loved the contrast of the bright red Ponyo running along the surface of the water while the dark, angry ocean swelled around her. Really great job.
 
Packaging
Pretty basic packaging here. The two discs come in a single size amaray case with a card slip sleeve that has all the same images and information as the cover sleeve. The front has an image from early in the movie with Ponyo looking out from under a bubble on the surface of the ocean for the first time. The back has a summary, some technical details and a few screen shots.
 
Menu
This release has a really neat menu. In the background is a sketch of the same picture of Ponyo from the front cover, looking like a watercolor on parchment. Next to her are three “windows” of animated footage showing parts of various scenes. Some of the soothing music from the feature plays in the background, looping at two minutes so it doesn’t get old. The menu feels quiet, which matches the feel of the movie very well.
 
Extras
There are some nice extras here, but nothing truly special. The first is a storyboard version of the feature with full audio. It is neat to watch, but gets old quickly. Then there are a series of short interviews with Miyazaki about various aspects of the creation and development of the movie. Finally, there is a feature called “Enter the Lands.” Selecting this takes you to a visual representation of a world that has sections reserved for all of Miyazaki’s movies. Clicking on the Totoro section gives you a quiz to see which character from the movie you are, while selecting any of the other sections gives you a trailer for that movie. It is a neat idea, but I was a little disappointed in it after hearing about it. It was not as deep as I might have liked it to be. 
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki turns his attention to Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale, The Little Mermaid. Combining the age-old story of a forbidden love with the sort-of magical wonderment for which he is famous for, Miyazaki has created another visual treat along the lines of My Neighbor Totoro.
 
One day while playing at the bluffs alongside his house, five-year-old Sosuke finds what he thinks is a goldfish stuck inside an empty jar. The fact that the fish has a human face does not deter him from thinking it’s a fish. He breaks the jar and gets the fish into a bucket of fresh water, relieved to find that it is still alive. He names the fish Ponyo and is determined to take care of it.
 
Unfortunately, he loses Ponyo later in the day when a sudden wave washes her back out to sea. As it turns out, Ponyo is the daughter of Fujimoto, the scientist-husband of Granmamere, the sea Goddess of Mercy. Fujimoto does not want his daughter consorting with humans, despite being human himself, because he views the humans’ wasteful ways as being the enemy of nature (interestingly—despite being on the side of nature, Miyazaki’s preferred side, Fujimoto comes off as the villain for much of this movie). But unbeknownst to him, Ponyo has already fallen in love with the little boy who saved her life.
 
Late one night, Ponyo is able to get into the magic elixir that gives her father his power, and she uses it to escape his confinement and transform into a human. But releasing the elixir also sends the ocean into a frenzy, causing a mass flood that separates the newly-reunited Ponyo and Sosuke from the rest of the town and sets them on a test of their love that could separate them forever.
 
What is interesting about Ponyo is that while it is most definitely a children’s movie, it deals with the same concepts of the original Little Mermaid story that are a bit more advanced than the audience it is intended for. However, with Miyazaki’s storytelling, and the way he presents those concepts, he makes them accessible to all ages.
 
The genius is that it works on multiple levels. For a child, they see a simple story of a magical being wanting to be human and staying with her adopted human family. An adult sees a deeper story of ancient magic that is attempting to bring humanity and nature back together again by channeling itself through the two children. And because of this, it is a story that will grow with children as they get older.
 
But frankly, what makes this movie is the same thing that makes every Miyazaki movie, and that’s the magical joy that he tends to bring to many of his movies. If you have previously enjoyed his other movies like My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service, then you absolutely will enjoy this one too. If you haven’t seen his other movies, then what is wrong with you? Get on it now!
 
In Summary: 
Take the story of the Little Mermaid and add Miyazaki’s magic, and the result is pure joy. This is one that parents should enjoy just as much as their children. If you like his other movies, then there is absolutely no reason why you would not also like this one. Highly recommended.
 
Features
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Japanese Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, 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

Review Equipment

Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System 

 

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