REVIEW: Ponyo

I always try to see one of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies in the theater when they come out because I feel it’s important to support of the the great living film makers. I have never been disappointed. Ponyo i probably one of his oddest stories, which comes from a children’s book “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea”. It’s about a romance between a five year old boy and a half human fish girl. Sort of.

A human wizard who lives in the ocean and tries to restore it to its former glory has a hundred or so daughters with a sea goddess. One of them decides to go to the land to see what its like and falls in love with a human boy. She manages to take on a human form and they have some adventures. That’s the story in a nutshell, Of course, being a Miyazaki film it has an ecological message but he is never heavy handed. And unlike most of his films, there is no flying scenes. It’s all in the water or on land.

I wasn’t sure if I would like this one, and it took me longer to warm up to it as his other movies, but it won me over as he always does. It is a very fresh and original story. Certainly when you compare it to the junk out there.

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5 Comments

  1. It’s just Hans Christan Andersen’s The Little Mermaid under a different name.

    Story’s not original. I recognized the source right away.

    Still had fun seeing it.

    I couldn’t really understand why so many Miyazaki fans panned it… This film was far better I’m sure than most of the films I skipped this summer. It had great entertainment value even if I felt the idea of allowing a 5-year-old to choose her life was kind of unrealistic.

    (My least favorite Miyazaki film still remains Princess Mononoke. Just not crazy about that pessimistic film. The old man is still a cantakerous curmudgeon, though, and I sometimes get sick of hearing how he’s buddies with Lasseter. They don’t even speak the same language!)

    I had similar problems with the Disney film (1989 The Little Mermaid), too, but ultimatetly liked that one as well…

  2. Well, yeah, it is like the Little Mermaid except it has more strange stuff in it and is about little kids instead of teens.

    So fans are panning it? Well, it’s not like most Miyazaki movies. Ponyo is a very strange looking creature at first. Hard to get used to initially. But the story does grow on you.

    As for Lassiter, it sure is obnoxious the way he gloms onto HM. Lassiter has produced a lot of amazing work. But whenever I see them together in those film clips they put on the videos, Old Miyazaki does not seem too buddy buddy with him. From what I have heard HM is pretty egotistical and an oddball. But he deserves to get away with it because he is a great storyteller and he does not make the kind of empty stories most film makers do.

  3. The thing is Hud that many animation fans see Lasseter as today’s Walt Disney.

    Frankly, I think they’re delusional.

    By this time in his career (20-year mark), Walt Disney had won many Oscars for animation firsts and had developed at least 6 distinct animated series (silent Alice comedies, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse, Silly Symphonies, Donald Duck, Goofy, the feature-length animated features, many propaganda and training films for World War II) and was well on his way to creating Disneyland and the Disneyland TV series that became the Wonderful World of Disney TV series.

    Lasseter, as good as he is, is still basically ID’d with Pixar theatrical features and shorts. His stewardship at Disney, contrary to what some believe, has been a mixed bag. There have been some moderate successes in addition to critical failures like Chicken Little, Meet the Robinons, and Tinkerbelle which were admittedly inherited from the previous administration at Disney.

    He has had a clash of egos with some at Disney Feature Animation. One casualty was Chris Sanders, a great storyteller, and creator/co-directory of Lilo & Stitch, Disney’s last great traditional/hand-drawn theatrical feature. Sanders left Disney after working there for over 20 years and now is developing a feature at Dreamworks Animation.

    In the meantime, there are projects at DFA that are in serious trouble or have been in development for close to a decade with little to no practical usable footage like Rapunzel. We’ll see what happens after The Princess and the Frog opens this fall. I hope it’s not another five years before another hand-drawn feature gets made because frankly I’m sick of all-CG films…

    There is no Walt Disney today. There’s too much risk-aversion and people are afraid to take chances because in many cases there’s too much money involved and the institutions and management have become ossified. I think this has already happened at Pixar, too. I just see too much of the same being made and every film of theirs is a variation on the basic buddy/quest film that was old even by the time of Hope & Crosby.

    Another factor is that there are far too many people who think they as financial managers are great creative types and vice-versa. Nobody’s good at everything and there isn’t a single person I can think of in entertainment today who I’d call better than half-great. That’s partly what destroyed theatrical animation in the US in the late 1990s… too much of management thought they were storytellers and got involved in the filmmaking process. Film budgets ballooned and there were a lot of stupid mistakes made and time wasted. Too many cooks as it were who had no clue on how to boil water!

    Even Walt Disney needed the help of his older brother, Roy, to manage the Disney Company. Roy’s one of the unsung heroes of that company and helped it keep from going bankrupt in spite of Walt’s crazier ideas. They were a rare team of geniuses who balanced each other well and created a company that we’ll likely never see again in our lives.

    I’ve reconciled myself that the Disney Company that Walt created hasn’t existed for over 40 years now and that the inheritor of the name really isn’t the same company. They hype up the name and legacy but really don’t respect the founders of that company anymore.

    It’s a sad commentary that said-company couldn’t muster money to produce a decent biographical film about Walt Disney. Walt’s surviving daughter, Diane, had to raise the money to produce the film on her own! The anniversaries of a bunch of characters like Mickey and Donald have also come and gone without any kind of celebration, either.

    (Note that DC and Marvel have done the same with a lot of their characters. Marvel, the company, really isn’t 70 years old btw. It wasn’t called Marvel until AFTER Fantastic Four #1 was published in late 1961. Marvel Comics #1, the first appearance of the Human Torch and the first color appearance of the Sub-Mariner, is 70 years old. That was published by Marvel’s predecessor company, Timely, which was itself several years old before even that comic got published.)

    I think the Disney Company has devalued its perennial characters and Walt legacy in favor of disposable actors and tween series like Hannah Montana which very few people will care about in 20 years, let alone 5 years. That’s very, very short-sighted.

  4. Count me as a fan who didn’t like it. Like George, I disliked Mononoke, which is Miyazaki’s highest grossing film for reasons that completely baffle me. It’s practically nothing but Nausicaa turned 90 degrees sideways with no likable characters and remade with poorer animation.
    People should go back and watch Laputa or Totoro to see what the old man used to be capable of.

  5. His last movie with great animation was Spirited Away. This one looked kind of crude compared to his classics. Not as bad as Conan, but more in that realm. I can’t say I don’t like any of his films. But it isn’t one of his best by any stretch.

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