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DVD Review

DVD cover

2 Disc Special Edition


Starring (voice): Yuria Nara, Hiroki Doi, Tomoko Yamaguchi, George Tokoro and Kazushige Nagashima
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: U
Available 07 June 2010

Ponyo is the daughter of the King of the Sea, Fujimoto (Liam Neeson) and imbued with magical power. When one day she is found near the shore by five-year-ole Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) they form an instant bond, which turns Ponyo from a fish into a little girl. But Ponyo’s magic means that if she stays the balance of the world will be altered, creating devastating damage. Only the true love of Sosuke can change Ponyo forever and avert the disaster...

Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo (2008) - 1 hr, 38 min, 13 sec) is the ninth Studio Ghibli film by Hayao Miyazaki and is loosely based on The Little Mermaid. The film is released as a two disc DVD set.

As ever, with a new film by Miyazaki, both the script and the visuals are near flawless, drawing the audience into a family friendly, heart warming story. And for once the association with Pixar means that the English dub of the film has some reasonable vocal acting. As well as those already mentioned the film also boasts Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey and Noah Cyrus taking up the various vocal duties. For the purists amongst you there is also the original 5.1 Japanese audio track.

Although the story will be familiar to most audiences, the animators have gone to considerable lengths to make their world rich and diverse. The underwater scenes are particularly effective in creating a whole new environment which the audience will want to relish and explore. Here, the time and craftsmanship taken over the hand animation still puts CGI animation to shame.

Miayzaki’s concerns with the desecration of the natural world also are represented in the opening sequences with the detritus of the human world clogging up an otherwise unspoiled Eden. That said, many of Miyazaki’s themes, although present, are underplayed here, in what is a fairly straight adaptation of The Little Mermaid, so as a film it bears little resemblance to the best of his work. Of course, this is all relative; a so so Miyazaki film is still miles ahead of other animator’s best output.

The film has a faultless 1.35:1 print with a Dolby digital 5.1 audio track. For extras you have a bit of a mixed bag starting with the ability to watch the whole film in its storyboard format, or even flicking between the two. I’m not really sure who, other than fellow animators, would want to watch a whole film in this way? Also on the first disc is the original Japanese trailer (3 min, 13 sec) as well as trailers for a number of other Ghibli films

Most of the extras appear on the second disc, these fifteen pieces are nearly all small lasting from three to six minutes with various looks at the making of the film, the only substantial extra is an interview with Toshio Suzuki (29 min), presumably this required a second disc as the first contains the film twice, once normally and once as storyboards.

The film is touching without resorting to schmaltz or becoming mawkish. It is truly a film which can be enjoyed by all ages and a pretty good family film.


Charles Packer

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