The head of Disney’s Pixar Animation, John Lasseter, has such reverence and respect for Japan’s supremely talented animator Hiyao Miyazaki that he personally led the dubbing, talent selection and U.S. distribution of Miyazaki’s recent movie, “Ponyo on a Cliff.” No wonder Lasseter was so enthusiastic.
Based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Ponyo” is a delightful, beautifully animated film about a little goldfish that is half-human, half-fish who wants to know more about her human side. Her father, a human sorcerer who has abandoned his fellow men and their destructive ways, forbids her to go. Yet his stubborn and willful daughter rides a bubble to the surface and meets a 5-year-old boy, Sosuke, who rescues her and gives her the name Ponyo.
Miyazaki’s hand-drawn pastel animation is as fluid as its subject. Better yet, the story is told from the innocent perspective of 5-year-olds with insatiable curiosity, a deep sense of responsibility, and unwavering bonds of friendship.
This perspective gently draws the viewer in and brings a wonderful freshness to the film.
Miyazaki is known for more mature, darker animated films such as “Princess Monoke,” “Spirited Away,” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” Although “Ponyo” is simpler and less elliptical, its magic realism, masterful storytelling and brilliant animation generate an irresistible current both children and adults will happily latch on to.
‘Ponyo’ Directed by Hayao Miyazaki 100 minutes Rated G - out of five