This week’s Miyazaki Monday film is 2008’s Ponyo
Ponyo is the story of a fish-girl who becomes friends with a human and wants to become a human herself. Her name initially is Brunhilde. She lives with her “sisters” and her father Fujimoto. Fujimoto is a human wizard who lives underwater and who has sworn off humanity to live under the sea. One day, Brunhilde gets separated from her family to see the world. She ends up getting trapped in a bottle and washing ashore. She is rescued by a young boy named Sosuke. Sosuke then renamed her Ponyo. Thinking that Ponyo was kidnapped, Fujimoto calls on the wave spirits to bring Ponyo back to him. Sosuke is heartbroken and while his mother Lisa tries to console him, he misses Ponyo.
Ponyo has an argument with her father and due to some of Sosuke’s blood, she turns into a human. Before Fujimoto can call on Ponyo’s mother Granmamare, Ponyo escapes with the help of her sisters. Ponyo then returns to Sosuke and Lisa as a human girl and goes to live with them. Meanwhile, the moon is falling out of orbit and disrupting the seas. Fujimoto meets with Granmamare and it is revealed that nature is out of balance. Granmamare tells Fujimoto that Ponyo can stay a human if she passes a test. It would also mean that nature would then be put back in balance. However, if Ponyo does not pass the test, she will turn into sea foam.
Ponyo’s mom Lisa leaves the children to check on the residents at the nursing home where she works. The rising waters trap Lisa and the residents and it’s up to Ponyo and Sosuke to come to the rescue. It becomes a race against time to save the people as well as for Ponyo to stay human.
This film is inspired by the classic Hans Christen Andersen story The Little Mermaid. It was done completely in traditional hand drawn animation and there were 170,0o0 separate images drawn for the film. That is a record for a Miyazaki film. It was released in Japan on July 19, 2008 to a record amount of screens in the country (481). It was distributed in North America again by Walt Disney Pictures. The English dub was directed by John Lasseter, Brad Lewis and Peter Sohn. The English dub voices included actors such as Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin and Betty White.
The film got several prescreenings in the U.S. before it’s theatrical release including at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. The North American theatrical release was on August 14, 2009. It opened in 927 theaters, which had been the most to that point any Studio Ghibli film had such a wide release. The film would go on to gross over $201 million worldwide.
Ponyo was the first Miyazaki film that I saw in the theaters. It is another visual and storytelling masterpiece from Hayao Miyazaki and added to the collection of films that are classics that he has helped bring to life.