Hayao Miyazaki’s latest animation, Ponyo, officially opens in the States this Friday, August 14th. Already the 8th highest grossing film in Japan’s box office history, Ponyo follows a new interpretation of The Little Mermaid, where the love for a kind human boy allows a magical fish to transform herself into a human girl. But rather than illustrating the romance between the two (no, there’s no marriage contract), Miyazaki takes a more child-oriented approach to the Hans Christian Andersen tale, highlighting the transforming power and strength of Ponyo’s love to overcome personal obstacles.
So warning to fans if you’re looking for a fantastic eye candy story like Nausicaa or Spirited Away: I thought Ponyo lacked the depth usually found in Miyazaki’s movies. I was a bit surprised at how he handled the plot of Ponyo, since he is so well known for his story-telling skills and even spoke at Comic-Con 09 about his process. The film’s ending left much to be desired, but as always, Miyazaki’s art, talent and message prevails in this new storybook tale about a young girl (literally) transforming a boy’s life.
This may be Disney’s first attempt to bring a Studio Ghibli film to the masses (sadly, only in its dubbed version) but my fingers are crossed that the American audience will respond well. With Ponyo coming out this week and The Princess and the Frog sometime December 2010, maybe we can also hope to see a return to hand drawn animation! (Please? There’s only so much Pixar I can take.)