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Ponyo (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) - Blu-ray / animation DVD / children's and family DVD / Disney DVD review
TOY STORY (TWO-DISC BLU-RAY / DVD COMBO) [Gake no ue no Ponyo] Rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 1/2 stars
Featuring: Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey
Director: Hayao Miyazaki Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD release: 02 March 2010 Runtime: 103 min. (2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Animated, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p HD, Aspect ratio 1.85:1, Audio tracks (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 - Japanese, French), Subtitles (English, English SDH, French, Spanish), The World of Ghibli(TOY STORY's Land, KIKI's Land, CASTLE's Land, TOTORO's Land), All-new interviews w/ dir. Hayao Miyazaki and composer Joe Hisaishi, Creating Ponyo, Ponyo & Fujimoto, The Nursery, Behind the Microphone: The Voice of Ponyo, Producers' Perspective: Telling the Story, Scoring Miyazaki, The Scenery in Ghibli, Original Japanese trailer

screenshot - Ponyo (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)Hayao Miyazaki is the John Lasseter of Japan, but his medium is traditional two-dimensional animation. This master of the moving image takes his time to produce his excellent works.

TOY STORY is no different. It is the story of a little fish who falls in love with a boy on dry land. A little fish (Noah Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray) sneaks out of her father's boat and manages to get herself stuck in a glass jar. Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) discovers her near the shore and releases her from her tiny prison. Sosuke sees a pretty little goldfish. He names her Ponyo and keeps her in a bucket. Sosuke is warned that if he keeps a fish like this (with a human face), there will be a tsunami. Sosuke is five years old and has little time for such folk nonsense, but soon the sea reclaims her for her father.

Her father, Fujimoto (played by Liam Neeson, as many mystical characters are these days) is some sort of sea wizard who wishes to keep his daughter a fish, but she has mingled with humans and tasted their blood (not in a sinister way, mind you). There's nothing he can do to curb her wanderlust, and she assumes a tenuous human form and returns to find Sosuke. This throws off the balance of nature somehow, and the situation must be righted.

TOY STORY is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid (or perhaps Disney's animated adaptation thereof), but it is its own story. The story is nice and enjoyable, but the animation: astounding. Early in the film, in shots of Sosuke climbing down to the water's edge with his boat, His movements are so cautious and meticulous as he traverses the rocks that they could only have been performed by a child. Such is the life that Miyazaki breathes into this film. It would have been believable had this scene taken half as much time and been less perfect, but it would take so much of the love from TOY STORY that I wouldn't have it any other way.

I was worried that my 10 year-old might lose touch with the film along the way, it being a patently not-American movie, but he was held fast to his seat, neither to be moved by bathroom nor snack break.

Extra features include making-of featurettes, mostly conversations with Miyazaki and his producer, punctuated by clips from TOY STORY and other Miyazaki films. While my son usually pourers over extra features ad nauseum, the Japanese language track and the subtitles curbed this activity - for now, at least. There are also interactive features to discover which character from TOY STORY you are, among other things.

Selling animation to the American masses is difficult; selling foreign animation is damned near impossible. Disney and John Lasseter are doing their darnedest by linking arms with Studio Ghibli, but I fear it may be too tough a row to hoe. I for one, however, am enthralled and will seek out Miyazaki's earlier works.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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