Miyazaki's stunning adventure is geared to younger kids.
Based on 96 reviews
Based on 114 reviews
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ponyo, a stunning adventure from anime master Hayao Miyazaki, is one of his most kid-friendly films to date, with memorable characters and positive messages. Strong female characters play a central role, including the titular Ponyo (voiced by Yuria Nara in the original version and Noah Lindsey Cyrus in the English dub) and Sosuke's (Hiroki Doi/Frankie Jonas) mother Lisa (Tomoko Yamaguchi/Tina Fey). There's little violence, although a few scenes during and after a climactic storm may disturb the youngest viewers. Some scenes in which parents and other characters seem to be missing might also be upsetting. Parents may be put off by the idea that two 5-year-old characters must at one point fend for themselves without supervision -- but this is, after all, a fairy tale-like story. The film champions the young heroes' demonstration of compassion, courage, curiosity, and empathy.
Not Miyazaki's best...but it's still pretty good!
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Second favorite after Totoro for our 3yo
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What's the Story?
Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid tale, PONYO follows a goldfish princess named Brunhilde (voiced by Yuria Nara in the original version and Noah Lindsey Cyrus in the English dub). Brunhilde wants to explore beyond the sea, but when she ends up nearly lifeless on the shore of a small oceanfront village, 5-year-old Sosuke (Hiroki Doi/Frankie Jonas) rescues her, renames her Ponyo, and vows to take care of her. Ponyo's father, an undersea sorcerer who seems human (George Tokoro/Liam Neeson), recaptures her -- but Ponyo is determined to use her father's magic to turn into a girl and return to Sosuke. By unleashing her powers, Ponyo does transform into a girl, but she also disrupts the balance of nature and causes a tsunami that nearly destroys Sosuke and his mother Lisa's (Tomoko Yamaguchi/Tina Fey) village.
Is It Any Good?
This is a classic Miyazaki film, from the enchanting anime style to the recurring theme of humanity's relationship with nature.. And, once again, Ponyo features several unmistakably strong female characters: Ponyo is quite literally a force of nature, and her mother the ocean queen (Yūki Amami/Cate Blanchett) is even more powerful. Plus there's Sosuke's mom and the trio of women she tends to (Tokie Hidari/Cloris Leachman, Tomoko Naraoka/Betty White, and Kazuko Yoshiyuki/Lily Tomlin) at a nursing home, who form a sort of chorus for the film. And there is, at the heart of the Ponyo (and every Miyazaki story), a hero's journey.
Ponyo is just like a real 5-year-old girl -- in awe of the world, adventurous, hilarious. Sosuke, on the other hand, is wise beyond his years, courageous, responsible, and loving. Those who dive in to Miyazaki's world will be rewarded with a humorous, touching fable that will leave young children wide-eyed, although possibly demanding ham (you'll see!).
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Sosuke and Ponyo's journey to be together. What obstacles did they each have to overcome, and what sacrifices (if any) did they each have to make? Is it strange that Sosuke and Ponyo are 5, instead of teenagers?
Miyazaki loosely based this story on Hans Christian Andersen's original Little Mermaid fairy tale. How does this version of the story compare to the Disney movie?
Families who want to learn more about anime may want to screen Miyazaki's other films together. How are they similar to each other, and how are they different from most American-made animated movies?
How do Ponyo and Sosuke show compassion and empathy for each other? How do they show courage? Why is Ponyo's curiosity a trait that gets her into trouble but also one of her strengths?
- In theaters: August 14, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: March 2, 2010
- Cast: Frankie Jonas, Liam Neeson, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Tina Fey
- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Ocean Creatures
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Curiosity, Empathy
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 13, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Howl's Moving Castle
Charming Miyazaki fairy tale with surreal villains.
Epic, compelling, and violent anime classic.
Magnificent movie with scary creatures and a strong heroine.
For kids who love animation
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