Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo): Special Edition (Studio Ghibli Collection) (2008)

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Released 28-Jun-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio & Animation
Reversible Cover
Storyboards-Alternate Angle
Theatrical Trailer-2 Japanese trailers
Trailer-4 Studio Ghibli Collection trailers
Introduction-Meet Ponyo
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Various
Featurette-Making Of-Various
Music Video-Theme Song
TV Spots-4 Japanese TV Spots
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 98:13
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:31)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hayao Miyazaki

Madman Entertainment
Starring Yuria Nara
Hiroki Doi
Jji Tokoro
Tomoko Yamaguchi
Yki Amami
Kazushige Nagashima
Akiko Yano
Shinichi Hatori
Tokie Hidari
Eimi Hiraoka
Rumi Hragi
Tomoko Naraoka
Nozomi hashi
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Joe Hisaishi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

Let me start off this review by referencing the other two reviews on this site by fellow MichaelDVD reviewer DanielB for the single-disc DVD release and the recent Blu-ray release. The single-disc was released in December, 2009. The Blu-ray and this two-disc Special Edition were both released in June, 2010. So what is the difference between the single-disc and two-disc Special Editions? The single-disc release had minimal extras included with the main presentation whereas this Special Edition includes all the extensive extras included on the Blu-ray. The cover of the Special Edition states that the extras total over 4 hours and the menu on the Special Features disc has four menu screens with fifteen separate extras. Also, the Special Features disc is unlike most second discs included with most modern DVD releases because it is actually a DVD-9 dual-layered disc that is 6.75 gb in size. Most Special Features discs are not this big; usually they are smaller than 4.4 gb so that they can fit on a single-layered DVD-5 disc, so congratulations is warranted to Madman for their DVD production of this film.

Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo in Japanese or Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea in English) is Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki's first animated feature since Howl's Moving Castle in 2004 and it is a welcome addition to the Studio Ghibli collection, a masterpiece that has received widespread critical acclaim. It may not be Miyazaki's best film (My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are his best films in my opinion), but Ponyo is still a refreshing adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's fairytale, The Little Mermaid.

The plot, referenced from the Ghibliwiki page, is as follows: Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is Miyazaki's own unique take on Hans Christian Anderson's tale, "The Little Mermaid". It tells the story of a young girl fish who defies her father's wishes and beliefs about the human world to live with the boy she loves. After covertly travelling to the surface by jellyfish, Ponyo becomes stranded near a house on a seaside cliff, where she is found and rescued by a human boy named Sosuke. Sosuke names her Ponyo, and takes her to his school in a bucket, and shows her to the little old ladies who live in the nursing home where his mother, Lisa, works. Imagine Sosuke's surprise when Ponyo speaks, and tells him that she likes him!

It isn't long before Ponyo's father, Fujimoto, discovers her missing, and goes looking for her. Fujimoto is a kindly, yet somewhat xenophobic sea wizard, who oddly enough goes about in human form. He recovers Ponyo and returns to the sea with her, much to Sosuke's distress. He gives Ponyo a good talking to, but is disconcerted when she not only defies him, but begins to transform herself into a human. Fujimoto uses his magic to stop her, and essentially imprisons her.

On the surface, there is a bittersweet moment when Sosuke and Lisa find out that his father, a crewman on a ship, is unable to return home that day. This leads to a series of testy messages from Lisa, delivered by Aldis lamp, but Sosuke manages to cheer her up, though he is still desolated by Ponyo's disappearance.

Ponyo's sisters, meanwhile, free her from Fujimoto's prison and help her to steal some of their father's magic, so that she can complete her transformation and escape to the surface. This has an immediate knock-on effect of causing a heavy sea storm above. In the midst of this storm, Ponyo and Sosuke are happily reunited. There follows a series of humorous vignettes with Ponyo not-quite-managing to learn to act human, mainly by copying Sosuke. In the morning, however, they discover that the town is flooded, and the citizens have had to take to boats. Ponyo helps Sosuke find a boat, and the two set off to find Lisa, who had left during the storm.

The effects of Ponyo's stolen magic cause progressively worse effects, including knocking the moon out of its orbit. This eventually compels Ponyo's mother, a gentle giantess, to intervene and set things right. Sosuke and Lisa are re-united, but Ponyo is again recaptured and returned to fish form. This leads to a meeting between Sosuke and Ponyo's mother, where she gently asks him if he can still love Ponyo, even though she is a fish. Sosuke assures her that he loves Ponyo, no matter what her form is, and Ponyo's mother allows her to remain with Sosuke, which Fujimoto also grudgingly accepts.

In tone and style, Ponyo clearly springs from the same mind as Totoro. CGI was minimized for this production, with Miyazaki instead opting for a brightly-coloured, hand-drawn look that well suits the story's plot and characters. Miyazaki has lost none of his ability to create otherworldly environments - imagine the forest from Nausicaa, except underwater and populated by fantastic sea creatures rather than giant insects - and leaves even older viewers spellbound by his mastery of his art.

Also completely intact is Miyazaki's ability to tell a simple, charming tale that tugs gently on the viewer's heartstrings, and leaves one feeling younger than when they had entered the cinema. Miyazaki is starting to show his age, but with Ponyo, as with his other films, he has left a beautiful, timeless legacy that will doubtless endure for generations.

It's important to note that Ponyo was made completely using traditional hand-drawn animation. At the time of making the film in late 2006 and all of 2007, Studio Ghibli's computer animation division was being restructured. Thus there is no computer generated imagery (CGI) work in Ponyo, unlike Miyazaki's recent films. Ponyo used 170000 images, a record for a Studio Ghibli film, and it also used natural watercolour paint instead of digital paint, which meant the film took longer to produce, yet it has a unique and beautiful animated look which I hope Miyazaki uses again in his films.

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Transfer Quality


The video transfer is pristine, as good as recent Pixar Studio films on DVD.

The original aspect ratio is 1:85:1, 16x9 enhanced. The video transfer is sharp. The average bitrate for Ponyo is an amazing 9.90 m/b per sec, with barely any scenes in the film where the bitrate dropped below 7 m/b per sec. The average bitrate of the film is among the highest that I have noted in any of my reviews for this site.

Colour is simply magnificent. I can't describe it really, you need to see it for yourself. The only comparison I can make is that the colour scheme of Ponyo is akin to viewing a pastel watercolour work of art. There are no major film artefacts to mention.

Subtitles are available in English.

The RSDL change occurs at 48:31 and is noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The audio is similarly as excellent overall as the video transfer.

There are two audio tracks. The main soundtrack is the original Japanese and the other soundtrack is the English dub. Both tracks are Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 448 kbps. Dialogue is clear and synchronised. The music score is by Studio Ghibli veteran composer Joe Hisaishi. His score evokes the gentle sound of the sea as well as the power of nature.

Surround channel usage gets a workout in ambient sounds and during the storm sequence and when the sorcerer Fujimoto calls on the power of the sea to do his bidding. The subwoofer is mainly employed for the powerful nature sequences in the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

The main menu features animated effects and audio before menu options are revealed.

Reversible Cover

Choose from the default English cover or the Japanese one.

Alternative Angle Storyboards (98:13)

You can choose to watch the film with the original storyboards while the audio soundtrack is playing. Also, you can watch this feature 'on-the-fly' so you can pick and choose scenes to watch if you wish, or watch the whole film as a series of storyboards.

Japanese Theatrical Trailer (3:10)

Two Japanese trailers are included, back-to-back.

Studio Ghibli trailers

Four Studio Ghibli trailers are included for Laputa Castle in the Sky, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and The Cat Returns.

Introduction - Meet Ponyo (3:12)

This is an introduction to the story of Ponyo by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall.


Two separate sheets are included, one cataloguing scenes and the other providing a brief synopsis of each of the Studio Ghibli Collection films.

A Conversation with Hayao Miyazaki & John Lasseter (3:23)

John Lasseter interviews Hayao Miyazaki in Tokyo about the character of Ponyo and the design of the animation.

Behind the Microphone - The Voices of Ponyo (5:48)

Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall discuss the American cast and their voiceover work. The cast included in this featurette include Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas and Noah Cyrus.

Creating Ponyo (3:47)

Director Hayao Miyazaki discusses the inspiration for the Ponyo character and the nature themes of the film.

Ponyo & Fujimoto (2:51)

Miyazaki discusses the origin and meaning of Ponyo's name and the character of Fujimoto and his role as Ponyo's father.

The Nursery (1:53)

The original storyline of Ponyo involved setting the story in a children's nursery. This featurette discusses this development and how it evolved.

Scoring Miyazaki (7:00)

Producer Toshio Suzuki and composer Joe Hisaishi discuss the importance of matching music to the images of all the studio Ghibli films they have worked on. Hisaishi also discusses other film work he has done with Miyazaki.

The Producer's Perspective - Telling the Story (2:20)

Toshio Suzuki shares his thoughts on the storyboard development of Ponyo and animator Hayao Miyazaki's drawing work in bringing the story to life.

The Locations in Ponyo (9:45)

This extra is an excerpt taken from a Japanese documentary, The Scenery in Ghibli which looks at the real life town in Japan which inspired the setting for Ponyo.

The Five Geniuses who created Ponyo (48:58)

This is another Japanese television segment detailing the five main contributors to the look and sound of the film. The five people are Katsuya Kondo (Supervising Animator), Noboru Yoshida (Art Director), Michiyo Yasuda (Colour Design), Shuji Inoue (Recording & Sound Mixing) and Joe Hisaishi (Music).

Hayao Miyazaki Interview (14:52)

In an interview for Japanese television with Makato Kanazawa, director Hayao Miyazaki discusses Ponyo's and Sosuke's relationship, Fujimoto's power as a sorcerer, Sosuke's mother Lisa, the couple in the boat, the tunnel and the intuitive understanding of children towards this film.

Toshio Suzuki Interview (29:42)

This is another extra made for Japanese television. Long-time collaborator and producer of Ponyo Toshio Suzuki gives an interview just before Ponyo was released theatrically in June, 2008. Here he discusses his working relationship with Miyazaki, the direction of Studio Ghibli as a company, the use of traditional hand-drawn animation instead of CGI, the influence of famous Japanese novelist Natsume Sseki's story, The Gate upon the story of Ponyo and the challenges and frustrations of creating an animated film.

Dubbing Session and Interviews with Japanese Voice Cast (24:55)

This extra is a behind-the-scenes look at Hayao Miyazaki discussing the main characters of Ponyo with the Japanese cast. We get to see some recording sessions with the actors too.

Theme Song Music Video (3:30)

This video features a young girl and her minders running after her in the rain. Not your usual type of music video!

Japanese TV Spots

One Japanese TV spot and three promotion tie-ins are included which are very different to each other; each runs for 17 seconds.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 United States release by Disney featured an English, Japanese and French soundtrack and the following extras:

According to DanielB's initial review of the single disc edition here, there are two editions in Region 2 (Japan). There is a 9 disc box set (called the First Press Limited Edition) featuring:

There is also a standard Japanese version which is similar to our local version excepting it does not include the English dub but does have English subtitles and the DTS-ES soundtrack. There are also Region 3 Korean and Hong Kong versions which both feature DTS-ES 6.1 soundtracks and English subs but no dub.

If you desire an English-friendly release of Ponyo, you really can't look past this excellent two-disc Special Edition of Ponyo in Region 4 by Madman.


Boasting an excellent video and audio transfer and replete with over 4 hours of extras, what more could you want from this two-disc Special Edition of Ponyo on DVD? This really is a no-brainer - if you haven't bought the version of Ponyo on Blu-ray and desire to own the film on DVD, you really don't need to look past this superlative Madman release.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Title translation - MickJT (Have a look at my biography)