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Japanese theatrical poster
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Written by Hayao Miyazaki
Starring Japanese version
Yuria Nara
Hiroki Doi
Tomoko Yamaguchi
George Tokoro
Kazushige Nagashima
English version
Cate Blanchett
Noah Cyrus
Matt Damon
Frankie Jonas
Tina Fey
Liam Neeson
Cloris Leachman
Betty White
Lily Tomlin
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography Atsushi Okui
Editing by Takeshi Seyama
Studio Studio Ghibli
Distributed by Toho (Japan)
Walt Disney Pictures
Optimum Releasing (UK)
Madman Entertainment (Australia and New Zealand)
Release date(s) July 19, 2008 (2008-07-19)
Running time 100 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget ¥3.4 billion
(US$34 million)
Gross revenue US$199,460,313[1]

Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ Gake no Ue no Ponyo?, literally "Ponyo on the Cliff"), initially titled in English as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, is a 2008 Japanese animated film by Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is Miyazaki's eighth film for Ghibli, and his tenth overall. The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old human boy, Sōsuke, and wants to become a human girl.

The film has won several awards, including the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.[2] It was released in Japan on July 19, 2008 and August 14, 2009 in the US and Canada.[3] The film reached #9 in the U.S. box office charts for its opening weekend.[4]


Plot summary

The plot centers on a fish-girl who lives in an aquarium in her father's underwater castle with numerous smaller sisters. When her father takes her and her siblings on an outing in his four-flippered submarine, Ponyo is driven by a desire to see even more of the world and swims away. She ends up stranded on the shore of a small fishing town and is rescued by a boy named Sōsuke, who cuts his finger in the process. She licks his wound when he picks her up, and the wound heals almost instantly. After taking a great liking to her, Sōsuke names her Ponyo and promises to protect her forever. Meanwhile, her father, Fujimoto, is looking for his daughter. Upset that she ran away, he believes the humans have now kidnapped her, and he calls his wave spirits to return Ponyo to him. Sōsuke is heartbroken by this and goes home with his mother, Lisa (or "Risa" in some translations), who tries to cheer him up to no avail. Ponyo and her father have a confrontation, during which Ponyo refuses to let her father call her "Brunhilda." She declares her name to be Ponyo and voices her desire to become human because she has started to fall in love with Sōsuke. Suddenly she starts to grow legs and turn into a human, a consequence of the human blood she swallowed when she licked Sōsuke's blood. Her father turns her back with difficulty and goes to summon Ponyo's mother. Meanwhile, Ponyo, with the help of her sisters, breaks away from her father and releases his magic to make herself human. The huge amount of magic released into the ocean causes an imbalance in the world, resulting in a huge storm. Riding on the waves of the storm, Ponyo goes back to visit Sōsuke. Lisa, Sōsuke, and Ponyo wait out the storm at Sōsuke's house, and the next morning Lisa leaves to check up on the residents of the nursing home where she works.

Granmamare, Ponyo's mother, arrives at Fujimoto's submarine. On her way there, Sōsuke's father has seen and recognized her as the Goddess of Mercy. Fujimoto notices the moon has come out of its orbit and satellites are falling like shooting stars. Granmamare declares that if Sōsuke can pass a test, Ponyo can live as a human and the world order will be restored. If he fails, Ponyo will turn into sea foam. Sōsuke and Ponyo wake up to find that most of the land around the house has been covered by the ocean. Lisa has not come home yet, so with the help of Ponyo's magic, they make Sōsuke's toy boat life-size and set out to find Lisa. While traveling they see ancient extinct fish swimming, such as the Gogonasus and Licosus. After landing and finding Lisa's empty car, Ponyo and Sōsuke go through a tunnel. There Ponyo loses her human form and reverts into a fish. Sōsuke and Ponyo are taken by Fujimoto into the ocean and down to the protected nursing home where they are reunited with Lisa and meet Granmamare, both of whom have just had a long private conversation. Granmamare asks Sōsuke if he can love Ponyo whether she is a fish or human. Sōsuke replies that he "loves all the Ponyos." Granmamare then allows Ponyo to become human once Sōsuke kisses her on the surface. The film ends with Ponyo jumping up and kissing Sosuke, transforming into a little girl in mid-air.


  • Yuria Nara (Noah Cyrus in the English adaption) as Ponyo,[5][6] the daughter of Fujimoto and Granmammare.
  • Hiroki Doi (Frankie Jonas in the English adaption) as Sōsuke,[5][6] five-year-old attendant of Himawari Nursery School ("Himawari" is the Japanese word for sunflower).
  • Tomoko Yamaguchi (Tina Fey in the English adaption) as Lisa,[5][6] Sōsuke's mother.
  • Kazushige Nagashima (Matt Damon in the English adaption) as Kōichi,[5][6] Sōsuke's father.
  • George Tokoro (Liam Neeson in the English adaption) as Fujimoto,[5][6] Ponyo's father. He was described as not a villain, but a father that more he tried to intervene the more he pushed his daughter away, which the director saw most Japanese fathers in this day and age.
    • Tokoro also voices Suigyo, a goblin controlled by Fujimoto.
  • Yuki Amami (Cate Blanchett in the English adaption) as Granmammare,[5][6] Ponyo's mother.
  • Akiko Yano as Ponyo's younger sisters,[5] children of Fujimoto and Gran Mamare.
  • Kazuko Yoshiyuki (Lily Tomlin in the English adaption) as Toki,[5] a powerchair-using resident of the Himawari House. While she complains frequently and is a bit grumpy, she occasionally shows her independent-minded, heroic nature.
  • Tomoko Naraoka (Cloris Leachman in the English adaption) as Yoshie,[5] a resident of the Himawari House. She uses a manual wheelchair.
  • Tokie Hidari (Betty White in the English adaption) as Kayo,[5] a resident of the Himawari House who does numerous things with Yoshie. She was formerly a career woman in her younger days. She also uses a manual wheelchair.
  • Rumi Hiiragi as The Young Mother,[5] a 30-year-old woman who meets Ponyo and Sōsuke during their journey to find Sōsuke's mother.
  • Shinichi Hatori (Kurt Knuttson in the English adaption) as The Announcer, a television news reporter who relays information about the hurricane.
  • Emi Hiraoka (Jenessa Rose in the English adaption) as Kumiko, an attendant of Himawari Nursery School and a friend of Sōsuke.
  • Nozomi Ōhashi as Karen, an attendant of Himawari Nursery School.

Additional voices in the Japanese-language version of the film are provided by Akiko Takeguchi, Yoshie Yamamoto, Tomie Kataoka, Mutsumi Sasaki, Michiko Yamamoto, Eiko Kanazawa, Shirō Saitō, Akihiko Ishizumi, Keiko Tsukamoto, Ikuko Yamamoto and Yūsuke Tezuka. Additional voices in the English adaption are provided by Carlos Alazraqui, Bob Bergen, Johanna Braddy, Marsha Clark, John Cygan, Jennifer Darling, Madison Davenport, Courtnee Draper, Crispin Freeman, Jess Harnell, Ella Dale Lewis, Sherry Lynn, Danny Mann, Mona Marshall, Mickie McGowan, Laraine Newman, Colleen O'Shaughnessey and Jan Rabson.


The film was written, directed, and animated by Hayao Miyazaki, who said his inspiration was the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Little Mermaid".[7][8] Production on Ponyo started October 2006.[9]

Miyazaki was intimately involved with the hand-drawn animation in Ponyo. He preferred to draw the sea and waves himself, and enjoyed experimenting with how to express this important part of the film.[9] This level of detailed drawing resulted in 170,000 separate images—a record for a Miyazaki film.[10]

Ponyo's name is an onomatopoeia, based on Miyazaki's idea of what a "soft, squishy softness" sounds like when touched.[11]

The seaside village where the story takes place is inspired by Tomonoura, a real town in Setonaikai National Park in Japan, where Miyazaki stayed in 2005.[12] Some of the setting and story was affected by Richard Wagner's opera Die Walküre.[13] The music also makes reference to Wagner's opera. The character of Sōsuke is based on Miyazaki's son Gorō Miyazaki when he was five.[14] Sōsuke 's name is taken from the hero in the famous novel The Gate.[13]

The name of the ship on which Sōsuke's father works is Koganeimaru, a reference to Studio Ghibli's location in Koganei, Tokyo.[15] Maru (?) is a common ending for ship names.




The film was released by Toho on July 19, 2008, in theatres across Japan on 481 screens—a record for a domestic film.[16][17][18][19] It grossed ¥10 billion ($91 million) in its first month of release,[20] and a total of ¥15.0 billion ($153.1 million) as of November 9, 2008.[21]

Tokyo Anime Fair chose Ponyo as Animation of the Year of 2008, as revealed in a press release by Anime News Network.

North America

American poster for Ponyo

Ponyo was released in the U.S. and Canada on August 14, 2009, opening at a wide release at 927 theaters across America, which is by far the widest release for a Studio Ghibli film ever in the U.S, as compared to other Miyazaki films (Spirited Away opened in 26 theaters, Howl's Moving Castle opened in 36 theaters, and Princess Mononoke opened in 38 theaters).[22]

The film is produced by Frank Marshall, Hayao Miyazaki, John Lasseter, Steve Alpert and Kathleen Kennedy.[23]

In July 2009, there were multiple pre-screenings of the film in California. Miyazaki traveled to America to promote this film by speaking at the University of California, Berkeley and the San Diego Comic-Con.


Nozomi Ōhashi in January 2009.

Ponyo's theme song was released on December 5, 2007, performed by Fujioka Fujimaki (a duo consisting of Takaaki Fujioka and Naoya Fujimaki who are known for their underground band Marichans from the 1970s) and eight year old Nozomi Ōhashi.[24] It entered the top 100 on the Oricon Weekly Charts on July 14, then rose to 24th on (July 21), then 6th on (July 28), and after the release of the film it ranked 3rd (August 4).[25] By the end of 2008, it was ranked as the 14th highest selling single on the Oricon Yearly Charts. Ōhashi was also the youngest participant in the 59th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen, beating C-ute's Mai Hagiwara's record at age 11. Afterwards, Ohashi announced that her unit with Fujioka Fujimaki was disbanding.[26]

An English-translated pop version of the theme was recorded by Frankie Jonas and Noah Cyrus, the voices of Sōsuke and Ponyo in the North American dub, to tie in with the film's English release. The theme plays over the second half of the English version's closing credits; the first half is merely a translated version of the theme rather than remix.


The film has received considerable critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film has a "certified fresh" rating of 91%, based on 111 reviews (101 "Fresh"; 10 "Rotten"), with an average score of 7.5 and a Top Critics' score of 86%.[27] The consensus is that "While not Miyazaki's best film, Ponyo is a visually stunning fairy tale that's a sweetly poetic treat for children and Miyazaki fans of all ages." Metacritic reported a metascore of 86.[28]

On its opening weekend in North America it made $3,585,852 on 927 screens, which is a per screen average of $3,868.[1] It also opened at number nine at the US box office.[1] It also will be released on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as a DVD/Plush Toy pack on March 2, 2010.

The Japan Times gave the film four out of five stars, and praised the film's simple thematic elements and its visual scheme, and compared the film to Miyazaki's classic animation My Neighbor Totoro.[29]

Anime Diet cited the quality of the translation, noting, "The story and the core of the film was communicated more than adequately through the professional dub and it did not get in the way of the sheer delight and joy that Miyazaki wanted to convey." Citing "slight pacing problems," it gave Ponyo a rating of 88%.[6] The pronunciation of Japanese names in the English cinema version varied between characters, however.

Critics at the Venice International Film Festival generally had high praise.[30][31] Wendy Ide of The Times said Ponyo "is as chaotic and exuberant as a story told by a hyperactive toddler," and gave it 4 stars out of 5.[32] Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, the highest rank on his review scale, stating that, "There is a word to describe Ponyo, and that word is magical. This poetic, visually breathtaking work by the greatest of all animators has such deep charm that adults and children will both be touched. It's wonderful and never even seems to try: It unfolds fantastically."[33]

The film was rated #2 on Dentsu's list of "2008 Hit Products in Japan", after the Wii console.[34]


Ponyo was an entrant in the 65th Venice International Film Festival.[35] It received a special mention in the Venice Future Film Festival, for "the high artistic and expressive quality of animation able to give form to wonderful imagination of the worldwide cinema master".[36]

In 2009, Ponyo won five awards at the 8th annual Tokyo Anime Awards. The awards included "Anime of the year" and "Best domestic feature". Miyazaki received the award for best director and best original story, and Noboru Yoshida received the award for best art direction.[37]

The film won the awards for Animation of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Music at the 32nd Japan Academy Prize.[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Ponyo (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 18, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Ponyo, DMC Won Japan Academy Awards on Friday". Anime News Network. February 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  3. ^ "'Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea' brings in 15 billion yen during opening weekend". Japan News Review. 
  4. ^ "USA Box Office: 14 August 2009". IMDb. 17 August 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "映画「崖の上のポニョ」公式サイト - 作品のクレジット" (in Japanese). Studio Ghibli. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Review: Ponyo Dub, 88%". Anime Diet. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Ponyo". Walt Disney Studios. 
  8. ^ Fred Topel (2009-08-12). "Legendary animator Miyazaki reveals Ponyo's inspirations". Sci Fi Wire. 
  9. ^ a b "Executive producer & former president of Studio Ghibli Suzuki Toshio reveals the story behind Ponyo". Ghibliworld. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  10. ^ Kubota, Naoko (August 18, 2008). "Miyazaki reels out adventure story". Nikkei Net Interactive. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  11. ^ "Comic-Con '09: Capone Chats With The Mighty Hayao Miyazaki about his Latest, PONYO!!". Ain't It Cool News. 2009-08-03. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  12. ^ "宮崎駿監督最新作「崖の上のポニョ」イラスト独占入手" (in Japanese). 報知新聞. 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  13. ^ a b "崖の上のポニョ公式サイト キーワード" (in Japanese). Studio Ghibli. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  14. ^ - The Ultimate Ghibli Collection Site—NEWS & UPDATES
  15. ^ "スタジオジブリ 会社情報" (in Japanese). STUDIO GHIBLI, Inc.. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  16. ^ "Animator Miyazaki's new film hits screens in Japan". AFP. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  17. ^ "'Ponyo' a taste of magic". Daily Yomiuri Online. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  18. ^ "『崖の上のポニョ』"千尋超え"目指し順風な船出". Variety Japan. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  19. ^ ""Ponyo" opening leaves room for debate". Variety Asia. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  20. ^ "「崖の上のポニョ」観客動員、41日間で1000万人突破" (in Japanese). Yomiuri Online. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  21. ^ boxofficemojo
  22. ^ "Miyazaki's Ponyo Brings in US$1.2 Million on Friday". 2009-08-15.$1.2-million-on-friday. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  23. ^ "Ponyo Dated for August 14 in U.S. Theaters". 2009-03-24. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  24. ^ - October 8, 2007 Radio Ghibli, "Ponyo" Theme Song
  25. ^ "ポニョ主題歌、ジブリ曲で歴代最高3位&「ツトム君」以来約32年ぶり快挙" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  26. ^ "Nozomi Ohashi shines as little star of 59th Red and White Singing Contest". Japan Today. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  27. ^ "Ponyo (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  28. ^ [ Fresh:101 Rotten:10 "Ponyo Reviews"]. Metacritic. Fresh:101 Rotten:10. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  29. ^ "It's kids' play for anime king". The Japan Times. 2008-07-11. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  30. ^ "Ponyo on Cliff by the sea - Recensioni dalla Critica - Trovacinema - Repubblica" (in Italian). La Repubblica. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  31. ^ "65ª Mostra internazionale del Cinema" (in Italian). Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  32. ^ Wendy Ide. "Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea". The Times. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  33. ^ Roger Ebert. "Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  34. ^ "This year's Big in Japan: consumers rank 2008's attention-grabbing products". Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  35. ^ telegraph
  36. ^ "Future Film Festival Digital Award at 65th Venice Film Festival". Future Film Festival. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  37. ^ 'Ponyo' tops anime awards, Schilling, Mark, Variety (2009-02-20)

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