Friday, February 26, 2010

Ponyo Blu-ray Review

Film Rating: G
Runtime: 103 minutes
Region: ABC
The Video
Ponyo debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. There are no technical issues to be found with the animation or the transfer itself, something that is very nice to see. Some may claim to see banding during certain moments in the sky, but the bigger the screen the more you realize it is the animation itself and not a technical issue.

It is no surprise that the animation lends itself well to high-definition. The colors are rich and beautiful and the black outlines are solid and without a flaw. Everything about the presentation just looks dazzling. The little details in the animation are a nice touch and add to the overall high-def look.

I watched this high-def release on a 1080p projector which made for a very impressive experience. Everything about this Blu-ray release just pops and ranks among the best Blu-ray releases on the format. Those who don’t believe that an animated release like Ponyo won’t benefit much from a Blu-ray release will soon believe otherwise.

The DVD copy included does look very good as well upconverted, which is expected. But there is a great amount of upgrade that comes with the Blu-ray version that makes it very hard for even average consumers to not see the difference.

Ponyo is a thing of beauty, the animation itself is very strong which adds so much more to the presentation than just a solid encode. The combination of a Studio Ghibli film and Blu-ray is a match made in Heaven. Fans as well as those new to the film will be dazzled from beginning to end by this high-def release. 10/10.

The Audio
An English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included, which of course is a dub featuring many U.S. celebrities as vocals. Unfortunately the original Japanese audio track is included with only a 5.1 lossy Dolby Digital audio track.

While I am glad the Japanese track is included, it’s a shame it was not presented with lossless audio. The differences in quality can be quite drastic and in this case the English lossless track is of clear superior quality when comparing the two.

I definitely hope Disney includes original lossless mixes for upcoming Studio Ghibli releases, but to be honest I enjoy the dubs that Disney provides for U.S. release. The all-star cast is quite impressive with Ponyo and they all add a nice touch to the movie.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is stunning in every aspect. Surround use is magnificent and features fantastic direction. The sound effects make great use of your entire surround setup and are always crisp and clear. The storm scenes could have had a bit more impact, but that is a minor complaint. The film’s dialogue is front focused as expected but is always easy to understand and the clarity is beautiful.

The film’s music also manages to make a strong surround use and can be quiet and soothing as well as loud and aggressive. The mixing team definitely provided a fantastic mix that will dazzle all viewers. The lossy Dolby Digital track is also quite good being an animated film, but definitely lacks the overall pop that comes with a lossless track.

While the English mix is perfectly mixed, I can’t give the audio a higher score due to the original language getting the lossless shaft. Hopefully this is not an issue with future U.S. Studio Ghibli releases as the audio gets a clear boost from DTS-HD Master Audio. 8.5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1:

Disc Introduction – Meet Ponyo (3:22) (HD)
This is a short introduction which talks about Miyazaki as well as Ponyo specifically.

Original Japanese Storyboards PiP Video Track
This is a Picture-in-Picture video track which allows you to watch the film with the original storyboards on the upper right corner of the screen.

A Conversation (3:33) (HD)
With Hayao Myazaki & John Lasseter.

Creating Ponyo (3:58) (HD)
Hayao Miyazaki talks about his inspiration for the film Ponyo.

Ponyo & Fujimoto (2:59) (HD)
This is a feature all about the name ‘Ponyo’ and the inspiration for the father character.

The Nursery (2:00) (HD)
Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about the nursery setting for the film as well as creating a real Studio Ghibli nursery.

Producer’s Perspective: Telling The Story (2:28) (HD)
Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about Miyazaki’s storyboard method.

The Locations of Ponyo (9:35) (HD)
This is an excerpt from ‘The Scenery in Ghibli,’ a Japanese documentary.

Scoring Miyazaki (7:19) (HD)
This is a feature with composer Joe Hisaishi, the man who composes all the music in Miyazaki’s films.

Original Japanese Trailers (3:22) (HD)
Two Japanese trailers are included and presented in high-definition.

Behind The Microphone: The Voices of Ponyo (6:04) (HD)
See the all-star cast behind the English dub of Ponyo.

Enter the Lands (HD)
Learn about other Miyazaki films through an interactive map.

Other Ghibli Worlds Preview (HD)
My Neighbor Totoro: Creating My Neighbor Totoro
Kiki’s Delivery Service: Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service
Castle in The Sky: Character Sketches

Disney BD-Live Network
If you are using a BD-Live enabled player, connect to view the latest Disney trailers in both SD and HD viewing options.

Disc 2:

DVD Copy of the film.

The back of the case does not make it look like many special features are included, but there are definitely many to be seen. I love that everything is presented in high-definition and looks great. The main features are very informative and we get a very informative look at the production of Ponyo.

Each feature is fairly short but pack quite the punch. The bonus features are very good for a debut release on home video. The Included DVD is both a smart and appreciated addition, hopefully more families will begin to learn about the Blu-ray/DVD Combo packs when making purchasing decisions. 9/10.

The Movie
Ponyo is the latest film from Studio Ghibli, the same studio which has brought us many classics such as Spirit Away and more. Disney has a deal with Studio Ghibli in which they release their titles in the U.S. theatrically and on home video.

In a smart move to avoid alienating family audiences with children, Disney got an all-star cast to dub the film and provide the film with an English audio track as if it were originally produced this way. Unlike many dubs, I do commend Disney for the good job they do on these animated titles.

The film is a fairy-tale aimed at younger audiences, but easily appeals to audiences of all ages. The movie is about a young boy named Sosuke who rescues a goldfish who he calls Ponyo. Ponyo begins to form a connection with the boy and wants to be a human just like him.

Ponyo’s father is a sorcerer who wants her to stay as she is. Ponyo being unhappy manages to escape and heads towards land but accidentally releases her father’s magical Water of Life which begins to have negative effects on the world they all know.

The film is definitely not as dark as some previous Miyazaki films, but this is definitely refreshing and something I welcome into my collection with open arms. The animation and characters are all very charming and the film has some great replay value.

While I did not love it as much as I love Spirited Away, it definitely ranks high among previous Miyazaki films. Miyazaki is magical to be honest, he has that magic touch and everything he creates becomes memorable to audiences all over the world. Ponyo is definitely one of his most kid-friendly productions yet, but Miyazaki still manages to make it extremely enjoyable for adults of all ages as well. 9/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Ponyo on Blu-ray is magical. The video presentation is just stunning, the lossless audio is strong and there are many great bonus features. The Blu-ray release is a ‘Must Own’ for fans and ‘Highly Recommended’ to all others.

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