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Movie Review

Ponyo a.k.a. “Ponyo on the Cliff,” “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” “Ponyo A Cliff By The Sea,” “Gake no ue no Ponyo,” “Ponyo en el acantilado,” “Küçük deniz kizi ponyo,” “Ponyo das verzauberte Goldfischmädchen,” “Ponyo på klippen ved havet,” “Ponyo rantakalliolla,” “Ponyo sulla scogliera,” “Ponyo sur la falaise,” “Ponyo y el secreto de la sirenita”

Reviewed by: Ashley Hoffman
CONTRIBUTOR—first-time reviewer

Average—with caution
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Young Kids, Family
Animation Kids Family Adventure
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 14, 2009 (limited)
DVD: March 2, 2010
Copyright, The Walt Disney Company click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company Copyright, The Walt Disney Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, The Walt Disney Company

ROYALTY of the Bible: Kings / Queens / Princes




EARTH’S ENVIRONMENT—Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer

What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer

Recommended for kids
Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: voices of: Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Madison Davenport, Fankie Jonas, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Cloris Leachman, Kurt Knutsson, Jennessa Rose, Carlos Alazraqui, Bob Bergen, Johanna Braddy, Marsha Clark, John Cygan, Jennifer Darling, Courtnee Draper, Crispin Freeman, Jess Harnell, Ella Dale Lewis, Sherry Lynn, Danny Mann, Mona Marshall, Mickie McGowan, Laraine Newman, Colleen O'Shaughnessey, Jan Rabson
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Producer: Studio Ghibli, Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), DENTSU Music And Entertainment, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, The Walt Disney Company, Mitsubishi (Mitsubishi Shouji), Toho Company, Asahi Soft Drinks Company (Asahi Inryou), Lawson, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Steve Alpert, Naoya Fujimaki, Ryoichi Fukuyama, Koji Hoshino, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Frank Marshall, Hayao Miyazaki, Seiji Okuda, Toshio Suzuki
Distributor: The Walt Disney Company

“Welcome to a world where anything is possible”

The movie Ponyo starts with a beautiful, effortless melodious song as the credits begin and only gets better from there. An inventive twist on “The Little Mermaid,” the fairy-tale centers around Ponyo (voiced by Noah Cyrus)—a goldfish who desperately yearns to experience life on land—and a boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) who lives with his mother (Tina Fey) while his father Koichi (Matt Damon) works as a sailor.

One day, Sosuke discovers Ponyo, a goldfish with an oddly human face, trapped in a glass jar. After he frees her, he keeps her as a pet, and they form a steadfast friendship. Ponyo’s wizard father Fujimoto (Liam Neeson) seeks to protect Ponyo and the balance of nature by returning her to the sea. Fujimoto goes to great lengths to find her, even going so far as to send out water spirits to search for her. He eventually discovers Ponyo and takes her back to her watery world. Her ensuing quest to become human and to find Sosuke, yet again, sets off of a series events with spectacular consequences.

Miyazaki’s mesmerizing animation blends bright, brilliant colors to create a stunning effect for the audience. Each frame is hand-drawn, and the first twelve seconds of sea creatures required 1631 pages of conceptual sketches; it is utterly apparent how much love and labor went into this movie.

The actors involved with this movie lend their voices to the characters with terrific results. Each voice seems to fit the character very well, and audio is so perfectly timed that you can’t tell that the movie was dubbed. Additionally, the audio effects, especially the water-related ones, sounded superb.

The often thoughtful-pacing of this movie seems well suited to showing the interactions between Ponyo and Sosuke. It takes time to capture some of the essence of how children actually behave and show the humor that can be found in simple interactions.


The offensive content in this G-rated movie is minor. Only two brief things bear mentioning. First of all, some magic does transpire in this movie, but, in my opinion, it is no worse than any children’s story involving spells and magic potions. Secondly, the movie does give a brief nod to evolution in the way it talks about different creatures in different periods, and one of the characters mentions that we originated from sea foam. Otherwise, this movie portrayed solid values.

Where did life come from? Is evolution really the best scientific answer? Answer

Can evolution be the source of life in all its complexity? Answer

The boy, Sosuke, even serves as a worthy role model for children. He rescues Ponyo, encourages his mother to forgive his father, treats elderly ladies compassionately, and demonstrates courage in the face of danger.

As with most Miyazaki’s films, this one briefly touches on the importance of protecting the environment, which is compatible with Scripture. Psalm 24:1a says, “The Earth is the LORD’S and everything in it.”

EARTH’S ENVIRONMENT—Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer

Love theme

The main theme of this movie is love, whether it’s Fujimoto’s love for the environment and his fish children, Lisa’s love for her family and the elderly ladies, or Ponyo and Sosuke’s love for one other. These characters care about each other deeply and go to great, and often sacrificial lengths to protect and help one another.

Overall, this movie contains both fast-paced action and humorous little touches. The lavish, color saturated visuals are a treat for the eyes, and the tale of a little fish with big dreams a treat for the heart. This movie is targeted towards kids, but can be enjoyed by anyone.

Violence: Light / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—As I’m writing this it’s late at night, so let me be brief: Go take your kids to see “Ponyo”! It is a great film. The characters are great, the two kids who are the main characters are the cutest ever, and it is a story about these two kids and their platonic love. The girl starts out as a goldfish but becomes human, and the boy protects her from a magic-induced flood that threatens to cover his village. That’s not much of a plot synopsis, but I’m not good at those.

Let’s just say this: this film is magical. The colors are beautiful, and the images are striking. It will stick with you long after you have viewed it, and it will make you feel warm inside. This is a great film for you and your kids, even your little ones. It is rated G. There is magic in this movie, but in a purely fantastical element; that is to say, your kids wouldn’t be able to imitate it, nor does it represent any real witchcraft that happens in this world. Thus, it cannot be offensive. So let’s add this up: no violence, no sex, no language, and lots of good themes with some truly magical storytelling and images. I rest my case.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—JM, age 19 (USA)
Negative—I was surprised at how offensive this movie was, from a Christian point of view. I went into it knowing that it involved magic, and so I assumed that would be the most uncomfortable aspect of it—even then, I did not think the magic would be as present as it was. First of all, Ponyo’s father is a wizard. He uses elixirs, has powers, and frequently comments on Ponyo’s growing powers. Secondly, Ponyo’s mother (and this was where the movie really went downhill for me) is the “Mercy Goddess.” She’s a giant woman who saves a group of sailors during a storm at sea, simply by calming the waters. In turn, they begin to pray to, and worship, her. Later on in the film, the Goddess grows even larger, and her chest is shown prominently, however she is completely covered up.

She also makes a comment to Ponyo’s father that “we all came from seafoam” (paraphrasing), which is a very clear thumbs-up to evolution. The first few scenes of the movie actually show creatures in the ocean multiplying, growing and dividing in what looks like the evolutionary process, and Ponyo often transforms/“evolves” from a half-fish/half-human to full human.

Another point in the movie that might make some parents with young children take caution is when a mother explains how she needs to eat to make milk for her baby. While there isn’t anything wrong with this and absolutely nothing is shown or done, some children may not be prepared for this.

They may also be frightened by a part of the film showing a massive storm at sea and on the village—one child in the theatre actually cried out when Sousuke was nearly tossed into the ocean by strong winds. Early on in the film, the main character’s mother gets very angry with her husband for extending his stay at sea for work purposes, grabs a can of beer to calm herself down, then later repeatedly tells him to bug off. She doesn’t forgive him until later on.

Nature is presented in such a way as to make it seem like it was not created, and is in control of the universe.

The movie does promote certain positive themes, however, such as providing for your family, putting others before yourself, strong Biblical family values and roles, caring for the community, and taking care of your responsibilities. However, I found all of the above way too offensive to find the movie enjoyable.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Meg, age 18 (Canada)
Negative—I just took my 10 year old daughter and a friend of hers to see “Ponyo.” First of all, I need to comment on the animation. I don’t know what all the hype is over this movie having wonderful animation—I thought it to be very mediocre, and I was unimpressed with it. Especially when animation has generated to a point of almost looking realistic.

As a christian mom, I was offended by many things. I think the whole concept of nature being the main focus was very unbiblical (“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.” Rom. 1:15) There was the dad—well at first I wasn’t sure if it was a dad—could have been a man or woman—he was a wizard of sorts and into elixirs (aren’t these made from alcohol??). He was overbearing and controlling of his daughter—no wonder she wanted to venture out and discover what else was out there. Even her sisters helped her to escape.

The mother was the goddess of Mercy—need I explain anything here? She told the father that the balance of nature would be restored if Ponyo became human and that could happen if the boy truly loved her. And what kind of love are we talking about? It seemed strange to me. Keep in mind the boy was just 5 years old!! His mother left him and Ponyo home alone during a fierce storm, she drove very recklessly throughout the movie, had Ponyo ride in the front seat (is that legal in Japan perhaps??) and portrayed herself as very out of control. I don’t think any of that was a good example for small children seeing this film.

At the end, the boy had to kiss Ponyo to turn her into a human (she was now in a bubble). They did indeed kiss—I wouldn’t say it was sexual, but certainly not something you would expect between two 5 year olds.

I know that the film makers in Hollywood don’t think like most evangelical christians and they probably have no idea about what I’m talking about. I feel that they are saturating our children with their own values and concepts and masking it as art. There was something within me that felt very out of sink throughout this film and a feeling I really can’t explain to any producer. I just pray that their eyes will be open to the truth some day.

The only positive I can say is in regards to the voices—they were very true to character and I loved the voice of Ponyo.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Carolyn, age 58 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—…Ponyo is your average, sweet, animated children’s FANTASY movie, NOT VeggieTales! Though there were a couple of evolutionary statements made during the movie, that’s only to be expected with there already being a Mercy goddess and ocean sorcerer present. If you can accept the fact that Ponyo is a fun fiction film for kids, and have a discussion about what’s real and what’s not with them, then everything will be fine.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Emily, age 12 (USA)