Oscar-winning Spirited Away director Hayo Miyazaki returns with Ponyo. "A little boy and a little girl, love and responsibility, the ocean and life -- these things and that which is most elemental to them, are depicted in the most basic way in Ponyo," Miyazaki said of his latest animated gem.
Liam Neeson plays Fujimoto and thought Ponyo would be his only chance to work with Miyazaki -- the Japanese filmmaking visionary. "He seems to dip from various cultures from around the world," Neeson said. "The myths, the fantasies of different countries and then adds something else uniquely his, a magnetic element that's purely him, you know?"
Neeson's character has a birds-eye view of the world of Miyazaki in Ponyo. "I play this character, Fujimoto, who I guess is a regulator of the oceans. He lives underwater, but he's capable of going up on dry land as long as he remains wet. He can't dry out," Neeson said.
Neeson was drawn to his character's supernatural elements. "He's kind of Merlin-type of figure capable of making magic potions. He kind of addresses and keeps -- or tries to keep -- the balance of the whole ecosystem of the ocean. He's quite a colorful strange character."
The Ponyo SheKnows trailer
The Irish actor, in his first film since the tragic death of his wife Natasha Richardson, is surrounded by Academy Award winners in Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett as well as Tina Fey, Betty White and Lily Tomlin making Ponyo one of the summer season's best casts.
Disney brings some serious sibling star power to the Ponyo vocal talents with the starring roles of Noah Cyrus (Miley's sister) as Ponyo and Frankie Jonas (The Jonas Brothers youngest) as Sosuke.
Ponyo is a goldfish who drifts from her home where she lives with her father Fujimoto (Neeson) and winds up on the adventure of a lifetime where childhood dreams become animated reality in the hands of a visionary director.
Just to enjoy the story, quite simply. It's quite wonderful and magical. There are lessons there, something for everyone. One aspect of (it) is how to live one's life," Neeson adds. "To live each moment and to be curious about life -- And celebrate it."
With a star-studded cast, who, for Neeson, stood out?
"Cate Blanchett delivers a lovely, magical, soft soothing voice that's pretty special. Everyone was frankly wonderful as their characters -- especially Noah who plays the little Ponyo," Neeson said.
Up next...the Cyrus-Disney connection continues.
The Cyrus-Disney connection continues
Miley's younger sister takes the compliment in stride and is eager to discuss her character's finer points. "She is fish and she wants to be a human," Cyrus said. "Right after meeting Sosuke, a little boy, she wants to be just like him. She wants to have feet. She wants hands."
Cyrus found the storyline timely, relevant and as is always required of an animated film, a joy for the mind, ears and eyes. "In the very beginning, Ponyo gets stuck in a bottle near a boat that is cleaning the bottom of the ocean. She's swimming -- trying to get away from it -- but then her head goes into the bottle. When she finally gets out of that little net thing and swims to the shore, she has to stop. Sosuke goes to the shallow part and gets her," Cyrus said.
"Ponyo may have been saved by Sosuke, but together their mission is far greater. "The story is all about saving the world."
The Jonas-Disney connection continues
Frankie Jonas chimes in that his character, Sosuke, is identifiable with many children. "He doesn't really have that many friends," Jonas said.
Once Jonas learned he had the part in Ponyo, he dove into the work of Miyazaki. "I got all these Miyazaki films so I could see how he does movies," Jonas said.
What's his favorite?
"They're all really good. I like the movie Spirited Away. That's a pretty good movie."
Disney's Ponyo second trailer!
At the same time Ponyo's themes including saving the world, there's a more familial element to Disney's latest classic. "I also like it because it's about bringing the family together," Jonas said. This kid knows a thing or two about keeping successful families together.
"Don't be mad at each other, just be always together. Always love each other, if you do, you'll never fall."