Monday, January 4, 2010

Two toddler thumbs up for Miyazaki

When Ian and I took CC to see the American theatrical release of Japanese animated film "Ponyo" in Santa Monica this summer, I had no idea that we were creating a devoted fan.

Who knew Japanese anime was my toddler daughter's thing?

Before "Ponyo," none of us had seen a film by animator/director Hayao Miyazaki, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Too much fantasy? Overly mature themes? Despite being dubbed into English with voices including Tina Fey and Matt Damon, would something simply be lost in translation?

No, no and no. "Ponyo," the story of a literal fish out of water, was lovely and captivating and dreamlike -- and something CC kept talking about for months after it had left the theater. In fact, whenever we'd stroll along the Third Street Promenade, she'd point to the very same theater and say, "Ponyo!"

Even in the bathtub CC would splash around, yelling, "Ponyo! Ponyo!" I'm convinced that's because she somehow identified with the plucky goldfish who flees her underwater life to become a little girl.

So, of course, I wanted to investigate more of Miyazaki's work.

Last week, "Howl's Moving Castle" arrived via Netflix, and I was curious to see how CC would like it. Heck, how I'd like it.

Whereas "Ponyo's" main characters are children -- and their parents -- "Howl's" protagonist is Sophie, a teenage girl who falls in love with a magical, parentless, wandering loner.

CC was captivated. She liked Sophie instantly and wondered what had become of her when she was changed into an old woman by a curse.

We did have to take a small break just before the end, but otherwise CC was riveted, asking questions and talking to the screen -- mostly to the charmingly grumpy fire demon voiced by Billy Crystal.

Of course, she couldn't possibly understand some of the themes, such as government rebellion or romantic love, but she enjoyed the animation as well as Sophie, yet another plucky girl who's determined to venture into an unknown world to find what she needs -- in this case, a way to lift a curse.

And that's something I enjoyed about the two Miyazaki films -- watching two strong, independent young girls discovering themselves through trial and error, both willing to take a chance on something that seems ludicrous yet still attainable.

Now, has anyone seen "Spirited Away"? Because that one's next.


Jeannine said...

WE love Spirited Away. It's one of my 5 year olds favorite movies (she first saw it at 4 1/2). Great review of Miyazaki. Can't wait to see this movie.

L.A. Story said...

That's so good to know, Jeannine! We're definitely big fans now.

Justin said...

Clarkie, glad you guys are discovering the pleasures of Miyazaki. I actually rewatched "Spirited Away" recently and it held me spellbound -- a great, great film.

And if I had to guess one real-life child who is the real-life, non-aquatic embodiment of Ponyo, it would be CC.

Amber said...

We love all the Miyazaki films. Spirited Away is beautiful, you'll love it. My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service are great for smaller kids. My own fav is nausicaa valley of the wind.

L.A. Story said...

Wow, I'm totally inspired to check out all of these Miyazaki films. Thanks for the tips!

And Justin, you definitely know that CC is Ponyo in the flesh. :)


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