This past week, Studio Ghibli finally announced Hayao Miyazaki's new film - Ponyo on a Cliff, or Gake no ue no Ponyo. This is a story that centers around a five-year-old boy named Soskue, and a goldfish princess named Ponyo that wants to become human. The movie has been in production since last summer, and is set for a summer 2008 release.
One exciting detail about Ponyo is that the entire movie will be storyboarded in detailed pastels and watercolors. This is a much more detailed, time-involved process, and a rarity in Japanese animation. It gives us a great insight into the mind of Miyazaki, as well as his ambitions.
And it seems that Miyazaki's patented style of personal storytelling will continue with this film. Goro Miyazaki - the estranged elder son who directed last year's controversial Gedo Senki - is the model for the character of Sosuke. Toshio Suzuke has highlighted the movie's themes as, "father," "mother," and "cliff."
It's interesting to me that Miyazaki's focus has moved so strongly to his family relations. To a great extent, Howl's Moving Castle was a tribute to his wife (the archetypal Heroine) and their marriage. Goro's movie debut was very heavily wrapped around his father's icons and his conflicted feelings about their relationship. Now Father Miyazaki has responded with a story about his son as a young boy. Where will this go? How deep will these themes penetrate Ponyo on a Cliff? At this point, nobody knows.
As an artist (or as someone who splatters paint on canvas and calls it "art"), I'm really thrilled to see more of Ponyo's watercolor paintings. Studio Ghibli has made great strides in capturing that painted watercolor look into its animations. My Neighbors the Yamadas was the first great step in that direction, and you can see it continued in Ghiblies and Ghiblies Episode 2 and the various shorts on the Short Short DVD. They've managed to incorporate computer technology in bringing the hand-drawn style to life in a way the Americans have never conceived. We're still too obsessed with trying to top Toy Story. Which, of course, ain't ever gonna happen.
Ponyo on a Cliff will probably start trickling out by the end of the year. That's usually when the first teaser trailers appear. That is, if Ghibli can meet the summer 2008 release date. The old man still has something to prove, he's still got an ambition. That's the thing that excites me the most about this project. It's the thing that makes Miyazaki one of the great filmmakers of our age.
Ah, well, back to The Beatles!
Update: Have comments for this post been switched off? It certainly wasnt' anything on my part. I'm always eager to see you batting your ideas around. Appears to be a Blogger thing, which is weird because it's been working so well lately.