Australian Council on Children and the Media

Ponyo

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Short takes

Parental guidance recommended under 7 (Scary images, characters in peril)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Ponyo
  • a review of Ponyo completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 27 August 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 7 Parental guidance recommended due to some peril and scary images.
Children aged 7 and over OK with or without parental guidance

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Ponyo
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 103 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson) is an environmental sorcerer who stands on a strange looking submarine (part machine part marine creature) and pours elixirs into the ocean, Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson) is an environmental sorcerer who stands on a strange looking submarine (part machine, part marine creature) and pours elixirs into the ocean to keep the elements in balance. Ponyo (Noah Lindsey Cyrus) is a young goldfish with magical powers who, along with hundreds of younger siblings, lives with her father Fujimoto under the ocean.

One day while exploring the ocean, Ponyo is trapped inside a discarded glass bottle and washed ashore to be found by a five year old boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas). Sosuke lives with his mother Lisa (Tina Fey), who works at a senior citizens centre and his father Koichi (Matt Damon), who is a ship’s captain. As Sosuke breaks open the glass jar to free Ponyo, he cuts his finger producing a drop of blood which Ponyo licks, causing Sosuke’s finger to instantly heal. Sosuke and Ponyo immediately form a bond of love, but the friendship is short lived because Fujimoto uses his sorcerer’s powers to capture Ponyo, leaving Sosuke devastated.

The drop of blood ingested by Ponyo causes her to develop strong magical powers which enable her to transform into a little girl and escape from her father. However Ponyo’s use of magic causes an environmental imbalance resulting in storms, tidal waves, flooding and the appearance of prehistoric marine creatures. During a violent storm we see Ponyo riding the backs of giant waves as she chases after Sosuke and his mother (who are trying to outrun the storm). Ponyo is eventually reunited with Sosuke as he reaches the safety of his house.

Fearing for the safety of the residents of the senior citizens centre, Sosuke’s mother leaves Sosuke and Ponyo at home and goes to attend to the senior citizens. The following morning the storm has cleared, but Sosuke’s village is left submerged in flood waters. Finding no sign of his mother, Sosuke accompanied by Ponyo, braves the flood waters to go in search of her. Meanwhile, Fujimoto has contacted Ponyo’s mother, the sea goddess Gran Mamare (Cate Blanchett) to help put the planet back in order. Gran Mamare informs Fujimoto that if Ponyo becomes permanently human the world will revert back to normal but that in order to do this Sosuke must prove his love for Ponyo.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Myths and legends, catastrophic environmental disasters

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is no deliberate interpersonal violence in this movie, but several scenes where the characters are hurt or in peril, including:

  • while trying to escape a trawling fishing net, Ponyo becomes trapped in a glass jar. Sosuke finds the jar and tries to pull Ponyo out by her tail, then breaks the jar open with a rock. Ponyo at first looks dead but revives quickly
  • Fujimoto is hit in the face by ocean litter and is nearly churned up by a boat’s propeller.
  • Sosuke’s mother Lisa drives her car across a flooded canal crossing and the car is almost swept into the sea by approaching waves. Her car nearly crashes head-on into a van along a winding mountain road.
  • Sosuke is nearly blown over a guard rail, but his mother catches him by the feet and pulls him back.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Ponyo squirts water in a little girl’s face causing the girl to burst into tears and run off crying. Ponyo does the same thing to a senior citizen who becomes upset and distressed.
  • Ponyo’s father Fujimoto has a somewhat gaunt and threatening appearance.
  • magical water creatures resembling giant black slug-like creatures are shown rising up out of the water and chasing Sosuke in a menacing manner. At one point they transform into giant waves, and we see Ponyo running along the backs of the creatures.
  • the slug-like creatures rise up out of the ocean, capture Ponyo and pull her back into the ocean. Sosuke is left crying and distressed on shore.
  • Ponyo transforms from a goldfish-like creature to a little girl
  • Sosuke and Ponyo walking through a dark threatening looking tunnel. Part way through, Ponyo transforms from a human back to a fish-like creature and collapses. Sosuke cries out in distress.
  • the sea goddess Gran Mamare is a giant woman, gliding underneath the ocean. She appears on the surface of the water and transforms to normal size.
  • images of a variety of scary looking prehistoric fish creatures swimming around Sosuke and Ponyo as they travel in a boat.
  • hundreds of ships trapped in a tidal wave.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.  It is unlikely that children over the age of seven would be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

None

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

None

Product placement

None

Sexual references

None

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Use of substances

Fujimoto drinks elixirs from ornate bottles after which he states “I can feel the power of it down into my DNA”

Coarse language

Some mild name calling, including: Freak show, jerk, bug off, accursed humans, weird, and ugly.

In a nutshell

Ponyo is an animated fantasy film which is superbly animated (hand drawn/watercolour) and likely to be entertaining for children, particularly between the ages of five and ten years, but also for older children and adults. Younger children will find the film’s lead characters (Sosuke and Ponyo) both likable and inspiring.

The main messages from this movie are that:

  • pollution caused by humans is taking its toll on the world’s oceans.
  • love conquers all.
  • it is best not to judge others by their labels.
  • sometimes we need to take chances and take a giant leap into the unknown

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • kindness and respect
  • bravery
  • empathy

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • disobeying evacuation orders, as does Sosuke’s mother
  • the dangers of leaving two small children alone in a house, including a reassurance that this would never happen to them.

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