2D animation, Cartoon - animation films, Essays

Hot Chocolate With Honey


27Aug2009

Posted by Daniel Thomas MacInnes Categories:

I realize I haven’t written anything about Ponyo in a couple days, so in order to keep our attentions on the movie, I wanted to share a couple thoughts about one of my favorite scenes.  I’ve written before that Hayao Miyazaki’s brilliance, among many other things, lies in showing the magic and wonder of the everyday world.  Ponyo demonstrates this beautifully.  While Westerners often think of fantasy as an escape from reality, Miyazaki’s stories join the two together; he looks at the world through the eyes of a curious and imaginative five-year-old.

John Lasseter speaks about the need for pacing, and Miyazaki is a master of this.  Far too many Hollywood movies are content to punch you in the stomach and beat you senseless with wall to wall action.  But the result is like splattering too many watercolors on your canvas – everything turns to mud.  You can’t run at full volume all the time.  There needs to be some silence.

I think that’s why these scenes, where Ponyo visits the home of Sosuke and Lisa, are so enjoyable.  They allow us to calm down and relax after that spectacular sequence of Ponyo’s escape and the tsunami she unwillingly unleashes.  It’s like George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun,” which begins side two of Abbey Road.  After John Lennon’s heavy metal assault, you need a breather.

I’ve said that Miyazaki shows us the magic of the everyday world, and here we are, watching Ponyo experience the joy of cooking.  Watch Ponyo’s discovery of honey in her hot chocolate.  She’s never seen anything like this, and her face just lights up.  I was so impressed that as soon as I got home from the theater, I walked down to the supermarket and bought some hot choclate and honey.  Lemmie tell ya, hot chocolate and honey is a killer combination.  If your heart won’t allow you to drink coffee anymore, this will give you a pretty good rush.  Too bad the honey melts so fast – I wanted to have some honey on my spoon.  Ah, well, live and learn.

Now watch as Lisa prepares the ramen noodles.  This is pure magic.  Pour in the hot water, cover the bowl, wait three minutes.  Now cross your fingers, kids…ala peanut butter sandwiches!  With the magic words, we have turned the crunchy noodles into ramen, ham and vegetables.

A small child has no clue how this was created.  It just happened by magic.  The ramen is no different from Fujimoto’s elixir jars, or Gran Manmare’s swimming through the ocean, or Ponyo growing chicken feet and turning into a girl.  It’s all the same.  This is the real meaning of Miyazaki’s magic.  It’s not literal or rational, but instictive, emotional.  This is the perfect mode of expression for the symbolic icons of animation.  Could these scenes have the same appeal with live actors?  I doubt it.  I don’t even think you could pull this trick off with computers.  You need the pencils and paints to achieve this illusion.

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