2D animation, Cartoon - animation films, Essays

Hot Chocolate With Honey


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.

2D animation, Cartoon - animation films, Essays

Everything is Going to be Fine

Posted by Daniel Thomas MacInnes




Reader Joe Leonard wrote this comment on the blog, and it was so useful that I decided I had to give it, and my response, a proper post. Enjoy:

This is pretty embarassing, but, well, trying to look at the big picture:

1. Lasseter has obviously pushing hard for Ponyo to do well in the US. They really want Miyazaki and Ghibli to be more mainstream, and not something for just the anime kids and art scene crowd.

2. They can use this in ads, use it for exposure on the Disney Channel and on Kid Disney radio. I’m guessing from the comment you linked to earlier that this is already in effect.

3. Kids will eat this up and love it to pieces. Kids are dumb.

4. The song will get kids excited for Ponyo, who will then beg their parents to go see it.

5. A horrible bastardization of a silly folksy tune into an in-your-face pop song complete with robot voice auto-tune effect will therefore be the gateway drug for lots of kids and parents to Studio Ghibli. A case of the ends justifying the means to be sure, but, well, what can you do. This is America.

Keep in mind at this point we’re not even completely sure if this will be used in the film proper. If it is, it’ll probably be contained to just the credits, which while still unfortunate, doesn’t matter that much in the long run.

Here is my response:



That’s the smartest insight I’ve read on the subject. Thanks for helping to keep my head attached.

It also helps that there’s a large and violent thunderstorm outside my window this evening. After the third lightning strike right outside my window, I find my outrage meter has been properly reset. So many things in life are never worth getting upset over.

You may be right about the kid appeal. I’ve been struck by the numbers of kids on Youtube and Twitter who want to swarm to the malls to see Ponyo because the celebrity kids are in it. “Gateway Drug” may be the smartest metaphor yet.

Reflecting on this, I think this episode exposes a rift of tension between Disney and the Ghibli Freaks, one that has been there for many years. We must be careful not to view their treatment of Ponyo through the lens of past disappointments. There are several new players involved in this drama, and we must give them the proper chance to succeed.

This is my own advice to myself, and I hope it proves helpful to everyone else if needed.

BAM!! There’s the fourth massive lightning strike. BAM!! Number five…now my eyes are temporarily blinded from the lightning flash (hese are 100 yards away from my living room window). I can’t believe I was ever upset at another human being for anything, ever. Why are people throwing tantrums about health care in town meetings again? Vanity of vanities, a chasing after the winds.