Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (崖の上のポニョ, Gake no Ue no Ponyo), released in Japan as Ponyo on the Cliff, is an animated film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. It is Miyazaki's eighth film to be made under the studio, and his first feature-length film since Howl's Moving Castle released four years prior. The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo who desperately wants to be a human. In pursuing her goal, she befriends a five-year-old human boy, Sōsuke. It was released by Toho on July 19, 2008, in theatres across Japan.

The theme song for Ponyo was released on December 5, 2007, performed by Fujioka Fujimaki (famous duo Takaaki Fujioka and Naoya Fujimaki) and Nozomi Ohashi, who was only eight years old at the time of the film's production. The official website for Ponyo also opened on December 5, 2007. On March 6, 2008, producer Toshio Suzuki announced that Akiko Yano would be performing for the film as well.


The plot centers on a goldfish named Brunhilde and a boy named Sōsuke who renames her Ponyo. Fujimoto, a once-human wizard/scientist, lives underwater along with his daughter, Brunhilde, and her numerous smaller sisters. While she and her siblings are on an outing with their father in his four-flippered submarine, Brunhilde sneaks off and floats away on the back of a jellyfish. After an encounter with a fishing trawler, she drifts to the shore of a small fishing town in a glass jar where she is rescued by a five-year-old boy named Sōsuke. Shattering the jar open with a rock, Sōsuke cuts his finger in the process. Brunhilde licks his wound causing it to heal almost instantly. Sōsuke names her Ponyo and promises to protect her. Meanwhile, a distraught Fujimoto searches frantically for his lost daughter whom he believes to have been kidnapped. He calls his wave spirits to recover her, leaving Sōsuke heartbroken.

Ponyo and Fujimoto have an argument, during which Ponyo refuses to let her father call her by her birth name. She declares her desire to be known as 'Ponyo' and to become human. Using her magic, she forces herself to grow leg- and arm-like appendages and start changing into a human, a power granted to her by the human blood she ingested when she licked Sōsuke's finger. Her alarmed father forces her to change back into her true form and leaves to summon Ponyo's mother, Granmamare. Meanwhile, Ponyo, with the help of her sisters, breaks away from her father and inadvertently uses his magic to make herself fully human. The huge amount of magic that she releases into the ocean causes an imbalance in the world, resulting in a tsunami, leaving ships stranded at sea. Ponyo goes back to Sōsuke, who is amazed and overjoyed to see her. He tells his mother that Ponyo has returned as a little girl. Sōsuke's mother allows Ponyo to stay at their house for the time being. Lisa (Sōsuke's mother), Sōsuke, and Ponyo wait out the storm at Sōsuke's house. Worried about the residents of the nursing home where she works, Lisa leaves to check up on them and promising Sōsuke that she will return home as soon as possible.

Granmamare arrives at Fujimoto's submarine. Sōsuke's father, Kōichi, sees her traveling and recognizes her as the Goddess of Mercy. Fujimoto notices the moon appears to be falling out of its orbit and satellites are falling like shooting stars, symptoms of the dangerous imbalance of nature that now exists. Granmamare declares that if Sōsuke can pass a test, Ponyo can live as a human and that the order of the world will be restored. A still-worried Fujimoto reminds her that if Sōsuke fails the test, Ponyo will turn into sea foam.

Sōsuke and Ponyo wake up to find that most of the land around the house has been covered by the ocean. Since it is impossible for Lisa to come home, the two children decide to find her. With the help of Ponyo's magic, they make Sōsuke's toy pop pop boat life-size and set out across the swollen ocean.

When Ponyo and Sōsuke make it to the forest, however, Ponyo tires and falls asleep only to be woken by Sōsuke, who implores her to ignite a second candle as the one powering their boat is about to go out. Ponyo then dozes off multiple times before concentrating enough to make the candle, which then goes out. She then passes out, and Sōsuke has to push the boat to shore, only to find that the boat, deprived of Ponyo's magic, is reverting to its toy size. Sōsuke drags Ponyo to the shore, where he finds Lisa's abandoned car. Ponyo then wakes up, and the two decide to continue looking for her.

Ponyo and Sōsuke head into a tunnel. Inside Ponyo reverts to being a fish due to overuse of her magical powers. Meanwhile, Lisa and the residents of the nursing home, who are temporarily able to breath water because of Granmamare, are waiting excitedly below the surface for Ponyo and Sōsuke to arrive. Sōsuke and Ponyo encounter Fujimoto, who warns the boy that the balance of nature is in danger and begs Sosuke to return Ponyo to him. Sōsuke doubts Fujimoto and attempts to flee, but the two children are quickly captured and Fujimoto takes them down to the protected nursing home.

Sōsuke is reunited with Lisa and meets Granmamare, with whom Lisa has just had a long private conversation. Granmamare asks Sōsuke if he can love Ponyo whether she is a fish or human. Sōsuke replies that he "loves all the Ponyos." Granmamare then tells her daughter that if she chooses to become human once and for all, she will have to give up her magical powers. Ponyo agrees to this, so Granmamare encases her in a bubble and gives her to Sōsuke. She tells him that kissing the bubble will complete Ponyo's transformation. The balance of nature is thus restored and the previously stranded ships head back to port. Fujimoto respects his daughter's choice to become a human, having decided he can trust Sōsuke with Ponyo's welfare. Ponyo then joyfully jumps high in the air and kisses Sōsuke, completing her transformation as a human.


Hayao Miyazaki began writing the film's scenario and original story in 2001 until production began in October 2006. Miyazaki has been intimately involved with the hand-drawn animation in Ponyo. He preferred to draw the sea and waves himself, and enjoyed experimenting with how to express this important part of the film.

Ponyo on the Cliff is inspired by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid as well as by the traditional Japanese folktale Urashima Taro. The seaside village where the story takes place is inspired by a real town in Setonaikai National Park in Japan, where Miyazaki stayed in 2005.

The character of Sōsuke is based on Miyazaki's son Gorō Miyazaki when he was five. Sōsuke's name is taken from the hero in the famous novel The Gate.

Voice Cast

Character Japanese cast English dub cast
Sōsuke Hiroki Doi Frankie Jonas
Ponyo Yuria Nara Noah Cyrus
Kōichi Kazushige Nagashima Matt Damon
Fujimoto George Tokoro Liam Neeson
Granmamare Yuki Amami Cate Blanchett
Lisa Tomoko Yamaguchi Tina Fey
Toki Kazuko Yoshiyuki Lily Tomlin
Yoshie Tomoko Naraoka Cloris Leachman
Noriko Tokie Hidari Betty White
Ponyo's Sisters Akiko Yano
Newscaster Shin'ich Hatori Kurt Knutsson
Kumiko Eimi Hiraoka Jennessa Rose
Young Mother Rumi Hiiragi Mona Marshall
Young Father Shirô Saitô Bob Bergen
Kayo Akiko Takeguchi Marsha Clark
Karen Nozomi Ohashi Colleen O'Shaughnessey
Sōsuke's Teacher Eiko Kanasawa Courtnee Draper


  • Original story, screenplay written and directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
  • Composer, Conductor, Piano by Joe Hisaishi
  • Performance: New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Supervising animation directors: Katsuya Kondo, Kitarō Kōsaka
  • Art director: Noboru Yoshida
  • Chief color designer: Michiyo Yasuda
  • Producer: Toshio Suzuki (Japan)
  • Production: Studio Ghibli, Seiji Okuda, Ryoichi Fukuyama, Naoya Fujimaki
  • Assistant drawing director: Kitaro Kosaka, Ai Kagawa, Takeshi Inamura, Akihiko Yamashita
  • Animation drawing cooperation: Anime Toro Toro, Nakamura Productions, Studio Taisuke, Studio Cockpit, Movie Studio, GONZO, Brains Base, Ryuko Productions, Studio Color
  • Japan distributor: Toho
  • North American distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
  • Produced by: Studio Ghibli, Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Mitsubishi Corporation and Toho
  • North American additional Producers: The Kennedy/Marshal Company, Pixar Animation Studios

Ending Credits

As the end credits roll and the theme song plays, the names of the voice cast and staff are featured in alphabetical order. The staff or cast's full name is written without a role name or title, making it impossible to determine who did what. The credits finish with the logo of "Studio Ghibli" and the word "End". This style of credits was also adopted in The Secret World of Arrietty.

US Version Staff

The film's English dub was directed by John Lasseter, Brad Lewis and Peter Sohn of Pixar and produced by Frank Marshall, Hayao Miyazaki, John Lasseter, Steve Alpert, and Kathleen Kennedy; the English script was written by Melissa Mathison.


  • July 19, 2008 - Movie theater in Japan
  • October 15, 2008 - DVD release in Japan
  • August 14, 2009 - Disney dub


The film was released by Toho on July 19, 2008, in theatres across Japan on 481 screens—a record for a domestic film. As it had beaten Pocket Monsters Diamond & Pearl the Movie: Giratina and the Bouquet of the (Frozen) Sky: Shaymin (which had opened on the same day). It grossed ¥10 billion ($91 million) in its first month of release, and a total of ¥15.0 billion ($153.1 million) as of November 9, 2008.

Tokyo Anime Fair chose 'Ponyo' as Animation of the Year of 2008, as revealed in a press release by Anime News Network.

Ponyo was released in the U.S. and Canada on August 14, 2009 by Walt Disney Pictures and The Kennedy/Marshall Company, opening at a wide release at 927 theaters across America, which is by far the widest release for a Studio Ghibli film ever in the U.S, as compared to other Miyazaki films (Spirited Away opened in 26 theaters, Howl's Moving Castle opened in 36 theaters, and Princess Mononoke opened in 38 theaters).

The film's English dub was directed by John Lasseter, Brad Lewis and Peter Sohn of Pixar and produced by Frank Marshall, Hayao Miyazaki, John Lasseter, Steve Alpert, and Kathleen Kennedy; the English script was written by Melissa Mathison.

In July 2009, there were multiple pre-screenings of the film in California. Miyazaki traveled to America to promote this film by speaking at the University of California, Berkeley and the San Diego Comic-Con.

GKIDS re-issued the movie on Blu-ray & DVD on October 17, 2017 under a new deal with Studio Ghibli.

The film has been re-released from March 25–28, 2018 for its 10th anniversary.


See Soundtrack

Nozomi Ōhashi, January 2009

Ponyo's eponymous theme song, "Gake no Ue no Ponyo," was released ahead of the film on December 5, 2007, performed by Fujioka Fujimaki (a duo consisting of Takaaki Fujioka and Naoya Fujimaki who are known for their underground band Marichans from the 1970s) and eight-year-old Nozomi Ōhashi. It entered the top 100 on the Oricon Weekly Charts on July 14, then rose to 24th on (July 21), then 6th on (July 28), and after the release of the film it ranked 3rd (August 4). By the end of 2008, it was ranked as the 14th highest selling single on the Oricon Yearly Charts. Ōhashi was also the youngest participant in the 59th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen, beating Cute's Mai Hagiwara's record at age 11. Afterward, Ōhashi announced her unit with Fujioka Fujimaki was disbanding.

An English-translated pop version of the theme was recorded by Frankie Jonas and Noah Cyrus, the voices of Sōsuke and Ponyo in the North American dub, to tie in with the film's English release. The theme plays over the second half of the English version's closing credits; the first half is merely a translated version of the theme rather than remix.

The film score of Ponyo was composed by Joe Hisaishi, Miyazaki's regular collaborator. The score album, published on compact disc in Japan by Tokuma Japan Communications, in South Korea by Pony Canyon and throughout Europe by Germany-based label Colosseum, received a great deal of press in the West, including positive reviews from several veteran film music reviewers.


Ponyo has received widespread acclaim from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported a 92% "Certified Fresh", based on 162 reviews with an average score of 7.6/10, stating "While not Miyazaki's best film, Ponyo is a visually stunning fairy tale that's a sweetly poetic treat for children and Miyazaki fans of all ages." Metacritic reported a Metascore of 86 based on 29 reviews, signifying "universal acclaim". On its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, it made $3,585,852 on 927 screens, which is a per screen average of $3,868. It also opened at number nine at the United States and Canada box office. The film made a total of $15,090,399 in the United States and Canada and $186,660,538 in other countries for a worldwide total of $201,750,937. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as a DVD/Plush Toy pack, on March 2, 2010. The Japan Times gave the film four out of five stars, and praised the film's simple thematic elements and its visual scheme, and compared the film to Miyazaki's classic animation My Neighbor Totoro. Anime Diet cited the quality of the translation, noting, "The story and the core of the film were communicated more than adequately through the professional dub and it did not get in the way of the sheer delight and joy that Miyazaki wanted to convey." Citing "slight pacing problems," it gave Ponyo a rating of 88%. The pronunciation of Japanese names in the English cinema version varied between characters, however. Critics at the Venice International Film Festival generally had high praise. Wendy Ide of The Times said Ponyo "is as chaotic and exuberant as a story told by a hyperactive toddler," and gave it 4 stars out of 5. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a full four stars, the highest rank on his review scale, stating that, "There is a word to describe Ponyo, and that word is magical. This poetic, visually breathtaking work by the greatest of all animators has such deep charm that adults and children will both be touched. It's wonderful and never even seems to try: It unfolds fantastically." The film was rated #2 on Dentsu's list of "2008 Hit Products in Japan", after the Wii console.


Ponyo was an entrant in the 65th Venice International Film Festival. It received a special mention in the Bologna Future Film Festival, for "the high artistic and expressive quality of animation able to give form to wonderful imagination of the worldwide cinema master". In 2009, Ponyo won five awards at the 8th annual Tokyo Anime Awards. The awards included "Anime of the year" and "Best domestic feature". Miyazaki received the award for best director and best original story, and Noboru Yoshida received the award for best art direction. The film won the awards for Animation of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Music at the 32nd Japan Academy Prize.


  • HM Queen Silvia of Sweden was granted a sneak preview of the film together with director Hayao Miyazaki during the King and Queen's state visit to Japan on 29 March 2007.
  • In the English dub, Ponyo is voiced by Noah Cyrus, the little sister of singer and actress Miley Cyrus.
  • In the English dub, Sosuke is voiced by Frankie Jonas, the little brother of the boy band The Jonas Brothers.
  • Lisa has a Totoro magnet on her fridge, and at one point in the film sings a lyric from "Stroll" (in both the English and Japanese dub), which suggests My Neighbor Totoro is a film in-universe.
  • A plush of an Ōtori-Sama from Spirited Away can be seen on a shelf at the senior center (clearly visible at around the 21 minute mark).

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