An A-list cast—including Liam Neeson, Matt Damon and Tina Fey—will voice the masterful, otherwordly animation of Japanese virtuoso Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea for its North American release, with a bit of help from E.T. writer Melissa Matheson, producer Frank Marshall told reporters this week.
Marshall and his producing partner Kathleen Kennedy are deeply involved in bringing the movie to mainstream western audiences this summer. "Kathy and I came on to produce the North American, English-speaking version of Ponyo," Marshall said on Tuesday. "It's been a fantastic experience."
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Little Mermaid," Ponyo tells the story of a goldfish and her quest to become human.
Marshall and Kennedy said that they've been longtime fans of Miyazaki ever since Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. "What we are trying to do is introduce his world to a lot more people, because I think his films get put in the art-house section or the specialized section," Marshall said. "But every time we introduce our friends and their kids to the movies, they want all the movies. It's a world that I think everyone should see and understand and experience. It's hopefully what we will be able to do with this new release."
Marshall and Kennedy are working with Toho and Walt Disney Pictures to release a "tweaked," A-list-voiced version of Ponyo in the United States on Aug. 14.
"We have a fantastic cast, ... from Tina Fey to Liam Neeson to Cloris Leachman to Matt Damon," Marshall said. "There will be a subtitled version on the DVD, but we are trying to say this is a new animated movie. It's not Japanese. It's just a fantastic story, so go see it so that we can try and expand it out of the specialized film world."
Marshall also revealed that the changes are in conjunction with the master animator to ensure his blessing. "We worked closely with Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki-san and [Toshio] Suzuki-san, who is the producer. We speak daily, and they have been very involved in everything. It's not a direct translation. We have tweaked the story so it is an understandable story for our audience. Melissa Matheson, who wrote E.T., came in and helped us shape the story. We are bringing all our resources and friends into this who have responded, as we have, to how wonderful these movies are."
Marshall added, "Hopefully this will trigger people to go and look at Miyazaki-san's other movies, because they are fantastic, too."