I wrote a capsule movie review of Ponyo back when it was released in American movie theaters. Now that I have had a chance to examine the DVD version I am going to write an updated review.
A movie review necessarily gives my first impression after viewing it once. Having a DVD allows me to examine the work in detail, which often changes my impression of it–sometime for the better and sometimes for the worse.
Original TitleGake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on Top of the Cliff) 
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles, French
Contents103 minutes plus bonus material in a 2-DVD set.
Art DirectorNoboru Yoshida
Animation DirectorKatsuya Kondo
Executive ProducerKoji Hoshino
Animation StudioStudio Ghibli
North American PublisherWalt Disney Home Entertainment
When I first saw the movie, I was struck by the simplicity of the artwork, especially the backgrounds, which resemble a children’s book and are a far cry from the almost baroque complexity of Spirited Away. After rewatching the movie on DVD I decided that the simplicity is deceptive; the animation is actually extremely sophisticated. Studio Ghibli is the king of the animation hill at the moment; no other studio in the world can match them (though Disney in their heyday could have given them a run for their money.)
The movie was shown in theaters with an English dub. The DVD lets us compare the English dub with the original Japanese soundtrack. The English dub holds up surprisingly well. The Disney releases of Miyazaki’s films are a solid refutation of the thesis that every anime dub must be excruciatingly bad. On the contrary, an English dub can be quite good if it is done by good actors and, more importantly, by a competent director who understands and respects the material.
However on balance I have to say that the Japanese soundtrack is better. The most important difference is in the character of 5-year-old Sousuke, who has more lines than anyone else in the movie and is crucial to the story. Hayao Miyazaki seems to have gone to great deal of trouble to find an 9-year-old boy (Hiroki Doi) who was capable of playing the part convincingly. Disney cast the youngest member of the Jonas Brothers, presumably because he was already under contract. The difference is very noticeable.
There is one surprising thing about the Japanese soundtrack that is not at all apparent in the English dub: everyone calls everyone else by their first names, which is quite contrary to the normal Japanese practice. It is more like the way they think Westerners talk to each other. In every other respect the story seems to be set in modern Japan, but this gives it a kind of unreal fairy-tale quality.
The front of the DVD case states prominently: “Inspired by the Classic Hans Christian Anderson Story THE LITTLE MERMAID.” I can guess at the marketing rationale that led Disney to include this line, but I think it is unfortunate. The resemblance between the two stories is so slight as to be unnoticeable.
The second DVD in the set contains the usual assortment of storyboards, promotional materials and interviews with the production staff.
Like My Neighbor Totoro, this is one of those rare animes that is truly suitable for all ages.
It is actually quite difficult to make a movie that can hold the interest of adults without upsetting small children. (Even some of the classic Disney movies can be quite disturbing to 5-year-olds.) Hayao Miyazaki clearly has the knack, when he chooses to use it. (Some of his other movies are definitely not intended for small children.)
Premise and Characters
Risa , his mother, is strong-willed, busy, capable, and drives like a maniac.
Wikipedia entry (spoilers).
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
Entry on Nausicaa.net (pretty sparse at the moment, hopefully more will be added.)
 Some sites give the title as “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.” This was apparently Disney’s original working title, but they ended up releasing it with the less poetic title “Ponyo.”
 The subtitles call her “Lisa”, which is OK since the popular Japanese name “Risa” is just the English name written in hiragana. However I will stick with my usual practice of writing anime characters’ names in proper romaji, which does a better job of indicating how they are pronounced.
 Her name is given as “Guranmanmare” in some documents, but as far as I can tell this is not used in the movie. Kouichi identifies her as Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy.