Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki forgoes computer graphics and returns to the pencil and crayon for his latest film, an East-meets-West nod to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid."

Already a hit in Japan, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" opened Sunday at the Venice Film Festival, where it is competing for the coveted Golden Lion.

"Ponyo" tells the story of a goldfish who longs to become a girl after getting a glimpse of the human world when she is rescued from a jam jar by 5-year-old Sosuke. As in "The Little Mermaid," Ponyo's transformation is opposed by her father, an underwater sorcerer who was once human, and she must make a sacrifice, in this case her magical powers, to become human.

The film draws easy comparisons to "The Little Mermaid" and "Finding Nemo." But unlike "The Little Mermaid," Miyazaki's underworld setting is not pristine. And unlike "Finding Nemo," he doesn't create an environment that approaches realism.

"Ponyo" will be distributed in the United States by Disney, but no release date has been set.