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castle the sky

Castle in the Sky

(re-titled Castle in the Sky for release in the United States) is a film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, released in 1986. It is the first film created and released by Studio Ghibli, although is considered the second by some since Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was created by the founding members two years before. Laputa: Castle in the Sky won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986. The name Laputa comes from the name of the floating island in Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels.

Plot

According to legend, humans were fascinated with the sky; therefore they created increasingly sophisticated ways of lifting aircraft from the ground. This eventually led to flying cities and fortresses. Over time, the cities came crashing back to the ground, forcing the survivors to live on the ground as before. One city, Laputa, is said to remain in the sky, concealed within the swirling clouds of a violent thunderstorm. While most people consider it to be fictional, some believe the legend is true and have sought to find the ancient city. Airships still remain in common use.

Aboard an airship, a young girl, Sheeta, is escorted to an unknown destination by sinister-looking agents under Colonel Muska. The ship is attacked by a group of sky pirates; in the resulting disorder, Sheeta takes a small pendant from Muska and escapes. The sky pirates, led by an old but vivacious woman Dola, attempt to seize her and the pendant, but accidentally, Sheeta falls from the ship. As she falls, the pendant radiates a blue light and she gently floats to the ground. A young boy, Pazu, witnesses this in amazement and catches Sheeta. He takes her back to his home, where she finds a photograph of Laputa. Pazu explains that his deceased father took the photo, but was disbelieved by his contemporaries. Pazu believes the city exists, however, and wants to find it someday himself.

Dola’s band of sky pirates (mainly built up of her sons and crews) arrive at Pazu's house, forcing the children to escape on a railway. Their path is blocked by an armored train; the government agents inside attempt to capture Sheeta. With both pursuing parties fighting each other over the girl, the children fall from a collapsing rail trestle, but are saved when Sheeta's pendant activates once again, allowing them to float safely into an abandoned mine shaft. There they meet an old miner, Uncle Pom, who tells them of "volucite" ("aetherium" in Disney's English language dub), the crystal that provided Laputa with its power. He reveals that Sheeta’s pendant is one of the largest and purest of such crystals in existence, and counsels Sheeta to remember that the crystal's power rightly belongs to the earth, and that she should never use it to commit acts of violence.

Upon returning to the surface of the land, Sheeta tells Pazu that she has inherited an ancient "secret name": Lusheeta Toel Ul Laputa (Laputian for "Sheeta, True Ruler of Laputa"). Government agents suddenly appear and take them both into custody. They are taken to a fortress and separated.

The general in command of the fortress discusses with Muska the government-sponsored search for Laputa, and agree that Sheeta and her crystal are the keys to its discovery. Muska reveals to Sheeta his knowledge of her true name, shows her a huge android robot believed to have been created in Laputa, and intimates that unless she co-operates with him in unlocking the crystal's secrets, which he believes can be used to physically locate Laputa, Pazu is likely to come to harm. Seeking to protect her friend, Sheeta tells Pazu that she has agreed to co-operate with Muska and asks him to forget her and Laputa. Stung by this apparent rejection, Pazu returns to his village, only to find Dola's pirate family occupying his home. Pazu tells Dola of his experiences; when the pirates learn that Sheeta, Muska, and the general will depart the fortress in search of Laputa aboard the gigantic military airship Goliath, Pazu begs Dola to take him with her.

In her tower, Sheeta recites a spell given by her grandmother, causing the crystal to emanate a light that points to Laputa. The spell also re-animates the robot, which wreaks havoc on the army base with its superior weaponry. The robot rescues Sheeta, demonstrating its loyalty, before it is destroyed by the Goliath. Pazu and Dola rescue Sheeta; she drops the pendant, which is then recovered by Muska.

The children and Dola's pirates pursue the Goliath aboard the pirate ship Tiger Moth, intent on finding Laputa before the Goliath does. That night, as Sheeta and Pazu stand watch on the crows nest, they talk at length about their respective lives, touching upon Sheeta's study of magic words and mentioning one such spell, the Spell of Destruction, a power Sheeta has never used. Dola, who is awake in bed, overhears their discussions through the intercom.

Amid their conversation, Pazu sees the Goliath rise from the clouds. The airship attacks, but the Tiger Moth escapes unharmed. The Tiger Moth enters a storm, and Dola tells the children to keep watch above the clouds by turning the crows nest into a glider. Soon a massive cloud becomes visible. Pazu recognizes it from his father's descriptions as Laputa's hiding place. As they try to find a way in, the Goliath attacks again and the glider Sheeta and Pazu are riding is blasted away from the pirate ship. The children land in Laputa, only to find the city devoid of human life, having only a single robot among the ruins taking care of the grounds. This robot is implied to be "friends" with small animals. In the grounds is a gargantuan tree, whose roots have pervaded Laputa's base.

The Goliath arrives at Laputa, whereupon the soldiers plunder the city's vast treasures. The Tiger Moth is found wrecked on the surface with Dola and the pirates being held captive. Pazu runs off to rescue Dola while Sheeta witnesses Muska locating a hidden entrance to a large sphere that surrounds the city's core; Sheeta is captured and taken inside. Pazu frees the pirates and, after many difficulties, finds another way into the sphere.

Muska takes Sheeta into Laputa's core, a chamber holding a gigantic Volucite/Aetherium crystal that serves as the city's power source, and reveals that he is also an heir to the throne of Laputa. He takes control of Laputa and all its technology and demonstrates the power of the city to the army by beaming a immensely powerful blast toward the surface. He then activates hundreds of robots to wipe out the army and the Goliath while Dola and the pirates hide from the robots inside the remains of the Tiger Moth. Sheeta frees herself, steals back the crystal and runs through the core with Muska in close pursuit. Eventually, she finds Pazu and passes the crystal to him.

Muska corners Sheeta in the city's throne room. Pazu arrives and asks for a moment to talk to her, which Muska grants. Together, the two children decide to use the Spell of Destruction; with a single word, the pendant releases an enormous power surge that triggers the collapse of the city's core. Muska is blinded and subsequently falls to his death. Sheeta and Pazu fall only to wake up among the roots of the giant tree. Afterwords they find their way back to the glider and leave Laputa.

The Dola pirates also survive Laputa's destruction aboard their moth fighters, and are overjoyed to be reunited with Sheeta and Pazu in midair. The pirates and the children bid each other a fond farewell and part ways. Meanwhile, the remains of Laputa, held together by the tree, continue to rise, until they apparently establish an orbit high above the earth.

Cast

Character Japanese original Original English dub Disney's English dub
Pazu Mayumi Tanaka Bertha Greene James Van Der Beek
Sheeta (Princess Lucita Toel Ul Laputa) Keiko Yokozawa Louise Chambell Anna Paquin
Dola Kotoe Hatsui Rachel Vanowen Cloris Leachman
Muska (Romska Palo Ul Laputa) Minori Terada Jack Witte Mark Hamill
Uncle Pom Fujio Tokita Fujio Tokita Richard Dysart
Shogun Mouro / General Ichiro Nagai Mark Richards Jim Cummings
Oyakata Hiroshi Ito
Boss Charles Wilson John Hostetter
Shalulu / Charles Takumi Kamiyama Bob Stuart Michael McShane
Lui / Louis Yoshito Yasuhara Daniel Morris Mandy Patinkin
Anli / Henri Sukekiyo Kameyama Ernest Fessler Andy Dick
Okami Machiko Washio
Old Engineer Ryuji Saikachi
Madge Tarako

Setting

The world in which the story takes place is clearly Earth, but apparently in an alternate history. None of the place names match real-life geography. The airships appear to use buoyant gas, but are different in appearance than actual dirigibles. The pirate flaptors and military planes do not resemble actual craft. The film takes place sometime between 1868 and 1900, as the photograph of Laputa inside Pazu's house, taken by his father, is dated "1868. 7,".

History

The history of this alternate world is hinted at in various parts of the film: Laputa, in ancient times, once dominated the world in a hegemony, presumably of other aerial cities (suggested by a woodcut-like piece in the opening credits or scenes), and may have had a rotor on its bottom and other rotors on its side. Land may have also been attached to Laputa in antiquity; possibly in a different time period than the one in which rotors were attached. Laputa was abandoned 700 years before the setting of the film, having controlled the manufacture and mining of the "sky-crystal"; such an art having been abandoned by the film's beginning. The royal family and their subjects abandoned the city, leaving behind an electronic, high-technology core topped by a chamber or greenhouse. There grew a central tree, which proceeded to sink its roots deep into the city and spread its branches outside of the city's top roof, along with several layers or terraces of walls or buildings done in various architectural styles. It is shown to have had at least three terraces of walls topped with one of buildings; it may have had as many as five, as indicated in a tomb marker's seal. This abandonment of Laputa, according to Sheeta and/or Uncle Pom, may have been due to an alienation of the Laputans from the earth; a forgetting that they are intimately connected to the earth and an over-reliance on technology to solve problems.

The opening part of the woodcut-like opening credits shows a windmill with a kiln behind it, set in a hillside, with a man tending it. Afterwards, the windmills grow into enormous, apparently partially wind-powered factories or machines, with machinery digging deep into the earth. Dirigibles appear, along with airplanes and helicopters or autogyros flying against a clouded cityscape. A giant helicopter-ship is shown rising into the air, and then a Laputa-like city appears, with rotors. Subsequently a scene of floating islands and cities appears. Enormous, boxy, metallic helicopter-ships are shown, having rotors propelling them from the bottom. Disaster strikes: lightning is shown and redness fills the screen. A sky-city can be seen, faintly, crumbling in the background, and then people are shown leaving the wreckage of a giant helicopter-ship.

European influence

Laputa is credited by Colonel Muska with having been behind Biblical events and sacred Hindu legends — thus tying the world of Laputa to our Earth (and to western European civilization) — as do the medieval castle architecture of parts of the fort on the ground; the Gothic and half-timbered buildings in the village near the fort; the British mining-town architecture, clothing, and even ground vehicles of Pazu's homeland; and the Victorian ambiance of the pirate ship.

The flying machines depicted in the opening scenes of the film are similar to Leonardo da Vinci's early drawings of a wooden helicopter.

Wales

Some of the architecture seen in the film was inspired by a Welsh mining town. Miyazaki first visited Wales in 1984 and witnessed the miners' strike firsthand. He returned to the country in 1986 to prepare for Laputa, which he said reflected his Welsh experience: "I was in Wales just after the miners’ strike. I really admired the way the miners’ unions fought to the very end for their jobs and communities, and I wanted to reflect the strength of those communities in my film. Miyazaki told The Guardian: "I admired those men, I admired the way they battled to save their way of life, just as the coal miners in Japan did. Many people of my generation see the miners as a symbol; a dying breed of fighting men. Now they are gone.

Distribution and reception

In the late 1980s, an English version of Laputa was briefly shown in the US by Streamline Pictures. This dub, produced for showing on international flights to Japan, was not produced by Streamline. According to Fred Patten of Streamline, "Streamline Pictures theatrically distributed an English-dubbed print of Laputa from March 24, 1989 for the next year, but Streamline never dubbed it. Streamline licensed Laputa from Tokuma Shoten in late 1988 or early 1989, and was sent a print from Japan that had already been dubbed into English for use as an in-flight film by Japan Air Lines on its trans-Pacific flights. We have no idea who actually dubbed it." Reportedly, Carl Macek was disappointed with this early dub, which is available only on the Japanese R2 DVD release.

The Disney-produced English dub was recorded in 1998 and planned for release on video in 1999, but Disney eventually decided to release it to theaters instead.

After Princess Mononoke flopped financially in the US, Laputa's release date was pushed back yet again; on occasion the completed dub was screened at select children's festivals. The film was finally released on DVD and video in the US on April 15 2003, alongside Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away. As with Mononoke and Kiki, critical opinion was mixed about the new dub, but Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill's performances as Dola and Muska drew nearly universal praise. Laputa was the second-best selling DVD from Studio Ghibli distributed by Disney in the year of its release (after Spirited Away and ahead of Kiki's Delivery Service).

The film currently holds a 92% "Fresh" rating at RottenTomatoes.com.

Title

English language dubs of Laputa has been released under three different titles by three separate distributors.

Although meaningless in Japanese, "Laputa" (La puta) translates to "the whore" in Spanish, which was probably intentional on the part of Swift, who created the concept in Gulliver's Travels. For this reason, in 2003, the film's title was shortened from Laputa: Castle in the Sky to Castle in the Sky in several countries, including the United States (where Spanish is commonly spoken as a first language by around 10% of the population or as a second language by students), Mexico, and Spain. This change was also carried over to a number of non-Spanish speaking countries, including Britain and France, under Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment label, despite Laputa having no meaning in either English or French (however the French "La pute" is quite close). Although "Laputa" was removed from the title, it appeared on the rear cover of the DVD, and was used throughout the film, without modification.

The film's full name was later restored in Britain, in February 2006, when Optimum Asia - a division of London-based Optimum Releasing - acquired the UK distribution rights to the Studio Ghibli collection.

Additionally, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the pre-Disney dub was screened in the UK, as an art-house film, under the alternative title Laputa: The Flying Island. It was also shown at least twice on British television, but some scenes were cut.

Differences between versions

Although the plot and much of the script was left intact, Disney's English dub of Laputa: Castle in the Sky contains some changes.

  • A significant quantity of background chatter and one-liners were added (even more so than in Disney's dub of Kiki's Delivery Service), filling in moments of silence and increasing the frenetic appearance of certain scenes.
  • Composer Joe Hisaishi was commissioned to rework and extend his original synthesizer-composed 37-minute soundtrack into a 90-minute piece for symphony orchestra in an effort to make the film more accessible to US audiences who are accustomed to a more substantial musical accompaniment.
  • Pazu and Sheeta, as portrayed by James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin, are made to sound as several years older, placing them in their mid-teens, rather than their pre-teens.
  • Several modifications were made to dialogue spoken to/about Sheeta by members of the Dola gang, including a declaration of love from one of the pirates. In the original Japanese version, the dialogue presented Sheeta as a potential mother figure for the pirates, instead of a potential romantic interest.
  • References to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island were removed, as was the reference to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

Although all these alterations were approved by Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki, there have been a number of critics and fans who called them into question. In particular, some fans pointed out that the new soundtrack placed music in scenes that previously involved the dramatic use of natural silence, as in the opening airship raid or when Pazu and Sheeta pass through the storm-cloud. On the other hand, Miyazaki himself is said to have approved of Hisaishi's reworking ; his compliments were echoed by several reviewers.

Trivia

Awards

  • Ofuji Award; Mainichi Movie Competition
  • First Place; Pia Ten (Best Films of the Year)
  • First Place; Japanese Movies; City Road
  • First Place; Japanese Movies; Eiga Geijyutsu (Movie Art)
  • First Place; Japanese Films Best 10; Osaka Film Festival
  • Eighth Place; Japanese Films; Kinema Junpo Best 10
  • Second Place; Readers' Choice; Kinema Junpo Best 10
  • Best Anime; 9th Anime Grand Prix
  • Special Recommendation; The Central Committee for Children's Welfare
  • Special Award (to Miyazaki & Takahata); Revival of Japanese Movies
  • Best Design Award; Anime

References

External links

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