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Howl's Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城 , Howl no Ugoku Shiro) is the 14th animated fantasy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, produced by Toshio Suzuki and animated by Studio Ghibli. It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival on September 5, 2004, and premiered in Toho cinemas in Japan on November 20, 2004.[1]

It is based on the 1986 novel of the same name (translated in Japan as The Wizard's Howl and the Devil of Fire) by British writer Diana Wynne Jones and is about a young milliner named Sophie, who is transformed into an old woman by a witch, and the wizard Howl.

The first half of the film is relatively faithful to the original novel, but the second half was changed completely during development, adding themes of war not present in the source material. The original author, Diana Wynne Jones' only request was that Miyazaki "not change Howl's character".[2] She later gave a positive impression of the film, saying it retained the same spirit as her original work.

Howl's Moving Castle had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2004, and was screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival on October 23, 2004.[3] It went on to gross ¥23.2 billion worldwide, making it one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The film received critical acclaim, particularly for its visuals and Miyazaki's presentation of the themes. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards, but lost to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, in 2006, and won several other awards, including four Tokyo Anime Awards and a Nebula Award for Best Script.

The film notably has Chieko Baisho, who voices Sophie, sing the theme song The Promise of the World, similar to Tokiko Kato who played Gina in Porco Rosso. The Ghibli Museum-exclusive animated short, The Day I Bought A Star, has ties to this film.

The film is available for streaming on Max, and purchasable on most digital storefronts.


A Chance Encounter[]

"Wow. He must have been a wizard then."
"But he was so kind to me. He rescued me, Lettie."
"Of course he did. He was trying to steal your heart! You are so lucky, Sophie. If that wizard were Howl, he would have eaten it."
"No, he wouldn't. Howl only does that to beautiful girls."
—Lettie and Sophie discussing her encounter with Howl
Sophie howl promo

Sophie walking across the sky with Howl.

Sophie, a needlewoman who works at her family's hat shop, is a responsible-yet-plain 18-year-old girl who goes to Cesari's café to visit her sister Lettie when she encounters by chance a mysterious wizard named Howl. This encounter arouses the evil Witch of the Waste, who later enters the hat shop and transforms Sophie into a 90-year-old woman. As the curse prevents her from telling anyone of her condition, Sophie decides to leave her home of Market Chipping and seek out a cure out in the waste.

The Indelible Curse[]

"You promise to help me if I help you?"
"I don't know, lady. Demons don't make promises."
"Then go find someone else."
"Come on! You should feel sorry for me! That spell keeps me stuck in this castle, and Howl treats me like I'm his slave. It burns me up. You gotta keep the water hot, the rooms warm, keep the castle moving. If you can figure out how to break this thing I'm in with Howl, then you can break my spell. After that, I can easily break the spell that's on you."
"All right, it's a deal."
—Sophie making a deal with Calcifer

Along the way, Sophie meets upon the hill the scarecrow Turnip Head. She passes the mysterious moving castle and enters it. At this point, she meets the enchanted fire demon named Calcifer, who powers the castle and recognizes that Sophie has been cursed. Calcifer offers to break the curse in exchange for Sophie's help in breaking the spell he's under, which keeps Calcifer bound to the house. She also meets Howl's young apprentice Markl.

When Howl appears, Sophie announces that she is the castle's new cleaning lady, hired by Calcifer because he was sick of how dirty the castle was.

Sophie's Choice[]

"Howl, why is the Witch of the Waste trying to hunt you down?"
"She was once quite beautiful, so I decided to pursue her. Then I realized she wasn't. So as usual, I ran away. I can't run much longer though. I have to report to the palace as both Pendragon and Jenkins." "How many aliases do you have anyway?"
"As many as I need to keep my freedom."
—Sophie asking Howl about Suliman
Howl Room

Howl hides in his room after being summoned by Madame Suliman. He sends Sophie in his stead.

Meanwhile, in Sophie's home country of Ingary, the beginning of a war has sparked against another neighboring town - following the disappearance of the other realm's Crown Prince. Slowly the war begins to creep into Sophie's country itself. Howl receives summons from the King, who orders his various assumed identities to fight in the war. However, Howl cowers in his bedroom and comes up with an idea to send Sophie to pose as his mother, announcing that he would be useless. At the palace in the capital of Kingsbury, Sophie runs into an asthmatic dog, Heen, who she thinks is Howl undercover. She also meets the Witch of the Waste, who rides on a palanquin carried by two blob men. Magical wards disintegrate the Witch's henchmen and she is forced to travel by foot. They begin to race up the stairs.

Confrontation with Suliman[]

"What on earth happened to you?"
"I just restored her to the age she actually is. All her powers are gone now. Once, she, too, was a magnificent sorcerer with so much promise. But then she fell prey to a demon of greed who slowly consumed her, body and soul. Our kingdom can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to these disreputable witches and wizards. If Howl reports to me and vows to use his magic to serve the kingdom, I will show him how to break from his demon. If not, I'll strip him of all his powers. Just like her."
—Sophie asking Suliman about the Witch of the Waste and Howl's fate
Howl Suliman

Madame Suliman and her servant Kosho and his siblings, who look suspiciously like Howl.

Once they are inside the castle, Heen and Suliman's servant Kosho lead Sophie to the greenhouse while the Witch of The Waste finds herself a place to sit down - only to find her magical powers drained by Suliman as a punishment. This causes her to regress into a harmless old woman with few memories of her past actions. Suliman tells Sophie that Howl will meet the same fate if he does not contribute to the war. As Sophie vehemently protests these measures, the Witch's spell temporarily weakens due to the love in her words. This causes Sophie to change briefly to her younger self, then regress to her older persona. Madame Suliman realizes Sophie's true relation to Howl and her romantic feelings towards him. Howl then arrives to rescue Sophie, Suliman tries to entrap Howl by summoning star children and revealing his monstrous form, but with Sophie's help, they escape. Howl suggests drawing their pursuers away as Sophie make her way back to the castle. He offers her a magic ring which would help guide her back safely.

Love of War[]

"Howl? Howl, is that you? Are you in pain? Tell me what's happening."
"Go away."
"No, I'm not going away. I'm going to help you break the spell that you're under."
"You... You can't even break your own spell."
"But you don't understand. I love you."
"You're too late."
"Howl! No!"
—Sophie confronting Howl in his dream

Howl and his makeshift family.

Sophie learns that Howl is able to transform into a bird-like creature to interfere in the war, but each transformation makes it more difficult for him to return to human form. Howl, in an attempt to appease Sophie, transforms a part of the castle's into her old home by the hat shop, and even shows her a secret garden he used to stay in his childhood. Sophie fears that Howl is preparing to leave them, as his remaining time as a human is limited, and he returns to interfering in the war. Sophie's mother Honey shows up under Suliman's control and leaves behind a bag containing a "peeping bug" under her orders. The former Witch of the Waste discovers it and promptly destroys the bug by tossing it into Calcifer who gets sick, rendering him unable to conceal the castle.

Howl Birb

Howl leads Sophie to safety after their home is bombed.

A few hours later, the city is carpet-bombed by enemy aircraft while Suliman's Blob men invade the hat shop. After arriving just in time to protect the shop from the bombing, Howl draws the guards away after healing Calcifer. He tells Sophie he is not going to run away anymore because he has something he wants to protect before leaving to interfere with the war. Deducing that Howl must be saved, Sophie moves everyone out of the castle and removes Calcifer from the fireplace, destroying the castle. She offers Calcifer some of her braided hair to give him enough strength to power a portion of the castle. They head toward Howl when the former Witch of the Waste discovers Howl's heart within Calcifer. Sophie pours water on Calcifer to make her let go of the heart, making Calcifer lose his power. The segment of the castle splits, and she and Heen fall down a chasm.

The Boy Who Drank Stars[]

"I feel terrible, like there's a weight on my chest."
"A heart's a heavy burden."
"Wow! Sophie, your hair looks just like starlight."
"It's beautiful."
—Howl waking up upon seeing Sophie
Sophie and the crew

The war is over, and Calcifer returns to his friends.

Using her magic ring, Sophie makes her way toward Howl's heart, and enters through the door into Howl's childhood. She stumbles into his old cottage and looks upon his old things. Outside the marshlands, she sees dozens of falling stars vanish as they land on the earth. She then sees Howl and Calcifer meet: Howl eats Calcifer, who gains his heart. Sophie finds Howl, having now lost his human consciousness in bird form. They head back to the group, and Sophie asks the Witch for Howl's heart. She gives it to her and places the heart back in Howl, resurrecting him and freeing Calcifer. She kisses the scarecrow who reveals that he is actually the missing prince. Heen shows the scene of their happy end to Suliman, and the war is finally over. Howl, Sophie, and the others return home from the end of the war, flying high above the bomber planes in a moving house.


Howl (ハウル , Hauru)
Takuya Kimura (Japanese), Christian Bale (English)
The protagonist of this tale. A pretty young man, Howl was rumored to eat the hearts of beautiful women. He travels throughout the land of Ingary via a magical moving castle. According to Suliman, he was a talented wizard who would've succeeded her in court, but Howl abruptly left due to his immaturity and cowardly nature. He hid himself and went under various pseudonyms such as Jenkins and Pendragon. He lived a somewhat wretched life away from society, but grew to be more humane thanks to Sophie. Howl came under contract with the fire demon Calcifer in his youth, which further increased his magical powers. However, his constant use of demonic powers proved to be dangerous, and Suliman would later warn him that he may become a demon himself. Howl happens to have a long deceased uncle who left a hidden flower garden on his study in his old cottage.
Although Howl began as a blonde, he fell into a deep depression upon seeing Sophie's cleaning which dissolved some of his magic, turning his hair black. He eventually recovered, and kept his new black hair. Whenever Howl flies to the battlefield, he transforms into a huge black swallow that possesses his human face.
Sophie Hatter (ソフィー・ハッター, Sofī Hattā)
Chieko Baisho (Japanese), Emily Mortimer (young), Jean Simmons (old) (English)
Another protagonist of this tale. The eldest daughter of three sisters. She's eighteen years old and works as a needlewoman at her family's store, the "Hatter's Hat Shop", which was originally managed by her father.
She is transformed into a 90-year-old old woman by the curse of the Witch of the Waste and would later become the cleaning lady of Howl aboard his moving castle. She develops romantic feelings for Howl, who himself develops into a positive and bold character.
Unlike her prettier and more popular sister Lettie she appears plain and more subservient. After turning into an old woman, she slowly gains confidence in herself. She originally possesses brown hair, but after being cursed, her hair becomes "stained by the light of the star" according to Howl. Sophie herself does not notice her age changes depending on her emotional state.
In the original Japanese version, Sophie is played solely by Chieko Baisho. In the English, French and Spanish dubbed versions, the voice actors for her role were cast separately.
Witch of the Waste (荒地の魔女, Arechi no Majo)
Akihiro Miwa (Japanese), Lauren Bacall (English)
A witch who had been exiled from the royal palace to the wastelands after making a contract with a demon fifty years before the events of the film began. She dresses in opulent jewelry and black fur and carries herself much like a wealthy woman. She moves around using a palanquin due to her corpulent figure and aversion to sunlight.
Her singular goal is to take Howl's heart. She is also obsessed with youth and beauty and boasts strong magical powers. She holds a grudge against Suliman who exiled her from the royal palace. Her magical powers are taken away from a power exposure to light, and her true form is revealed to be a senile old woman.
Calcifer (カルシファー , Karushifā)
Tatsuya Gashuin (Japanese), Billy Crystal (English)
The fire demon who signed a contract with Howl. He received his heart and in return, gave the young wizard incredible magical powers. He also bound himself to a magical moving castle. Additionally according to their contract, Calcifer's life is directly linked to Howl's. Calcifer plots with Sophie to find a way to break their pact so he could be free. However, he feared Howl was abusing his new demonic-fueled power and hoped breaking their contract would save him from further corruption.
Calcifer's character hardly differs from the original novel, although in the original cover, he is lit in a blue flame.
Markl (マルクル , Marukuru)
Ryūnosuke Kamiki (Japanese), Josh Hutcherson (English)
Howl's disciple. A young boy that appears to be around 8-10 years old. He wears a magical cloak which disguises him as a petite old man a long mustache whenever he goes out or deals with customers. He refers to Howl with the "san" honorific whenever they converse. When he first meets Sophie, he behaves like an adult, but gradually shows his childish nature. He hates potatoes and fish.
He was originally a 15-year-old boy named Michael in the novel.
Turnip Head (Prince Justin) (カブ , Kabu)
Yō Ōizumi (Japanese), Crispin Freeman (English)
A scarecrow with turnip as a head . He is saved by Sophie after his head gets caught in a bush in the outskirts of the wastelands, and he later becomes a resident of a moving castle. He cannot speak, but gets along by hopping around. Sophie kisses him, revealing his true form to be a beautiful prince of the neighboring country. He explains he was turned into a scarecrow, possibly by Suliman. He promises peace between the two warring kingdoms, and hops away on his magical stick, possibly indicating he is a wizard.
Hayao Miyazaki initially rejected the idea of the curse being lifted, but was eventually convinced by Ghibli video checking staff Hitomi Tateno.
Suliman (サリマン , Sariman)
Haruko Kato (Japanese), Blythe Danner (English)
Howl's former master, also known as Madame Suliman. She's an old, silver-haired witch on a wheelchair who heads the kingdom's magic academy and serves the royal family's court. An intelligent and seemingly gentle woman, who possesses far greater magical power than Howl. She's the true power behind the kingdom of Ingary, and was never completely in favor of the war. As it becomes clearer towards the finale of the film that their kingdom was being bombed into ruin, she decides to end the war upon contacting her agent, Heen.
The royal wizard in the original story is a completely different character named Ben Sullivan.
Heen (ヒン , Hin)
Daijiro Harada (Japanese)
Suliman's familiar, under the guise of a family dog. He's asked to meet Howl on the courtyard and later forces Sophie to take him across a long flight of stairs. His unusual weight implies he may be a wizard in disguise. His legs closely resemble a bird's. He later appears before Suliman to report that Howl and Sophie had a "happy ending".
Heen's model is possibly based on Hayao Miyazaki's old acquaintance, the director Mamoru Oshii.

Mechanical Designs[]

Moving Castle[]

Howl Castle

Howl's castle, traveling across the wastelands.

Wizard Howl's home. Its scale changes from scene to scene, and its weight is unknown. There are multiple turrets on the top and turret-like structures in the front, but film gives no indications that they fire. It moves around the wasteland with four bird-like legs. To the naked eye, it appears more like a collection of junk and a living creature than a traditional “castle”.

Few know the precise location of the castle, but eyewitnesses claim to have seen it pass by several towns from time to time.

Howl Door

The castle's main doorway and its magical rotary switch.

There is a rotary switch connected to the main doorway, with four colors (green, blue, red, black). Using the switch and entering the doorway will transport you to either the wastelands (green), Porthaven (blue), Kingsbury (red), and a battlefield (black). Later in the film, the order of destinations is changed to green, yellow, pink, black, with yellow becoming the town where Sophie was born and pink becoming Howl's secret garden.

The fire demon Calcifer supplies all the energy to the castle, which supports its basic functions such as walking, lighting, cooking and bathing.

Howl Furnace

Concept sketches of the living room, along with Calcifer's chimney.

Calcifer's magic also holds the castle's structure together. If he so happens to leave of the castle, the entire construct would collapse in an instant. Towards the end of the film, the castle collapses due to Sophie and the Witch of the Waste dousing Calcifer with water. The castle is eventually rebuilt into a flying monstrosity.

The castle's animation was inspired by a weaving machine in motion, and moved along with a heavy, creaking sound. Staff at Studio Ghibli were of the opinion that that it would be unpleasant to use metallic sounds while it was in motion, so they opted to use the squeaking sound of wood to express the castle's weight. They called on a local carpenter to the studio, assembled the building materials, and kneaded and captured various sounds that were rubbed, moved, and broken. The castle's sound design and movement was finalized in three to four months.

Ground and Naval Transportation[]

Much of the film's land and naval transportation uses steam engines. In bustling towns, steam cars, steam tractors and steam trams can be seen, which wasn't the case in reality as the use of diesel engines took over. Naval battleships were used during the war, with one fleet seen leaving the harbor city of Porthaven.

A steam locomotive can also be seen in the opening of the film that travels under Sophie's home.


Magical Bombers

Fixed wing bombers from the rival kingdom.

Much of the flapping-type flight machines widely used throughout the film were inspired by 19th century French artist Alberta Robida's work. Several types of these flapping-type warships operated in both kingdoms and its neighboring territories. Large aerial bombers are used in fleet combat and are seen bombing cities as well. Neighboring countries also operated massive fixed-wing bombers. The propulsion for these warships, such as the flying battleship is mainly covered by small moving wings fixed on the ship's hull, while propeller engines are hardly used. Many of the massive airships seen are also mainly used for military and not civilian use.

A small, two-seater "flying kayak", also makes appearance. They are mainly used by the military, although ordinary people are seen giving it a test-ride outside the palace's entrance in Kingsbury.


Changing One's Heart[]

Lake Stars

Sophie finds peace in old age.

According to French fansite Buta Connection, the film's message, "behind an apparent simplicity, is much more complex than it appears. From a simple approach to old age, we can then read several levels of reflection around appearances, pretenses and masks. In fact, Sophie is the emblematic character of this theme. She initially appears in a youthful guise, but her stepmother Honey calls her far too serious for a young girl."

"After the initial shock of her metamorphosis by the Witch of the Waste, she gets used to her new body very quickly, despite her face being hollowed out with wrinkles. This curse is therefore more a burden, and gradually, Sophie adopts this tired body and deals with it pretty well, as seen in the scene with her and Markl by Star Lake, since it corresponds to his state of mind: "I don't think I have never known such peace.”

"But sometimes, at key moments, Sophie lifts the spell and becomes a beautiful young girl again. When she passionately defends the young wizard, when she confesses her love to him in her dreams, or when she sleeps, others can see her in her juvenile form. But the slightest doubt, the slightest fear brings her back to her old woman's body: she confides to Howl. As she explains in a fit of anger, she feels ugly, and one can think that her appearance of an old woman thus comforts her in her vision. By accepting her beauty, her love for Hauru, she will break the spell and can finally become this beautiful young girl with whom Howl is in love.'

The Symbol of Stars[]

Star Child Concept

Concept sketch of the star children.

According to French fansite Buta Connection, "throughout the film, Miyazaki also leaves a common thread: the star. They appears early on in the film, when Sophie arrives in the castle. She gives Howl a small piece of paper which turns out to be a curse. We realize that it is a shooting star. Later, Suliman will attempt to trap Howl by casting a spell on him, which takes the form of a round of shooting stars encircling the wizard and Sophie. Then, our heroine will discover the key to this riddle: Calcifer was a demon in the form of a shooting star, with whom Howl will make a pact. This discovery will forever mark Sophie, whose hair will remain gray, like the color of the star, as if the discovery of the enigma were to mark her forever."

Eat Star

Howl makes a pact with Calcifer, a demon in the form of a star.

"We understand then that the Witch of the Waste has always known Howl's curse too, hence her message and her interest in Calcifer. This symbolism of the star is one of the recurring themes of the story's universe: the three wise men and the polar star, the myth of Castor and Pollux turning into a star, The Little Prince. But in Howl's Moving Castle, Miyazaki once again reverses the symbolism. Where usually the star evoked hope, the fulfillment of a wish, the miracle, the star here becomes a curse, a powerful spell which pursues Howl throughout the work, and which will mark Sophie forever."

The Happy Ending[]

According to Buta Connection, "the most striking fact of the film remains this strange, abrupt happy ending, this semblance of "they married and lived happily ever after"! This is the first time Miyazaki has fully assumed a romantic relationship between the lead characters. But it's also probably the only time its ending seems so idyllic, stereotypical and definitive. Usually we know that, with an open ending, Miyazaki leaves it up to the spectator to imagine any follow-up to his adventure. But looking more closely at the end of Howl's Moving Castle, we can look at a few elements that can qualify this point of view."

Howl 050

The film's idyllic and definitive happy ending, uncommon to see in a film by Hayao Miyazaki.

"First of all, Suliman's disconcerting attitude seems to send us a message: this terrible war is in fact only a simple battle of ego of sorcerers who play with their subjects like vulgar pawns. Suliman getting tired of this game, she decides to stop this apocalyptic war like a child stopping his game of Monopoly. The message is therefore much stronger than the apparent casualness with which Miyazaki seems to treat the subject."

Then that final kiss and that idyllic vision of the little family aboard Howl's flying castle may confuse viewers. Such an easy and predictable happy ending is uncommon for the veteran director. However, as the credits roll, the final song gives some insight to the director's intent:

[...] Even now alone,
I remember our yesterday together,
Today still shines brightly

From the day we met
In my memories, you don't belong anywhere
Come as a gentle breeze to graze my cheek

Even after our separation,
At a time when the sun was disappearing in the trees
The promise of the world is not broken at all
Even now alone,
My tomorrows are endless
Because, you taught me, sweetness hides in the night [...]

"The outcome with the idyllic message is tinted with a new and strange nostalgia: What future then for our characters? Will an event separate Howl and Sophie? Would their love be threatened?"

Behind the Scenes[]


Hosada Howl

Rejected storyboards by Mamoru Hosoda which may have possible set the film in the modern era.

Every month, publisher Tokuma Shoten sent Hayao Miyazaki a children's book every month. One of those books happened to be Diana Wynne Jones' original novel, which intrigued Miyazaki, who then decided to adapt it into a feature-length animated film.[4]

In 2000, animator Mamoru Hosoda, who worked at Toei Animation at that time, decided to become a director and was invited by Studio Ghibli to adapt the novel. Howl's Moving Castle would have been Hosoda's debut as a director, and he was given Miyazaki's blessing, as the elder director had grown to love the young talent's work. A production team was formed, which included screenwriter Reiko Yoshida and animation director Katsuya Kondō.

Howl Novels

Howl's Moving Castle Tankobon Hardcover edition. The first volume was published by Tokuma Shoten on May 1, 1997.[5]

Studio Ghibli originally planned to release Howl's Moving Castle simultaneously with The Cat Returns (2002), which was tentatively called Baron at that time. In April 2001, the first draft for the scenario was completed, and on December 13th of the same year, Toho announced that the film would be released in the spring of 2003.[6] Early concept work by Hosoda showed that the film would have taken place in modern times.

However, in spring of 2002, the project was abandoned and Hosoda, along with his production staff, parted ways with Studio Ghibli. The internal staff at Ghibli were initially confused as to why production had ceased, and Hosoda later cited he was sacked by the legendary studio. Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki never gave a clear answer as to his departure.


Markl Mess

The film featured exquisitely drawn food, a staple in Studio Ghibli films.

On October 1, 2002, production restarted, this time with Hayao Miyazaki as the director.[7] Hosoda was shocked and upset by these turn of events, but later recalled, "I think I was too young at the time". It had been rumored that Hosoda's version of "Howl's Moving Castle" was kept somewhere at Ghibli, but Hosoda remained vague when interviewed regarding this.

On December 13, 2002, Toho announced that Howl's Moving Castle would be released in the summer of 2004.[8] Storyboard drawing began on February 1, 2003, and production was scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2004.

Robida Howl

French illustrator and novelist Albert Robida's work is a constant source of inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki.

Under the advice of the Walt Disney French distributor of Spirited Away, Miyazaki discovered the town of Colmar, in Alsace, France, and was struck by its architecture.[9]. During the trip, the team notably visited the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle and observed the work of local craftsmen such as hats and blacksmiths. Diana Wynne Jones approved of the choice of such an aesthetic bias, “I've never been to Alsace, but I've heard that there are landscapes straight out of a fairy tale."

To amplify this French atmosphere, Miyazaki took inspiration from French illustrator and novelist Albert Robida (1848-1926). This rival of Jules Verne projected his visions of the future through novels such as The Twentieth Century, where zany romanticism and technical rigor are mixed, which also figure in Miyazaki's films.

Howl's titular castle, which was barely described in the original novel, was conceptualized by Miyazaki as being made entirely of scrap iron, walkways, and has a gaping mouth spewing steam. The design is reminiscent of the creations of Jean Tinguely, a 20th-century Swiss sculptor artist.

Castle Movie

Howl's castle is broken down into several components to be pieced together for final animation.

This technical challenge in animating the castle was be taken up by the team of graphic designers. The painted design is first scanned on a computer before it is broken down into several components and then pieced back together like a mosaic using Adobe Photoshop. The drawing will therefore be divided into a multitude of small fragments: the smaller the pieces, the more precise the rendering of the texture set in motion.

Finally, with the Softimage software, the parts are assembled on a base polygon, paying careful attention to their order of superposition. Once the elements are in place, it is animated as a whole. In order to make the movement of the castle as realistic as possible, the graphic designers took inspiration from a full hiker bag with hanging utensils. The base polygon of the castle must make the superimposed elements move slightly offset. The castle then appeared asymmetrical, where Westerners are more accustomed to symmetrically designed buildings.

Howl Colmar

Miyazaki, Steve Alpert, and several others traveled to Colmar in Alsace, France for location research.

As for the legs, several versions were made, such as human legs but the final design used bird's legs. Another question arose, how many legs would the castle have? The crew settled for four, as according to producer Toshio Suzuki, it was 'more practical (and cheaper) to draw'.

On January 7, 2004, Toho suddenly announced they were delaying the film's release due to Miyazaki not completing the film's storyboards and even increasing the film's length. This was the first time for Miyazaki decided to postpone the release of his films due to production delays. On June 25, the in-between animation was completed and checking was completed on June 26. Toho announced the film would be released on November 20, 2004.

In February 2004, a sticker-collecting advertising campaign was held by convenience store chain Lawson, with a special mug as a prize. Heen the dog appeared on this special prize, known as Innocence Howl's Moving Castle Mug Present.[10] A similar promotional campaign would also be utilized in later Ghibli films.


Howl Cast

Akihiro Miwa and Chieko Baisho together during the film's premiere.

Veteran actress Chieko Baisho voiced both the young and old versions of Sophie in the film when she was 63 years old. Baisho started out as a singer in 1962 and became well known for playing the role of Sakura in the long-running film series Otoko wa Tsurai yo, commonly known as Tora-San, which ran from 1969 to 1995. Takuya Kimura, a popular singer / male idol in Japan, was responsible for voicing Howl. At the time, Johnny & Associates agency, the producers of Kimura, had immense pressure over the entire Japanese audiovisual landscape and imposed his casting on Miyazaki. As for the role of the Witch of the Waste, the actor-singer-trans activist Akihiro Miwa was chosen since the character was conceived. Lastly, Ryûnosuke Kamiki was chosen for Markl and Tatsuya Gashûin was cast as Calcifer. Both actors respectively played the baby Boh and the green frog in Spirited Away.

Ultimately, this desire to use actors and singers — and often well-known ones at that — over voice actors in Ghibli films does appear to satisfy both the creative desires of Miyazaki as director and promotional needs of Suzuki as producer.

In the interview, given to the Guardian in 2005 ahead of the U.K. premiere of Howl’s Moving Castle, Miyazaki was commenting on the foreign actors cast for the movie's dubbed version. When the discussion turned to Lauren Bacall, who voiced the Witch of the Waste for the English-language dub, Miyazaki spoke approvingly, describing her as a “a fabulous woman”. He then went on to say, “All the Japanese female voice actors have voices that are very coquettish and wanting male attention, which was not what we wanted at all.”[11]

Sound Mixing[]

In October 2003, after animation was completed, Studio Ghibli's sent a team to Europe to record ambient sounds. Since the film took place in an imaginary 19th century, Miyazaki insisted on authentic and "pure" sounds. The team faced numerous challenges recording pristine sounds devoid of electrical interference. In particular, they recorded the sounds of footsteps, then of horse-drawn carriages on traditional cobbled roads as well as ambient sounds of cafes and streets in France.


Howl Circus

Howl's Moving Castle Large Circus Exhibition took place from April 27 to August 31, 2005, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. It then moved to the Osaka Nanko ATC Museum from March 18 to April 16, 2006.[12]

Several Howl related promotional events and exhibitions were held to commemorate the film. The first was the Howl's Moving Castle Grand Circus Exhibition that was held from April 27 to August 31, 2005, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.[13] The exhibit inside included a large mockup of a real life circus, with Howl's castle as the centerpiece, while outside featured a large balloon playground of Howl's castle and French street performers.[14] The entrance fee was 1,000 yen for adults, 800 yen for high-school students, and 500 yen for children. Tickets could be purchased at any Lawson convenience store, as they were a sponsor for the film.

On July 21, 2004, the popular department chain Nihombashi Mitsukoshi held a commemoration event called "Castle exhibition where Howl moves" at the 7th floor entertainment hall. It featured a large-scale model of Howl's castle, and recreations of the "Lake of stars" and "World of Darkness" and many more. The exhibit was held until August 1, 2004. The display was remarked on the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on July 16. Admissions for adults and university students cost 500 yen while junior high school children cost 300 yen. Many children were reportedly in attendance.[15]

Ginza Howl

Photographs of the Howl display at Ginza Matsuzakaya.

Yet another Howl's exhibit was held from December 23, 2004, to January 10, 2005, this time at Ginza Matsuzakaya department store. Several Howl related merchandise were sold at the exhibit, although pictures were not allowed to be taken. A virtual event for the film was held on November 3, 2004, at the building of Nippon Television Network Corporation in Shiodome. The opening ceremony was held at the large roof plaza. The model of Howl's castle from the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo exhibit was later moved here for the special summer event called GO!GO! SHIODOME (July 17th to August 31th of 2004).

On the August,16, 2004, Joe Hisaishi and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra performed several classic Ghibli themes, including those from the film at Minatomirai hall in Yokohama City. The evening newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun covered the event on June 12, 2004.[16]

Release and Reception[]

→ See Howl's Moving Castle/Release

→ See Wikipedia

Howl's Moving Castle 4k

One of several release posters for the film.

After several high-profile newspaper announcements promoting the film's success abroad at the Venice International Film Festival, not to mention the controversy surrounding the casting of Takuya Kimura, Toshio Suzuki successfully lobbied for the The film to premiere on 450 screens across Japan.[17] The film was a smash hit, selling nearly 1.1 million tickets on its second day of release. It generated 1.48 billion yen in the box office, which was the highest opening of any Japanese movie in history at that time. By May 1, 2005, the film went on to sell 15 million tickets or a box office revenue of 19.6 billion yen, making it the number one box office champion of 2004 and 2005. It is considered the second largest box office earner in Ghibli history after Spirited Away. As of May 2007, nearly 2.7 million units were sold on home video.

The film received several accolades abroad, such as the Osella Award at the 61st Venice International Film Festival and the Best Animation Award of the New York Film Critics Association the following year. In addition to being nominated for the feature film section of the 33rd Annie Award, which is said to be the Academy Award for Animation, it was also nominated for the 78th Academy Award since Spirited Away. In 2008, it was voted among the best 500 movies in history by the Empire magazine. The film ranked at #46 in the British magazine's 2011 Total Film "best animated movie" category.

Upon its first TV broadcast on July 21, 2006, it had a record high audience rating of 32.9% (video research, Kanto area survey).

Howl Takuya

The decision to cast Takuya Kimura due to pressure from his agency proved controversial at the time.

Acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii praised the film for drawing out the dark side in Hayao Miyazaki for the first time. The story is an "unreasonable but mature expression." Despite its box office success, reviews were initially mixed in Japan as some critics disliked its illogical and clichéd plotting. Others faulted the film as being Studio Ghibli's first "stumble" after a string of critical successes. The film also met some controversy in its casting of Takuya Kimura to play the titular Howl. Many critics have judged his performance below the quality expected for a Ghibli. Meanwhile, Miyazaki himself was dissatisfied with the film's critical response locally and abroad, as audiences in Europe favored the Japanese setting of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

When Miyazaki announced his early retirement at the time, he was asked which was his favorite work thus far. He immediately replied, "I wouldn't say it's my favorite, but Howl's Moving Castle is a thorn that has stuck in me for years."

Advertising Copy[]

The film's various posters and advertising featured short phrases, translated here.

  • "The two lived." (Shigesato Itoi)
  • "The castle moves."
  • "The joy of living."
  • "Loving joy."
  • "The heroine is a 90-year-old girl."
  • "My lover is a weakling wizard."


Howl's Moving Castle (Image Album) (イメージ交響組曲ハウルの動く城 , Hauru no Ugoku Shiro Imeeji Arubamu) was a 10-track album released by Tokuma Japan Communications on January 21, 2004. It was composed by Joe Hisaishi and performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

Howl's Moving Castle (OST) (サウンドトラック , Hauru no Ugoku Shiro) was released by Tokuma Japan Communications on November 19, 2004. The score was composed and conducted by Joe Hisaishi, and performed by the New Japan Philharmonic.

Hisaishi stated he was influenced by famed composer Nino Rota's score for Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. Other influences could be traced to French director Marcel Albert Carné's work. The soundtrack CD was first released on November 19, 2004, by Tokuma Japan Communications. Hisaishi also composed and conducted a special "Image Album" called Howl's Moving Castle: Symphony Suite, which was published on January 21, 2004.

Easter Eggs & Trivia[]

Howl's Moving Castle - Pazu - Easter Egg
  • As elder Sophie leaves Howl's shop, a boy pass the shop. He looks like Pazu from Castle in the Sky. He is seen again in Market Chipping, when Sophie leaves her home town. He sits next to a man on a cart with straw on it.
  • One of the boxes in the bakery is dated "1877", implying the film takes place in the late-19th century.
  • Miyazaki original wanted to call the film "Howl's Ugoku Castle", but this was "forcibly" rejected by producer Toshio Suzuki.
  • Mamoru Hosoda was originally supposed to direct the film, but dropped out due to creative differences.
  • Upon seeing Spirited Away, Christian Bale immediately agreed to play any role in this film. He didn't expect to get the titular role.
  • Hayao Miyazaki and Lauren Bacall, both long-time fans of each other's work, met at a subtitled screening in New York. Reportedly, Bacall jokingly asked Miyazaki if he was married.
  • Sophie's hometown was modeled after Colmar, France, although many signs are in German. This may be due to how the setting of the film is somewhere in-between the borders of France and Germany.
  • Although the film was not released in the United Kingdom until 23 September 2005, director Hayao Miyazaki personally traveled to England in the summer of 2004 to give a private showing of the film to Diana Wynne Jones.
  • In the novel by Diane Wynne Jones, Markl's character is actually named Michael.
  • Shortly after the film's release, it was subject to a short 2005 documentary, Ghibli: The Miyazaki Temple.
  • The film's second half was changed somewhat due to Miyazaki's opposition to the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • At the end of the movie, the words "Happy End" appear.
  • A small replica of Howl's castle was built in Asahikawa, Hokkaido.


In the world of wizards and witches, everything is possible. Maybe the goofs were added on purpose.

The Magic Ring[]


When Sophie and Howl flee from Blobbmen for the first time in the film, they fly to Chezarys where Lettie works. Howl's rings vanished and appeared again. It happens two times during the fly.

Cursed Clothing[]

Sophie in old clothing

The Witch of the Waste cursed Sophie who becomes an old lady. Her body shape and size changed. So her clothes from her young age wouldn't fit her, but she elects to wear the same clothes. It was shown visually in Porthaven Marshes where Howl shows Sophie his secret garden.

Escape from the Royal Palace[]


When Sophie and her companions escape from the palace and finally reach Howl's Castle, Sophie wears lilac/purple/lavender/mauve/rose/pink/rosy clothes. In the next scene, the colour changes into blue.

Voice Cast[]

Character Original English
Sophie Chieko Baisho Jean Simmons (old)
Emily Mortimer (young)
Howl Takuya Kimura Christian Bale
Witch of the Waste Akihiro Miwa Lauren Bacall
Calcifer Tatsuya Gashuin Billy Crystal
Markl Ryūnosuke Kamiki Josh Hutcherson
Suliman Haruko Katō Blythe Danner
Lettie Hatter Kayako Tsuzuki Jena Malone
Honey Mayuno Yasokawa Mari Devon
Turnip Head Yo Oizumi Crispin Freeman
Madge Rio Kanno Liliana Mumy
King of Ingary Akio Otsuka Mark Silverman
Heen Daijirō Harada

Additional Voices[]


Credit Staff
Director, Screenplay Hayao Miyazaki
Animation Director Akihiko Yamashita, Takeshi Inamura, Kitaro Kosaka
Key Animation Atsuko Tanaka, Ai Kagawa, Kenichi Yamada, Hideaki Yoshio, Eiji Yamamori, Kazuyoshi Onoda, Makiko Suzuki, Mariko Matsuo, Atsushi Tamura, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Masashi Okumura, Masashi Yokota, Masaru Matsuse, Makiko Niki, Seiko Shinohara, Kondo. Katsuya, Sugino Sachiko, Yamakawa Hiroomi, Awada Tsutomu, Takeuchi Nobuyuki, Kimishima Shigeru, Masuda Hiroshi, Ohsugi Yoshihiro, Hashimoto Takashi, Masuda Toshihiko, Yazaki Kenji, Tanaka Yuichi, Hamasu Hideki, Ohira Shinya, Konishi Kenichi, Shigeta, Atsushi Yamada, Shinji Otsuka
In-Between Animation Akihiko Adachi, Akiko Teshima, Akiko Toba, Akira Hosogaya, Alexandra Weihrauch, Atsuko Matsushita, Ayako Mori, Ayano Suzuki,

Chikako Sasagawa, Daisuke Furuya, Daisuke Makino, Emiko Iwayanagi, Fumie Konno, Hideo Nakamura, Hiroaki Nakajima, Hiromi Nishikawa, Hiromi Sasaki, Hisako Yaji, Jinko Tsuji, Kaori Itou, Kaori Tokunaga, Katsutoshi Nakamura, Keiko Tomizawa, Keisuke Shimohira, Kimitoshi Ueno, Kiyoko Makita, Kumiko Ohta, Kumiko Tanihira, Kumiko Terada, Kunitoshi Ishii, Mai Nakazato, Makoto Oohara, Masakiyo Yamashita, Masako Sakano, Masako Sato, Masami Nakanishi, Masashi Karino, Masayuki Shimizu, Maya Fujimori, Mayumi Kitamura, Mayumi Ohmura, Minoru Ohashi, Mitsu Noguchi, Moyo Takahashi, Osamu Miwa, Rie Kondo, Rie Yamamoto, Saho Saito, Satoe Usui, Seiko Higashi, Setsuya Tanabe, Shinichiro Yamada, Shunsuke Hirota, Sumie Iwata, Sumie Nishido, Takahito Sugawara, Takefumi Hiramatsu, Tetsuaki Matsuda, Tomoko Miyata, Tsutomu Kaichi, Tsutomu Shibutani, Waka Hirota, Yasuyuki Kitazawa, Yayoi Toki, Yohei Nakano, Yoshie Hayashi, Yoshitake Iwakami, Yukari Umebayashi, Yukari Yamaura, Yukie Kaneko, Yukiko Kakinuma, Yukinobu Yamada, Yumiko Kitajima, Yumiko Suehiro, Yuuko Fujita, Yuuko Sasaki

Digital Paint Akane Kumakura, Akihiro Oyama, Akiko Shimizu (T2 Studio), Fumie Kawamata (T2 Studio), Fumino Okura (T2 Studio), Haruna Kiryu (T2 Studio), Hiroaki Ishii, Hiroko Otsuki (Trace Studio M), Hiromi Takahashi, Hiroshi Iijima (T2 Studio), Junko Kanauchi (Trace Studio M), Kanako Takahashi (T2 Studio), Kiyoko Saitou, Kumi Nanjo (T2 Studio), Naomi Mori, Rie Okada, Ryuji Uchida (T2 Studio), Youko Fujioka, Yuki Yokoyama (T2 Studio), Yukie Tanaka
Background Artists Junichi Taniguchi, Junko Ina, Kazuo Nagai, Kazuo Oga, Keiko Itogawa, Kikuyo Yano, Masahiro Kubota, Masako Nagata, Masatoshi Kai, Mitsuo Yoshino, Naomi Kasugai, Naoya Tanaka, Osamu Masuyama, Ryoko Ina, Sayaka Hirahara, Takashi Omori, Yohei Takamatsu, Yoshikazu Fukutome, Youichi Nishikawa, Youichi Watanabe
Digital Animation Chikara Nomoto, Hiroki Yamada, Ichiro Uehara, Kentaro Takahashi (T2 Studio), Masashi Suzuki (GONZO), Masashi Toriyama (T2 Studio), Miki Satō, Norihiko Miyoshi, Susumu Masuuchi, Tatsuko Ishii, Tomoka Matsumura, Yoichi Senzui, Yū Karube
Color Design Michiyo Yasuda
Art Director Yoji Takeshige, Noboru Yoshida
Animation Cooperation Anime Toro Toro, Nakamura Productions, Studio Planning, Studio Cockpit, O Productions, Video Studio, Sakuraku Create, LIBERTY SHIP, Mad House, Production IG
Production Committee Daisuke Kadoya (NTV), Daizou Suzuki (d-rights), Fumihiro Hirai (NTV), Hideyuki Takai (TOHO), Hiroya Nishimura (d-rights), Hiroyuki Nakamura (NTV), Kazuhiko Seta (TOHO), Kazumi Fukuda (NTV), Kengo Makida (Tokuma Shoten), Kino Arai (d-rights), Koji Hoshino (BVHE Japan), Kouji Kishimoto (BVHE Japan), Koutarou Sugiyama (Dentsu), Maiko Hirano (BVHE Japan), Makoto Hagyuuda (Tokuma Shoten), Masahiko Osawa (NTV), Mayumi Hirakata (NTV), Minami Ichikawa (TOHO), Noriko Yanagisawa (NTV), Ryuuichi Mori (Dentsu), Sanae Mitsugi (Tokuma Shoten), Seiichiro Ujiie (NTV), Shinjiro Yokoyama (Dentsu), Takayuki Tsukagoshi (BVHE Japan), Takehiko Chino (Dentsu), Takeyoshi Matsushita (Tokuma Shoten), Tateo Mataki (Dentsu), Tatsuya Tanemura (Dentsu), Tatsuyoshi Takashima (Dentsu), Tetsuo Nakazawa (Tokuma Shoten), Tetsuya Yamamoto (d-rights), Tomomasa Hosokawa (NTV), Tomoyoshi Nakamura (NTV), Tooru Itabashi (d-rights), Tooru Iwafuchi (Tokuma Shoten), Yaeko Nagami (BVHE Japan), Yoshishige Shimatani (TOHO), Yuuji Shimamoto (Dentsu), Yuuko Muranaka (BVHE Japan)
Producer Toshio Suzuki
Special Thanks Ayako Matsumura, Daisuke Kasahara, Fumio Yamazaki, Haruna Hirose, Hiroaki Kudo, Hiroomi Tanaka, Jun Yoshihara, Keiji Fukuda, Masaki Morita, Minoru Ooyama, Naoya Morioka, Susumu Hirose, Tadahiro Hoshi, Takeshi Aratake, Yutaka Kurokouchi
Music Joe Hisaishi, Yumi Kimura, Shuntaro Tanigawa
Performance -Chieko Baisho
Editor Takeshi Seyama
Titles Kaoru Mano

Related Products[]

Home Video[]

  • Howl's Moving Castle VHS - Buena Vista Home Entertainment (November 16, 2005)
  • Howl's Moving Castle DVD - Buena Vista Home Entertainment (November 16, 2005)
  • Howl's Moving Castle Special Edition DVD - Buena Vista Home Entertainment (November 16, 2005)
  • Howl's Moving Castle Special Recording Edition DVD with 1/24 second - Buena Vista Home Entertainment (November 16, 2005)
  • Howl's Moving Castle + Ghibli SPECIAL Twin BOX (First Press Limited Edition) - Buena Vista Home Entertainment (November 16, 2005)
  • DVD (Hayao Miyazaki's collected works) - Walt Disney Studios Japan (released July 2, 2014)
  • Howl's Moving Castle Blu-ray - Walt Disney Studios Japan (November 16, 2011)
  • Blu-ray (Hayao Miyazaki's collected works) - Walt Disney Studios Japan (released July 2, 2014)


  • Wizard Howl and the Devil of Fire Howl's Moving Castle 1 (May 28, 1997) ISBN 4-19-860709-5. Republished by Tokuma Bunko.
  • Adabra and a flying carpet Howl's Moving Castle 2 (August 28, 1997) ISBN 4-19-860751-6 . Same as above.
  • Charmain and the Magic House Howl's Moving Castle 3 (May 2013) ISBN 4-19-863614-1 . Same as above.
  • Howl's Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli Storyboard Complete Works 14) (November 30, 2004) ISBN 4-19-861954-9
  • Mysterious Ways to Open the Door (December 1, 2004) ISBN 4-413-03508-9
  • Howl's Moving Castle-Film Comic (1) (December 15, 2004) ISBN 4-19-770128-4
  • Howl's Moving Castle-Film Comic (2) (January 15, 2005) ISBN 4-19-770129-2
  • Howl's Moving Castle-Film Comic (3) (January 31, 2005) ISBN 4-19-770130-6
  • Howl's Moving Castle-Film Comic (4) (February 10, 2005) ISBN 4-19-770131-4
  • Howl's Moving Castle Paper Craft Book (December 15, 2004) ISBN 4-06-364607-6
  • A Thorough Guide to Howl's Moving Castle and Sophie's Two Promises (December 20, 2004) ISBN 4-04-853803-9
  • Howl's Moving Castle (Tokuma Animation Picture Book) (December 31, 2004) ISBN 4-19-861965-4
  • Howl's Moving Castle (This Is Animation) (January 1, 2005) ISBN 4-09-101591-3
  • THE ART OF HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (January 1, 2005) ISBN 4-19-810010-1
  • Howl's Moving Castle (Roman Album) (January 20, 2005) ISBN 4-19-720237-7
  • Howl's Moving Castle (Ghibli Textbook 13) (August 2016), Bungei Shunju <Bunharu Ghibli Bunko>
  • Howl's Moving Castle (Cinema Comics 13) (January 2019), Bungei Shunju <Bunharu Ghibli Bunko>


  • Symphony Suite Howl's Moving Castle Image Album - Tokuma Japan Communications (Jan 21, 2004) TKCA-72620
  • Howl's Moving Castle Soundtrack - Tokuma Japan Communications (November 19, 2004) TKCA-72775



External Links[]

Official Sites