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Overview

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) is a 1986 film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is the first film created and released by Studio Ghibli, although it is considered the second by some, as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was created by the founding members two years prior. Laputa: Castle in the Sky won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986.

Plot

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The adventure begins when orphan boy Pazu finds Sheeta, a young farm girl, floating down from the sky, carrying a mysterious necklace. She wears the secret of Laputa, an ancient castle in the clouds that Pazu's father spent years trying to find. They begin a journey to discover it themselves, but the air pirates known as the Dola Gang and the military aren't far behind, seeking the castle -- and its treasures -- for themselves. Danger is around every corner, and a fight for the very future of mankind may be on the horizon.

Voice Cast

→ See also cast

Character name Japanese voice actor
Pazu Mayumi Tanaka
Sheeta (Princess Lusheeta Toel Ul Laputa) Keiko Yokozawa
Captain Dola Kotoe Hatsui
Colonel Muska (Romska Palo Ul Laputa) Minori Terada
Uncle Pom Fujio Tokita
General Mōro Ichiro Nagai
Boss/Mr. Duffi Hiroshi Ito
Shalulu/Charles Takumi Kamiyama
Lui/Louis Yoshito Yasuhara
Anli/Henri Sukekiyo Kameyama
Motoro/Engineer Ryuji Saikachi
Okami Machiko Washio
Madge Tarako

Credit

Directed and written byHayao Miyazaki
Produced byIsao Takahata
StarringMayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, Minori Terada
Music byJoe Hisaishi
CinematographyHirokata Takahashi
Edited byTakeshi Seyama, Yoshihiro Kasahara

Production

Setting

The world in which the story takes place is Earth, but a slightly alternate version. The exact date and location of events are not specified, however, it is the period in which science fiction author Jules Verne (1825-1905) was active. This is confirmed by the photograph of Laputa inside Pazu's house, taken by his father, which is dated "1868.7," evidently meaning "July 1868". Generally, the story takes place somewhere in Europe, during an era of warring imperial powers wherein the military wields great authority. Although the king does not appear in the story, the government is a constitutional monarchy. The airships use buoyant gas, but are different in appearance than actual dirigibles. Likewise, the machines, vehicles and weaponry are not constrained by the real-world history of their inspirations and counterparts. That being said, the thinking underpinning the outlook on the nation, military and progress of technology is that of the post-Industrial era -- it has, quote, "nothing to do with the optimistic cultural writings prevalent in the 19th century". [1]

History

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Early concept for the floating kingdom of Laputa.

The Kingdom of Laputariches, or "Laputa", was built when a great technological civilization (the one in the story's present-time is the second, as depicted by the film's opening) thrived, by a people who fled to the sky out of hatred for the wars of the Earth.[1] In this time, Laputa was a pinnacle of the civilization's technology, dominating the skies in a hegemony of other aerial kingdoms. Unlike these other kingdoms, which relied on rotors, Laputa maintained its airborne state by way of the element Aetherium. For a time, the kingdom prospered. However, after the civilization reached too high an altitude, the Laputians lost their vitality, and the population gradually declined, until they died out as a result of a strange disease that broke out abruptly around 500 BCE. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato is said to have made note of this history in his lost geography "On the Heavens", the minimal surviving knowledge of which inspired the Laputa of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. [1]

Legend has it that some of the Laputians, including the royal family and some of their subjects, abandoned the city at this time, hid themselves and lived on, but the details of this are unclear. Laputa was deserted, left only to the care of robots that waited for the return of their king. Over the years, the territory crumbled, and now only part of it wanders through the sky; moving with the westerlies as a constant low-pressure system that hides it entirely from view from the ground.[1]

There is a theory in modern times that there existed an ancient culture that selfishly indulged in nuclear energy and wrought untold destruction, espoused by a few people. This is based on the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the number of believers in this theory is particularly great in India.[1]

Contradictions and In-Film History

It should be noted that, despite the above paraphrasing of the official description of the history of Laputa from Viz Media's copy of the original English dub screenplay, the film itself contradicts it at several points.

According to information from the film, Laputa was abandoned 700 years before the setting of the movie, 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 fle city, leaving behind an electronic, high-technology core topped by a section of the castle and expansive 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; forgetting that they are intimately connected to the earth and an over-reliance on technology to solve problems.

However, rather than simple oversight on Mr. Miyazaki's part, it is possible that these differences are a purposeful result of a desire for Laputa's history to appear as largely lost to hearsay and legend by the time of the film's events.

Film's Opening

The opening part of the woodcut-like opening credits shows a simple windmill with a kiln behind it, set in a hillside, with a man tending it. Afterward, the windmills grow into enormous, apparently partially wind-powered factories or machines, with machinery digging ever deeper 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, with the hull of an ocean liner and numerous rotors (possibly an exodus in search of new resources, as the factories surrounding it are now dark and motionless), and then a Laputa-like city appears, with the aforementioned rotors. Subsequently a scene of floating islands and cities appears; again with Laputa possibly among them. 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. The end of the opening credits shows a farm girl behind a windmill, almost exactly like the one shown previously to be the earliest seed of Laputan society, next to two beasts of burden: a scene later in the movie (showing Sheeta on a farm with similar beasts of burden) implies this is Sheeta. This opening-credit roll can be compared with the "history of the world" scenery shown at the end of Wings of Honneamise and the Bayeux Tapestry-like scroll at the beginning of Nausicaä.

European Influence

Laputa is credited by Colonel Muska with having been behind Biblical events and sacred Hindu legends — thus tying the world of Laputa further to our Earth (and to western European civilization) — as do the medieval castle architecture of parts of Fort Tedus; 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. However, most of the movie's ancient civilisation designs seem to stem from the early to mid-16th-century European culture.

The medieval castle in the movie seems to be inspired by the European mid-16th century painting of The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, with its giant circular base and the presence of highly rounded and arched doorways all the way around its perimeter. Even the colour of the castle is similar to the colour of the tower in the painting, while the flying machines depicted in the opening scenes of the movie with its whirring blades are also similar to Leonardo da Vinci's early drawings of a wooden helicopter. The link with the Tower of Babel painting is also symbolic. According to the narrative in Genesis Chapter 11 of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built to reach the heavens by a united humanity.

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, 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."

He returned to the country on May 18th, 1985 for two weeks of location scouting[1] to prepare for Laputa.

Easter Eggs

Fox Squirrels appear in this film. They were originally from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

There are three instances of morse code in the film, which were never decoded fully. In the Japanese show Tsukai! Akashiya TV a former soldier reveals their hidden meaning. The first code can be heard in the first chapter of the film. Muska makes a call, before he is knocked out by Sheeta, who hits him over the head with an empty wine bottle.

In the past, fans have dismissed this message as jibberish, recording it as a repetition of a series of dots and dashes […_ …_ …_], which translates to nothing more than V V V. However, Sakai and his fellow soldiers, who have experience in deciphering codes with no definite beginning and end, discovered that the message contained the code [.._. .. _.. . ._.. .. _ _._ _ ], which spells out the word fidelity.

There are two more messages. For more information read SoraNews24.

Distribution and Reception

In the late 1980s, an English version of the movie was produced by the request of Tokuma Shoten by Magnum Video Tape & Dubbing. It was screened on Japan Airlines flights as an in-flight movie and was also shown at least once on UK television on New Years Eve in 1988. In 1989, the dub was picked up in the U.S. by the newly founded Streamline Pictures for limited Arthouse theatrical distribution. 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 movie 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. Since then the dub has fallen into relative obscurity and was only officially released on the Studio Ghibli Laserdisc Collection in 1996 and the first Japanese R2 DVD release in 2002.

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 (presumably because the first release under their deal with Studio Ghibli, Kiki's Delivery Service, performed better than expected on VHS).

After Princess Mononoke flopped financially in the U.S., Laputa's release date was pushed back yet again; on occasion, the completed dub was screened at select children's festivals. The movie was finally released on DVD and video in the U.S. on April 15, 2003, alongside Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away. As with Mononoke and Kiki, critics and fans were mixed about the new dub, but Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill's performances - as Dola and Colonel Colonel Muska, respectively - drew nearly universal praise. Castle in the Sky 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 movie currently holds a 95% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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" or "The Bitch" 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 (La puta) having no meaning in either English or French (however the French La pute is quite close). Curiously, although the word 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 aforementioned 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.

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

Differences between versions

Ratings

  • Australia: G
  • United Kingdom: PG
  • United States: PG

Disney English Alterations

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 movie more accessible to U.S. 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's 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.

  • The Gkids edition removes some of the English Disney dialogue. For example, Pazu no longer says "knock it off, I'm trying to talk to the lady" when his birds are flocking around him.

Trivia

  • Many believe that the characters from Miyazaki's 1978 series Future Boy Conan were prototypes for the characters of Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Moreover, according to Hideaki Anno, the original bill of the project of this movie was what Miyazaki had presented to NHK in the broadcasting station as the following work while producing Future Boy Conan. Illustration "Pazu, the child of the sea, 海の子パズー" collected to "Hayao Miyazaki image board collection, 宮崎駿イメージボード集" (issued in November, 1983) might be it (the composition that the boy who resembled Pazu looks up at the girl in the water tank in a dark room). In the plan, the original bill was SF novel "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne, but when making it into a film, Miyazaki might have changed it to Jonathan Swift's novel "Gulliver's Travels". In addition, Miyazaki's plot outline for Castle in the Sky was also re-imagined by Toho as a TV series. The result was Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, a 1990-91 TV series aired on NHK, made by the Gainax studio and directed by Hideaki Anno (who reportedly considers Miyazaki one of his idols) and Shinji Higuchi (the predecessor to the same team's hugely successful Neon Genesis Evangelion).
  • It is thought by some that the setting of Castle in the Sky is possibly the same setting as another of Miyazaki's movies, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but in an earlier period of history.
    • Although it is mentioned that Castle in the Sky was originally conceived in the wake of Nausicaä's success as a possible follow-up in Viz Media's 2016 art and production book, there was much internal debate on both Animage and Mr. Miyazaki's parts as to whether or not they should indeed make it a sequel or go for something more different. It is never confirmed that the worlds are the same.[1]
  • Jamie Hewlett, the artist behind the band Gorillaz, said on a South Bank Show special about anime that he found inspiration from the film for his art.
  • In the part where the robot comes back to Pazu and Sheeta with a flower for the Laputian grave marker, it shows four of the same animals - Fox Squirrels - that Nausicaä had befriended running & playing on the robot.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii and GameCube home video game consoles contains several elements inspired by Laputa, including a puzzle featuring two ancient robots covered in foliage, as well as the final level featuring a sky castle.

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 The Art of "Castle In The Sky". Viz Media, 2016
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