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 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.
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The adventure begins when Pazu finds Sheeta floating from above, carrying a mysterious necklace. She wears the secret of Laputa, a castle in the sky that Pazu's father tried to find for years. They begin a journey to find it, but sadly Dola's Gang, an air pirate gang, and Muska's Agents are also looking for it. Fighting is unavoidable.
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|Character name||Japanese voice actor|
|Sheeta (Princess Lusheeta Toel Ul Laputa)||Keiko Yokozawa|
|Captain Dola||Kotoe Hatsui|
|Muska (Romuska Palo Ul Laputa)||Minori Terada|
|Uncle Pom||Fujio Tokita|
|General Mōro||Ichiro Nagai|
|Boss/Mr. Duffi||Hiroshi Ito|
|Directed and written by||Hayao Miyazaki|
|Produced by||Isao Takahata|
|Starring||Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, Minori Terada|
|Music by||Joe Hisaishi|
|Edited by||Takeshi Seyama, Yoshihiro Kasahara|
The world in which the story takes place is clearly Earth, but 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 movie takes place sometime between 1868 and 1900, as the photograph of Laputa inside Pazu's house, taken by his father, is dated "1868. 7," which evidently means "July 1868."
A statue of the Robot from Laputa, on the roof of the Ghibli Museum.
The history of this alternate world is hinted at in various parts of the movie: 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 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 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 simple 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 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 farmgirl 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.
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. However, most of the movie's ancient civilisation designs seems to stem from 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.
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."
There are three decipher the morse code in the film, which was never decoded fully. In the Japanese show Tsukai! Akashiya TV a former soldier reveals its hidden meaning. The first code can be heard in the first chapter of the film. Muska take a call, before he got knocked out by Sheeta hitting with an empty 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 soldier mates, 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 decipher messages. For more information read SoraNews24.
Distribution and Reception
In the late 1980s, an English version of the movie was briefly shown in the U.S. 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 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, 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 (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 Muska 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 at RottenTomatoes.com
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.
- 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
- Australia: G
- United Kingdom: PG
- United States: PG
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.
- Many believe that 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" of 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.
- 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, it shows four of the same animals that Nausicaa 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.
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky on Ghibli.jp
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky on Anime News Network
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky on Rotten Tomatoes
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky Disney
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky on IMDb
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky on Wikipedia