Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) (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 it 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.
A zeppelin-like airship flies through the clouds at night. On board are Sheeta and Muska. The latter is a government agent who has kidnapped Sheeta and taken a powerful family heirloom of hers, a crystal amulet necklace made of pure volucite/aetherium. Suddenly, the ship is attacked by Dola and her gang of pirates made up of her sons. In the confusion, Sheeta manages to knock out her captor and reclaim her crystal. In order to escape the pirates who are after her amulet, Sheeta goes through a window and grabs the outer walls of the ship. She is unable to keep her grip, and she falls to what appears at first to be her doom. However, while unconscious her amulet emits a bright blue glow, and she goes from a free-fall to a float.
In a small mining town below, a boy called Pazu is working very late. While returning to the mine with a meal for his boss, Pazu sees Sheeta slowly descending from the sky. She falls straight to the head of the mine excavation, and Pazu rushes to catch her. To his surprise, Sheeta appears to have no weight until her amulet stops glowing, and she almost drags them both down into the shaft. Pazu narrowly catches the girl and decides to bring her back to his home for the night.
The next morning, Sheeta is awakened by the sound of Pazu playing the trumpet on the roof. Pazu asks to see her amulet, inquiring about its mystical properties of which Sheeta has no recollection. When Pazu tries to test the levitation himself, he falls head first through the roof below but is uninjured.
In Pazu's house, Sheeta notices a photograph of the legendary Castle of Laputa. The picture was taken by Pazu's father, an explorer who snapped the photo during a harsh storm. Upon his return, nobody believed his discovery of the floating castle, and he died in poverty. Pazu wants to prove his father's honor and honesty, so he has been working on a small ornithopter which should allow him to rediscover Laputa. Unfortunately, it does not take much time for the pirates to trace Sheeta to where she landed. With the help of the villagers, Pazu and Sheeta manage to escape and board a train. Dola and her sons are right on their heels.
Soon large military reinforcements are on their way as well, as Muska and the army begin to pursue the two children. In order to escape the military force in front of them and the pirates on the track behind them, Pazu and Sheeta take a turn, and the two of them run across a third route. During this escape, the rail collapses, and Pazu and Sheeta fall with the ruins into the darkness of the canyon below. Once again, Sheeta's amulet begins to glow, and the pirates and military look on in awe as the children float down quietly and out of their reach.
The two kids descend into an old mine and meet Uncle Pom, an eccentric old miner who is Pazu's friend. Pom explains that he lives in the mines to escape the hustle and bustle of the outside world. When faced with the question of loneliness, he answers that he listens to the rocks. Pazu puts out his light, and the cavern they are in lights up with the same blue glow that Sheeta's necklace emits. The rocks contain volucite/aetherium, a rare element that could only be refined by Laputan technology that was lost ages ago. At this moment, Sheeta realizes that her amulet shines even more brightly than the other stones; it is made of pure volucite/aetherium crystal. Pom says that only the people of Laputa knew how to create such crystals, which is what enabled them to build their massive floating fortress. Pazu is overjoyed as he is now certain Laputa exists.
When the children leave the mine, Sheeta tells Pazu her true name: Lusheeta Toel-ul Laputa, which shows she may have some connections with Laputa. They are then captured by Muska and his men, who take the children to a military base on the coast, the famous fortress of Tedis. Pazu is enclosed in a dank and cold tower, whereas Sheeta is escorted into a lavishly decorated room. At the fort, General Muoro, who leads the army of the nation and wants to plunder Laputa's riches, urges Muska to interrogate Sheeta. Muska then takes Sheeta another room where a massive and broken robot is kept. Muska explains that this robot fell out of the sky and is almost certainly Laputan. The amulet Sheeta wears matches an emblem on the robot's chest.
According to Muska, the amulet can show the way to Laputa, but it requires a spell which only Sheeta knows; however, Sheeta insists she doesn't know such a spell. Muska then reveals that he knows Sheeta's true name, and he explains that she is the direct heir to the throne of Laputa. In an effort to discover the spell, Muska threatens to kill Pazu unless Sheeta cooperates. In order to save her friend, Sheeta gives into Muska, and she tells Pazu to stop searching for Laputa and go home. Shocked and unhappy, Pazu leaves the fortress with three gold coins Muska gives him in "recognition of his services."
Pazu arrives home at nightfall where he is greeted by Dola and her sons, who have infiltrated the house. After the pirates tie up and question Pazu, Dola tells him that Sheeta told him to leave in an effort to protect him. Dola also stresses that once Muska has what he wants from Sheeta, he will most likely kill her. The pirates manage to intercept a military coded message which calls for the battle cruiser airship Goliath to fly to the fortress; Sheeta is to depart on it by dawn.
Meanwhile, in her room at the fortress, Sheeta recites a charm that she had learned from her grandmother as a child. In response to these words, her amulet begins to emit mysterious rays which awake the Laputan robot from his slumber. As it tries to find and protect Sheeta, the robot begins to cause significant damage to the fortress. Back in his home, Pazu asks to join Dora and her gang if he can come with them to save Sheeta. Dora accepts, and they immediately fly to the fortress of Tedis.
There, all attempts to stop the robot have failed. The carnage continues as the robot notices Sheeta and attempts to reach her where she has run to the top of a tower. Her amulet begins shining again and emits a light beam toward the sky. Muska realizes that the beam must be pointing to Laputa. Muska terminates communication between the fortress and Goliath, aboard which is General Muoro. Assuming emergency control, Muska orders the fortress defenses to target the robot but to avoid hitting Sheeta. Just as Sheeta discovers that the robot is trying to help her, a large projectile dents the robot's armor. The robot is temporarily disabled, and the blast knocks Sheeta's amulet off the tower to the ground below. The fortress's soldiers attempt to grab Sheeta, but to their shock, the robot reactivates and retaliates against the fortress.
Shocked by the carnage, Sheeta tries to stop it by covering its head. The robot then moves Sheeta away from it before being destroyed by Goliath. Pazu and Dora, arriving in one of the pirates' flaptters, attempt to snatch Sheeta amidst the flames. The pirates escape with Sheeta unharmed, but Muska retrieved the amulet pointing the way to Laputa. The pirates take Sheeta and Pazu back to their airship, the Tiger Moth. Showing remarkable intelligence, Sheeta deduces that the amulet had pointed near due east, and the pirates route the Tiger Moth eastward, accelerated by the trade winds. Dola sends Pazu to assist Motro, the Tiger Moth's engineer, and after dressing Sheeta in more practical clothing, Dola puts her in the kitchen to cook the pirates' meals. Motro is impressed with Pazu's engineering skills, and Dola's sons adore Sheeta. Even Dola takes a liking to the kids.
When they have a chance to be alone at night in the Tiger Moth's crow's nest, Sheeta expresses her concerns to Pazu: she does not want to go to Laputa because she is afraid of her amulet's power, and she hopes they never find Laputa. However, Pazu thinks that with the advancements of airship technology and engineering, Laputa will be discovered sooner or later, no matter what. Sheeta also recalls that she learned a large number of spells when she was a young girl, including one destruction spell she should never use. Suddenly, Pazu sees the silhouette of Goliath approaching. They awaken the pirates, and the Tiger Moth dives into the clouds to avoid confrontation. Dola instructs Sheeta and Pazu to use the crow's nest, which transforms into an independent glider, to watch for Goliath. Pazu tells Dola that they are headed into a gigantic cloud system, which Pazu later recognizes as the Dragon's Lair: the cloud hiding Laputa, which his father had discovered.
Goliath suddenly appears and attacks the Tiger Moth. The attack severs the wire tethering the glider and the Tiger Moth, and Sheeta and Pazu are dragged into the cloud system. Pazu attempts to steer the glider with limited success, until he sees a vision of his father flying towards Laputa in a supernatural burst of lightning, just ahead of them. The children are finally able to reach Laputa, where they crash but are unharmed. Although Laputa is full of plant life and small animals, there are no people in the ruins. Eventually, a robot similar to the one recovered by the army greets Pazu and Sheeta. The robot is benign, and the children follow it to discover a tombstone in Laputa's central garden. Someone has faithfully left fresh flowers on the grave, and Sheeta realizes that this single surviving robot has been tending the tombstone and caring for the plants and animals of Laputa. Sheeta explains to Pazu that the robot isn't lonely, despite being the last of its kind, because it has all the animals to be its friends.
Suddenly, Pazu and Sheeta hear an explosion: the Goliath has landed on the other side of Laputa, and the soldiers are plundering its treasures. The soldiers have captured Dola and her gang. While trying to rescue them, Pazu and Sheeta are spotted by Muska, who captures Sheeta and takes her to the interior of Laputa through a hidden passageway. Meanwhile, Pazu frees the pirates, and Dora gives him a gun and two cartridges to rescue Sheeta. Pazu begins climbing the vines that lead to the center of Laputa, trying to reach her. Muska arrives at the palace and control center of Laputa, which contains the giant volucite/aetherium crystal which keeps Laputa afloat. Muska tells Sheeta that his true name is Romuska Palo-ul Laputa, and that, like her, he is the descendant of one branch of the Laputan royal family. Although his branch is a different one from hers, Muska considers himself to be the rightful heir to Laputa.
Muska gains control of the island by using Sheeta's amulet on a black stone tablet engraved with Laputan symbols. Meanwhile, an enraged General Muoro attempts to break into the control center with explosives, because Muska has betrayed him and the army, and has destroyed all radio equipment on Goliath. Muska lures General Muoro and the soldiers to an observation deck. There, the men see Muska, who calls himself the king of Laputa, demonstrate his power with an explosion of indescribable proportions conducted in the ocean below. The general attempts to kill Muska, but fails because Muska is only appearing before him as a hologram. Muska then removes the floor of the deck, causing the general and some of his soldiers to fall from Laputa to their deaths in the ocean below. Muska releases a large number of robots as the soldiers attempt to escape, and although the survivors quickly board the Goliath and steer it away, they ultimately destroy the air ship.
The escaped air pirates manage to remain undetected and hide amidst the ruins of Tiger Moth, aboard the flaptters. Meanwhile, Pazu manages to make his way into the palace, and Sheeta steals her amulet back from Muska. Pazu and Sheeta reunite by calling out to one another, and out of Sheeta passes the amulet to Pazu through the small gap in the wall between them and asks him to get rid of it. As Sheeta runs away with Muska still chasing her, Pazu uses his last cartridge to widen the hole in the wall and squeeze through it, following Sheeta and Muska. Arriving in the throne room, Sheeta realizes she is trapped. When Muska reaches her, he orders her to surrender. Sheeta tries to explain that Laputa's original inhabitants abandoned it because they couldn't survive detached from Earth, but Muska refuses to believe her. He shoots off her braids, one at a time, trying to scare her into cooperating with him. Pazu arrives as Muska threatens to shoot off Sheeta's ears next, and he says Muska will never have the amulet back if he hurts Sheeta.
When Muska gives the children one last chance to talk privately, Pazu convinces Sheeta to teach him the spell of destruction She whispers it to him; then when Muska says their time is up, the two friends hold hands and speak the spell together. Sheeta's amulet emits extraordinary light and flings the two children deep into the roots of the great tree at the heart of Laputa. The light blinds Muska, who stumbles away into the ruins, and the giant crystal is freed. Dola and the pirates witness the destruction and, believing the children have been killed, are forced to escape on their flaptters. The foundations of the palace begin to crumble and fall into the sea, bringing with them a large portion of the ruins of the city above, the broken-down robots, and Muska's body.
When Pazu and Sheeta regain consciousness, they find their glider amidst the roots and escape from Laputa. The giant Aetherium crystal remains at the heart of Laputa, and it causes the remaining, natural parts of the island to rise into an orbit high above the Earth. Pazu and Sheeta glimpse the single surviving robot walking through the garden with its animal friends. Dola and the pirates spot the glider and pull it in to the flaptters. All of the pirates, including Dola, are overjoyed to see the kids alive, and Sheeta is equally delighted to be reunited with Dola, who expresses her condolences for Sheeta's lost braids. The pirates proudly show the children the riches they'd managed to take from Laputa before their escape. When they all reach land, Pazu and Sheeta say goodbye to the pirates for the last time and glide toward home.
- Additional Japanese Voices: Eken Mine, Megumi Hayashibara, Tomomichi Nishimura, Hōchū Ōtsuka, Toshihiko Seki, Masashi Sugawara, Reiko Suzuki
- Additional Streamline English Voice: Daniel Foster
- Additional Disney English Voices: Corey Burton, Tress MacNeille, John DeMita, Scott Menville, Eddie Frierson, Andy Philpot, Susan Hickman, Michael Sorich
The world in which the story takes place is clearly Earth, but apparently in an alternate history. None of the place names matches real-life geography. The airships appear to use buoyant gas but are different in appearance than actual dirigibles, and the pirate flaptters 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."
The history of this alternate world is hinted at in various parts of the movie: Laputa, in ancient times, once dominated the world. The woodcut-like scenes shown in the opening credits suggest that it was only one of several aerial cities. Laputa 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 once controlled the manufacture and mining of the "sky-crystal" volucite/aetherium, but this art has been lost by the film's beginning. The royal family and their subjects abandoned the city 700 years before the setting of the film, leaving behind an electronic, high-technology core topped by a greenhouse. Within the greenhouse, a large central tree grew and proceeded to sink its roots deep into the city and spread its branches outside of the city's top roof. This roof had at least three terraces of walls constructed in various architectural styles; the roof may have had as many as five terraces, as indicated in a tomb marker's seal. The abandonment of Laputa, according to Sheeta and Uncle Pom, may have been due to the alienation of the Laputans from the earth. Forgetting that they were intimately connected to the earth, the Laputans may have become over-reliant on technology to solve their problems. Therefore, they eventually left their home in the sky to return to the earth where they belonged.
The beginning of the film's 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, partially wind-powered factories 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 making an exodus in search of new resources, as the factories surrounding it are now dark and motionless. 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 flashback later in the film, showing Sheeta on a farm with similar beasts of burden, implies this girl is Sheeta. This opening-credit sequence can be compared with the "history of the world" scenery shown at the end of The Wings of Honneamise and the Bayeux Tapestry-like scroll at the beginning of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Colonel Muska credits Laputa with causing Biblical events and sacred Hindu legends, thus tying the world of Laputa to our Earth and to western European civilization. Other elements of the film also reflect the influence of later European culture: 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 Welsh mining-town architecture, clothing, and even ground vehicles of Pazu's homeland; and the Victorian ambiance of the pirate ship. However, most of the film's ancient civilization 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. The link with The Tower of Babel painting is also symbolic. According to the narrative in Genesis 11 of the Biblical Old Testament, the Tower of Babel was a tower built to reach the heavens by a united humanity.
The flying machines with their whirring blades depicted in the opening credits of the film are also similar to Leonardo da Vinci's early drawings of a wooden helicopter.
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 ReceptionEdit
In the late 1980s, an English version of Laputa: Castle in the Sky 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 Rotten Tomatoes.
English language dubs of Laputa have has been released under three different titles by three separate distributors.
Although meaningless in Japanese, the Spanish phrase la puta translates to "The Whore" or "The Bitch" in English, which was probably intentional on the part of Jonathan Swift, who created the concept of a flying island called Laputa 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. 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 dub distributed by Streamline 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 Among Versions of the FilmEdit
- Australia: G
- United Kingdom: PG
- United States: PG
Although the plot and much of the script was left intact, Disney's English dub of the film 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 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.
- Many fans 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. In the plan, the original bill was Jules Verne's science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but when making it into a film, Miyazaki might have changed 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).
- Some believe the setting of Castle in the Sky is possibly the same setting as 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 the floating windmill island found in the two Gorillaz music videos "Feel Good Inc" and "El Manana".
- The sole surviving robot of Laputa is shown caring for four Fox Squirrels, the same animals Nausicaä befriends.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii and GameCube home video game consoles contains several elements inspired by Laputa: Castle in the Sky, including a puzzle featuring two ancient robots covered in foliage, as well as the final level featuring a sky castle.
- The Laputa robot is listed in the end credits of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
- 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