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Also known as Laputa: Castle in the SkyInspired by one chapter of Gullivers Travels, Castle in the Sky is a 1986 fantasy action-adventure tale raised to Studio Ghibli standards. Two orphans battle sky pirates and evil government forces trying to seize the legendary floating city of Laputa. This was Hayao Miyazaki's third film, and the first to be created at Studio Ghibli, which was formed to produce the film.'"Castle In The Sky'' could be considered a fairy tale... one with Steam Punk, flying castles, secret princesses, and magic. The film opens with a family of Sky Pirates led by the matriarch Dola attacking an airship intent on stealing a blue crystal amulet from a girl named Sheeta. Sheeta, who had already been kidnapped by the evil State Sec Colonel Muska, uses the opportunity to escape and falls to what appears to be certain death until her pendant ignites and starts gently floating her back to Earth. Her descent is spotted by a young miner named Pazu, who catches her and takes her home, eager to determine if this mysterious floating girl is somehow connected with the fabled floating castle Laputa, which his father once saw, though no one believed him or his photograph.Dodging another attempt by Dola's gang to capture Sheeta's crystal, the kids manage to escape... right into the hands of the military. Taking the children prisoner in a castle, Muska convinces Sheeta to cooperate in his search for Laputa by threatening harm to Pazu. Sent back to his village, Pazu is immediately captured by Dola's gang who immediately set off on yet another attempt to seize the crystal. Reluctantly making common cause with Dola in order to rescue Sheeta, Pazu joins the pirates. Meanwhile a despondent Sheeta recites a "magic spell" her grandmother taught her to recite in times of trouble. The spell activates her pendant, triggering a beam which points the way to Laputa and a dormant Laputian robot hidden in the dungeons below. Responding to Sheeta's request for aid the robot causes such destruction that Pazu and Dola manage to rescue Sheeta in the confusion but Muska ends up with the pendant. Muska and the local Army commander promptly set out for Laputa aboard the Goliath, an enormous aerial battlecruiser.Seriously outgunned and outnumbered but armed with Sheeta's description of the location of Laputa, the kids and the pirates nevertheless try to head off the government agents aboard Dola's own airship, the Tiger Moth, hoping that fair winds and a little luck will allow them to beat the army to the prize. What will they find in Laputa? Will it be filled with treasure or danger? What does Muska want with Laputa, and why is he so obsessed with it?As part of their distribution deal, Disney has brought this film to America with a voice cast which includes Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin, Mark Hamill, and Andy Dick as well as a new score provided by Joe Hisaishi (who wrote the original soundtrack). This latter decision caused controversy with fans and critics more familiar with the more silent Japanese version, but Joe Hisaishi mentioned in his blog that he and Miyazaki were pleased with the soundtrack.The dub, originally recorded in 1998, was initially scheduled for a 1999 video release, but continually delayed for unexplained reasons (though the re-scoring and a sudden shift from direct-to-video to theatrical release that never happened are the most commonly cited). It was screened at select children's festivals before finally debuting on VHS and DVD in April 2003, alongside Spirited Away and Kikis Delivery Service, gradually garnering new fans. This dub is one of only two Ghibli films (the other being Kiki's Delivery Service) which Disney "Americanized"; future Ghibli releases only featured new voicework instead of the extensive musical reworking that Castle in the Sky and Kiki's Delivery Service underwent. A 2010 re-release of the film replaced the re-scored soundtrack with the original and also removed some of the additional chatter added to the dub (again to fill-in some of the more silent moments). Inexplicably, though, the faithful subtitle track on the 2003 DVD release was mysteriously replaced with a dubtitle. (Even more strangely, the Japanese, Australian, and UK Blu Rays contain the extended score on the English track ó sans the extra dialogue and rerecorded sound effects from the 2003 release ó but the American BD release does not.)A little known fact: there also exists a rare English dub distributed, but not produced, by Carl Macek's company Streamline Pictures, dubbed by Streamline regulars, apparently as an exclusive for Japan Air Lines as an in-flight movie.
This film provides examples of:
Accidental Misnaming: Played in the dub with titles. While Pazu and Sheeta keep calling Dola by her name, and all the pirates constantly call her Mom, she keeps insisting they call her Captain.
Dola: "We'll all find her! And call me Captain!"
Pirates: "Yes, Mom!"
Action Mom: Dola may not be a stunner (anymore, if her portrait in her room is anything to go by), but she still leads her pirate clan (consisting of mostly her sons). And she's no armchair admiral either.
After the End: Laputa is a relic of an earlier, but more advanced, civilization. The environment on the Earth's surface also seems to display signs of past violence - see Ghibli Hills.
Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The Goliath, and to a lesser extent the Tiger Moth. Although they are very different in concept, the Tiger Moth relies solely on its smaller aircraft for combat whereas the Goliath is not shown to carry fighters but has enough guns and infantry on board to invade a small country (or ancient airborne city state).
All Myths Are True: The film blends legends and myth with that of biblical events. Muska references the blast from Laputa with that of Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction in the bible.
Anti-Hero: Dola and the pirates. They aren't the nicest of people, but they are pragmatic.
Applied Phlebotinum: Aetherium (or Volucite, depending on which version you watch), which Sheeta's necklace is made of, has anti-gravity powers. It has other powers that are activated by incantations.
Arcadia: Sheeta, having grown up in a pastoral lifestyle, explains at the climax that Laputa had been abandoned because their ancestors had learned that it cut them off from nature, and an Arcadia was truly a better place to live.
Sheeta: The crystal pointed nearly due east... Dola: You sure about that? Sheeta: I could see the sunrise from the tower. It's the harvest season now... so the sun rises just south of due east. The light pointed to the left of where the sun rose.
Balance Of Good And Evil: Sheeta's spells are both positive ("Save me and revive the eternal light [that shows the way home]") and negative ("one she told me I must never use... the spell of destruction"), and her grandmother taught her that the good ones would be useless without also having the bad ones. Ultimately, the spell of destruction is the one that saves the day.
Balcony Escape: Sheeta tries this on board the zeppelin in the beginning to evade capture. She ends up falling from the sky.
BFG: The pirates happily arm themselves with gigantic grenade launchers.
Big Eater: All the pirates (whom Dola describes as having five meals a day), which means that Hilarity Ensues when Sheeta is tasked with cooking for them.
Blown Across the Room: When Pazu is hanging from the roots of the tree at Laputa, he suddenly gets blown into a duct by some explosives going off beside him.
Break His Heart to Save Him: Sheeta makes a deal with Muska to free Pazu. It involves telling Pazu to return to his home town and forget about her, which he reluctantly does. Genre Savvy Dola discusses the trope later.
Soldier: It's the robot! Muska: It's coming towards us!
Also Sheeta, after Dola's speeder stalls out.
Sheeta: No! They're falling!
Chiaroscuro: The final confrontation shows Sheeta and Pazu as light figures against a dark background.
Children Are Innocent: Pazu and Sheeta are the main protagonists of the movie and are treated as being pure-hearted if a little naive.
Close-Call Haircut: Happens to Sheeta in the climax, when Muska shoots off both her pigtails as a threat, telling her that her ears are next. Lampshaded by Dola when they reunite.
Clothing Damage: One of Dola's sons tries to intimidate Pazu's boss by flexing his muscles enough to burst his shirt, only for the boss to burst his own shirt (read: exploded into shreds) in response, much to his wife's displeasure.
"I'm not mending that, I hope you know."
Cold Open: The film jumps right into the action by showing the army's attempt to capture Sheeta on board the zeppelin. She escapes. Cue the opening credits.
Conveniently an Orphan: Both the children. Pazu's mother isn't mentioned and his father is implied to have taken his own life when he was called a liar about Laputa. Sheeta's parents were said to have died in her backstory.
Cool Airship: The Tiger Moth, controlled by the Dola and her pirates. It even has a crow's nest that can turn into a kite. The Goliath is a much bigger one, controlled by the army and has enough firepower to take out just about anything that challenges it. Aside from the robots from Laputa, of course.
Cool Planes: The army controls one that was used to track down Pazu and Sheeta.
Cool Train: The armored train controlled by the army, and the little mining shunter that helps Pazu and Sheeta escape.
Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: During Sheeta's dream where she remembers her grandmother teaching her spells, the subtitles suddenly go silent when the spell is spoken. Justified, as the spell is muttered in the forgotten Laputa language.
Fantastic Nuke: Muska's plan is to take over and convert Laputa into a Kill Sat of sorts. Luckily the robots that guard the city aren't having any of it...until Muska takes control of them and kills every one of the soldiers on Laputa.
Flashback: Sheeta has a dream where she remembers her grandmother teaching her spells.
Ghibli Hills: Naturally. Although it's worth noting that the landscape looks a bit... worn. Pazu's hometown is a mining village, surrounded by deep chasms riddled with tunnels and endless wooden scaffolding, and the green grass on the surface is punched full of craters. Another Ghibli film that references an apocalyptic past — particularly obvious when one considers the parallels between the superweapon in the heart of the Castle and nuclear weaponry.
Industrial Ghetto: Arguably the backdrop mining city. The place is not exactly polluted, but people do live in squalor and there's not much more than the mining industry around. Word of God mentions it's inspired by Welsh mining towns.
Informed Attribute: One of the Sky Pirates warns Pazu that Pa is even harder on people than Dola. On the contrary, he's shown to be far more mellow. Though that might have to do with the fact Pazu actually knows what to do with an engine, unlike his sons.
I Was Quite a Looker: Dola has a portrait of herself as a young lady in her bedroom. She was very pretty.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dola. Pazu even comments at one point that Dola "is much nicer than she pretends to be." (At which Dola herself does a brief double-take, although by that point she has warmed up to both Pazu and Sheeta.)
Jumped at the Call: Pazu is quite happy to get dragged into a seat-of-your-pants adventure by the arrival of Sheeta. To him, it just means that he won't have to wait 'till he's finished building his flyer before heading out on an adventure.
Large Ham: In Disney's dub, some of the pirates or incidental characters may qualify (not that it's a bad thing), but most definitely Cloris Leachman's performance as Dola in general (to good effect, as she arguably makes the character the most memorable in the whole movie); likewise, when Muska goes crazy at the end, Mark Hamill really gets to have fun, laughing maniacally and spouting a very memorable "Goodbye! Enjoy the ride!" prior to sending the soldiers to their deaths. There are even places where he sounds like The Joker.
The pirate trio of Louie, Charles/Shalulu, and Henri all sound like they are obviously enjoying themselves. They're voiced by Inigo Montoya, Tuck & Roll, and Nuka.
"Where are you MUSKA?!" the General shouts. You can tell Jim Cummings is having a blast doing that line, and the role in general.
The General in the Japanese version definitely fits this trope. Ichiro Nagai was practically the go to guy for hammy villains in his day.
The Legend of Chekhov: From the very start, Pazu believes the mythical city of Laputa exists. He's not wrong.
Letterbox: Disney included widescreen picture on the 2003 VHS, even though they rarely released widescreen videotapes of their own movies.
Lost Technology: Anything made by the Laputean people. They abandoned Laputa and their other floating cities and castles fell back to Earth at some point, though what is accessible is still far above anything else seen in the movie.
Lost in Translation: Although faithful in spirit overall, some aspects of the original script didn't survive in the script for the Disney dub. The references to "Gulliver's Travels" and "Treasure Island" are both omitted, and the last part of Sheeta's speech at the end of the film is changed from "you can't survive without mother Earth" to "the world cannot live without love," which feels out of place with the actual song.
Oddly enough, even though the forgotten '80s JAL dub maintains the last part of Sheeta's speech and the "Treasure's Island" reference, it too omits the "Gulliver's Travels" reference.
Lull Destruction: To many purists, the extra lines of dialogue, particularly the Dola gang's banter, qualifies. However, other viewers see them as crowning moments of funny and/or fleshing out the characters' personalities... to the point that it proved jarring to such viewers when Disney removed the additional lines for its 2010 reissue. (The same is true of Jiji's oneliners in Kikis Delivery Service.)
Made of Iron: Pazu takes some pretty astounding punishment and bounces right back.
Magical Incantation: The "spells" Sheeta uses are commands that activate her Aetherium pendant's mysterious powers.
Magic Compass: Sheeta's pendant, when activated with the right spell, will shine a thin beam of light in the direction where Laputa is.
Market-Based Title: The word "Laputa" was dropped from the title in the US release because it means "the whore" in Spanish. Miyazaki took the name from Gullivers Travels, likely without even realizing that Jonathan Swift had chosen the name for that very reason. However, most international releases of the film kept the word anyway. It is exclusively called Laputa in Australia.
Never Trust a Trailer: A minor example: One of the trailers for the 2003 dub included a brief scene that looked like Pazu and Sheeta in a hanglider, flying towards Laputa. This scene is from the end of the film, and in actuality they're flying away from it. The arrival on the floating island is nowhere near as smooth.
Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Dola and her boys are typical Miyazaki heavies who eventually get won over to the good side. And of course they weren't really evil, just goofy pirates. Averted with Muska, however. He is actually the most unusual villain for a Miyazaki movie as he is totally malevolent with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The only other Miyazaki villain that even comes close is the very similar Count Cagliostro from The Castle of Cagliostro. But that was really more Miyazaki playing around in someone else's universe.
Not Quite Dead: The robot at the castle is shot down and seems dead, but then it gets a second wind and gets up to destroy the entire place before finally passing away.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Anna Paquin, who voices Sheeta in the English dub, slips into her New Zealand accent frequently. This works to the benefit of the character though, since Sheeta is supposed to be from somewhere far away.
Sheeta's outfit is blue at the beginning of the film, but once she joins the pirates' crew she gets a new outfit that includes a pair of pink pants.
Pin-Pulling Teeth: Dola pulls out a German "potato masher" style stick grenade and pulls the pin with her teeth. Potato masher grenades didn't have pins. They used a pull cord in the handle instead.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Mostly averted. They are not really evil and don't do so much piracy, but they do attack the ship where Sheeta is held for no other reason than because the flying stone is extremely valuable. They once point out that as pirates, it is completely normal they are looking for treasures to loot, unlike the army. And they do score quite a good haul of treasure at the end.
Plucky Girl: Sheeta. Being a Miyazaki heroine, this is a given.
Power Glows: Aetherium (Volucite/Levitation), the Applied Phlebotinum of the story, glows brightly whenever its active. The Spell of Destruction at the end caused a glow bright enough to leave Muska blind.
Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Muska's "Goodbye! Enjoy the ride!" quip in the Disney dub before dropping the soldiers to their deaths.
Primal Fear: Laputa plays on the audience's acrophobia, as there are many places where the characters could easily fall off. This is especially emphasized in Pazu's Le Parkour moments, as he makes daring leaps and hangs onto tight ledges for dear life.
Protagonist-Centered Morality: When the Army begins looting Laputa, Pazu reacts with disgust, calling them thieves. Dola and the gang receive no such reprimand when it's revealed they snagged some golden goodies for themselves before Laputa floated away.
Granted, they did not, unlike the soldiers, attempt to pull the palace apart, and they also weren't willing to hurt anyone to get to it.
And it's implied they're going to use the treasure to buy a new airship. Plus they're pirates, not soldiers.
Punch Clock Villain: The General and his Army. They're all too willing to plunder Laputa's treasures, but they turn on Muska once his plan is revealed.
Redshirt Army: The Army becomes this once Muska gains control of Laputa; when they resist, they are absolutely massacred as Muska sends them all falling to their deaths, and finishes off the survivors on Goliath when they flee the scene and try to destroy the dome beneath the city.
Scenery Porn: Another Ghibli staple; it seems like every time you blink, there's another establishing shot or sweeping pan.
Shout-Out: The fox-squirrel critters from Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind make an appearance in Laputa. The odd headless beaver-tailed creatures and the longhaired yaks are from Nausicaa as well, and the robots strongly resemble the Heedra. The latter three only appear in the manga.
Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: One of the active robots in Laputa is a gardener and guardian of the wildlife, but like all of the other Laputian robots it appears to be armed with weapons of mass destruction.
Wave Motion Gun: Laputian robots have two: a slashing laser and a Destructo-Beam.
It's worth noting that the lasers used by the robots follow a realistic theory about the capability of laser weapons: They don't have a maximum range and they travel near-instantly. This is most clearly demonstrated when Sheeta throws off the damaged Fortress robot's aim and the beam shoots off across the countryside for miles before it can cut the beam to avoid risking harm to Sheeta.