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Anime: Castle in the Sky

Also known as Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Inspired by one chapter of Gulliver's Travels, Castle in the Sky is a 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 Kiki's 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.

Tropes:

  • 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!"
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Hero: Dola and the pirates.
  • Arcadia
  • Armies Are Evil: Although not nearly as bad as Muska.
  • Author Appeal: Loads of flying scenes, fantastical aircraft, and precipitous heights.
  • 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.
  • BFG: The pirates happily arm themselves with gigantic grenade launchers.
  • Big Eater: All the pirates, which means that Hilarity Ensues when Sheeta is tasked with cooking for them.
  • Bridal Carry: How Pazu holds Sheeta after he catches her in the beginning. Although he visibly strains while trying to carry her.
  • Captain Obvious: Muska and one of the soldiers after the robot escapes.
    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
  • Children Are Innocent
  • 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."
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Sheeta's dress is purple, foreshadowing her royal blood.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Both the children.
  • Cool Airship
  • Cool Planes
  • Cool Train: The armoured train, and the little mining shunter.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The spell of destruction that Sheeta's grandmother taught her.
  • Determinator: Pazu and his quest to find the city his father told him about. He also will stop at nothing to save Sheeta from Muska and the army, even if it means teaming up with pirates.
  • Disappeared Dad: Pazu's father, the only man who had seen Laputa with his own eyes. It's implied he was Driven to Suicide when everyone mocked him for making it up.
    • Sheeta also never talks about her father.
  • Disney Villain Death: Muska disposes of the general and his men by dropping them from Laputa into the ocean which is how Muska himself dies after the city is destroyed.
  • Dulcinea Effect: A strange girl drops out of the sky with a mysterious pendant and she's getting chased by suspicious-looking men and the army. Does Pazu ask any questions? Never!
  • Enemy Mine: Even though the pirates ransacked his house, Pazu teams up with them to save Sheeta and stop Muska.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We first see Sheeta trapped in a room on an airship surrounded by military folks, looking an awful lot like a Distressed Damsel. Until the part where they stop watching her, and she crashes a bottle over the only guard left in her room and escapes through the window of the moving blimp.
    • As if that's not enough, it's later established that she didn't even know her magic necklace would save her if she fell!
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Though Dola and her boys aren't all THAT bad.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Sheeta turns out to be one.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: General Muoro despises Muska...and this proves to be not without reason when Muska causes him and his crew to die a Disney Villain Death.
  • Evil Laugh: Muska, when he takes control of Laputa's power and uses it to dispose of the General and his army (and their almighty battleship).
  • Evil Plan: Muska wants to Take Over the World using Laputa as a Kill Sat. To this end he enlists a local military and kidnaps Sheeta so he can find and use the place.
  • Falling Into His Arms
  • 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.
  • Floating Continent
  • Girlish Pigtails: Sheeta, until her Important Haircut. Dola also wears her hair like this.
  • 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.
  • Go Through Me: Pazu's boss does this to protect him and Sheeta from the mooks chasing them.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Sheeta smashes a champagne bottle over Muska's head at the beginning of the film.
  • Hard Head: Pazu jokes about having one, saying that if it were any harder it could be used for a cannonball.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: After one of the pirates get into a fistfight with Pazu's boss, a member of the watching crowd suddenly does this to him. This quickly turns the fight into a full-blown mob.
  • Holding Hands: Pazu and Sheeta do this often.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Dola, when discussing with Sheeta the distance to Laputa.
    • Ultimately subverted. The weather shifts, making Dola's calculations incorrect.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Almost to the point of Guns Are Worthless. Apparently, the best a trained army can do against an unarmed boy is slightly graze his cheek.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Muska, however, seems much better with a gun - he manages to shoot off both of Sheeta's pigtails mid-range.
  • Improvised Weapon: Sheeta rescues herself in the first scene of the film by beaning one of her captors in the head with a bottle. Later, she throws a coal shovel at Dola's boys during the memorable train chase sequence.
  • 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.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Dola and the pirates. See Big Eater.
  • 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 villans in his day.
  • Lost Technology
  • 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 Kiki's 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.
  • Man Child: All of Dola's sons act more like boys. Blame it on their Apron Matron.
  • 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 Gulliver's 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.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Done by Dola to Sheeta. Played for laughs, see Victoria's Secret Compartment below.
  • Memento Macguffin: Sheeta's pendant, which was passed down from her grandmother and is an heirloom of the Laputian royal family.
  • The Men in Black: Those Two Guys who follow Muska around.
  • 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.
  • One Bad Mother: "Ma" Dola, pirate family boss.
  • 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.
  • Opaque Nerd Glasses: Papa.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Sheeta's pendant.
  • Out of the Inferno: The Laputian robot when escaping the castle.
  • Overt Operative: Muska refers to himself as the government's top agent to a roomful of a people.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The robots. Thankfully, they're wholly benevolent.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Dola, the only female pirate, has pink hair.
    • 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 extremey 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.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Muska's "Goodbye! Enjoy the ride!" quip in the Disney dub before dropping the soldiers to their deaths.
  • 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.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Laputa is saved from the army and Muska only to drift off into space. The treasure and technology are all lost.
  • Rated M for Manly: The shirt-ripping contest between Pazu's boss and one of Dola's sons. Mr. Duffy's wife is unamused.
  • Royal Blood: Sheeta and Muska are both descendants of the Laputian royal family.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Colonel Muska's glasses do this on at least one occasion.
  • 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.
  • Sinister Shades: The villains have them.
  • Sky Pirate: Dola and her crew.
  • Social Darwinist: Muska, as he reveals in a Motive Rant.
  • Spiritual Successor: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water took inspiration from this film.
  • Steam Punk: Mixed with a little Feudal Punk.
  • 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.
  • Surprise Checkmate: When Dola is playing chess in her room.
  • Take My Hand: Sheeta and Pazu do this.
  • True Name: Sheeta and Muska. For the record, they are Lucita - pronounced Lusheeta - Toel Ul Laputa and Romuska Palo Ul Laputa, which points out their status as members of the Laputian royal family.
  • Unfortunate Name: In Spanish "la puta" means "the whore"
    • While that is true, it helps that it's pronounced "Rapyuta" in Japanese, and "LŠputa" in Spanish. (In the Disney dub, it's even called "Lah-pyutah".)
    • In the Spanish dub, they use the correct pronunciation throughout the film, but it's done naturally and does not feel offensive.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Dola somehow manages to fill her cleavage with jewels even as they barely escape with their lives.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Muska upon realizing he's been outwitted by two children, with plenty of This Cannot Be!.
  • 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.
  • World Tree: Laputa is built around a huge, millennial tree. At the end of the film, the city is destroyed, but the tree lives on and finds a new home in outer space.
  • Zeppelins from Another World

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Casshan: Robot HunterMadmanEntertainment/Anime & MangaAsobi ni Iku yo!
BraveFantasy Animated FilmsCinderella
Nausicaš of the Valley of the WindCreator/Studio GhibliMy Neighbor Totoro
The Tokyo FireballImageSource/Animated FilmsCreator Thumbprint
Casshern SinsAnimeThe Castle of Cagliostro
Captain EOFilms of the 1980sCat City

alternative title(s): Laputa; Laputa Castle In The Sky; Castle In The Sky; Laputa
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