Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta?) (Or simply Laputa) (re-titled Castle in the Sky for release in the United States) is a 1986 film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is the first film created and released by Studio Ghibli. Laputa: Castle in the Sky won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986.
According to legend, humans were fascinated with the sky; therefore they created increasingly sophisticated ways of lifting aircraft from the ground. This eventually led to flying cities and fortresses. Due to an unspecified catastrophe (Probably a major storm), most of the flying cities were either destroyed or crashed back to the ground, forcing the survivors to live on the ground as before. One city, Laputa, is said to remain in the sky, concealed within the swirling clouds of a violent thunderstorm. While most people consider it to be fictional, some believe the legend is true and have sought to find the ancient city. Large airships still remain in common use.
Aboard a civilian airship, a young girl, Sheeta, is escorted to an unknown destination by sinister-looking agents under Colonel Muska. The ship is attacked by a group of sky pirates; in the resulting disorder, Sheeta takes a small pendant from Muska and escapes out the window. The sky pirates, led by an old but vivacious woman Dola, attempt to seize her and the pendant, but Sheeta accidentally falls from the ship. As she falls, the pendant radiates a blue light and she gently floats to the ground. A young boy miner, Pazu, witnesses this in amazement and catches Sheeta. He takes her back to his home, where she finds a photograph of Laputa. Pazu explains that his deceased father, an airship pilot and adventurer, took the photo, but was disbelieved by his contemporaries. Pazu believes the city exists, however, and wants to find it himself someday.
Dola's band of sky pirates arrive at Pazu's house, forcing the children to leave, with Sheeta in a disguise. The Dola Gang finds out and chases them into the village, where the children sneak away and escape on a railway while the pirates have a fight with the villagers. Dola arrives, picks up the pirates, and chase the children on the railway. Their path is eventually blocked by an armoured train; the government agents inside attempt to capture Sheeta. With both pursuing parties fighting each other over the girl, the children fall from a collapsing rail trestle, but are saved when Sheeta's pendant activates once again, allowing them to float safely into an abandoned mine shaft.
Inside the mines they meet an old miner, Uncle Pom, who tells them of "volucite" (levistone in some subtitled versions, levitation stone in the original English language dub, and aetherium in Disney's English language dub), the crystal that keeps Laputa aloft. He reveals that Sheeta's pendant is one of the largest and purest of such crystals in existence, and counsels Sheeta to remember that the crystal's power rightly belongs to the earth, and that she should never use it to commit acts of violence.
Upon returning to the surface of the land, Sheeta tells Pazu that she has inherited an ancient "secret name": Lusheeta Toel Ul Laputa (Laputian for "Sheeta, True Ruler of Laputa"). A plane then unexpectedly lands with government agents and the two are captured, placed in a fortress, and separated.
The general in command of the fortress discusses with Muska the government-sponsored search for Laputa, and agree that Sheeta and her crystal are the keys to its discovery. Muska reveals to Sheeta his knowledge of her true name, shows her a huge android robot believed to have been created in Laputa, and tells her that unless she cooperates with him in the search of Laputa and unlocking the crystal's secrets, which he believes can be used to physically locate Laputa, Pazu is likely to come to harm. Seeking to protect her friend, Sheeta tells Pazu that she has agreed to cooperate with Muska and the army in search of Laputa and asks him to forget her and Laputa. Stunned by this apparent rejection, Pazu returns to his village, only to find Dola's pirate family occupying his home. Pazu tells Dola of his experiences; when the pirates learn that Sheeta, Muska, and the general will depart the fortress in search of Laputa aboard the gigantic military airship Goliath, Pazu begs Dola to take him with her.
In the fortress tower, Sheeta absent-mindedly recites a spell given by her grandmother, causing the crystal to illuminate a strange blue light that points to Laputa. The spell also re-animates the robot, which wreaks havoc all over the fortress, setting it on fire. The robot rescues Sheeta, demonstrating its loyalty, before it is destroyed by the Goliath airship. In the meantime, Dola and Pazu show up and rescue Sheeta from the burning tower, but her crystal is torn from her neck and later recovered by Muska, who uses it to track down Laputa. The children and Dola's pirates pursue the Goliath aboard the pirate ship Tiger Moth, intent on finding Laputa before the Goliath does. That night, as Sheeta and Pazu stand watch on the crows nest, they talk at length about their respective lives, touching upon Sheeta's study of magic words and mentioning one such spell, the Spell of Destruction, a power Sheeta has never used. Dola, who is awake in bed, overhears their discussions through the intercom.
Amid their conversation, Pazu sees the Goliath rise from the clouds. The airship attacks, but the Tiger Moth escapes unharmed. The Tiger Moth enters a storm, and Dola tells the children to keep watch above the clouds by turning the crows nest into a glider. Soon a massive cloud becomes visible, which Pazu recognizes from his father's descriptions as Laputa's hiding place. As they try to find a way in, the Goliath attacks again and the glider Sheeta and Pazu are riding is blasted away from the pirate ship. After a harrowing ride through the storm-charged cloud, the children land in Laputa, only to find the city devoid of human life, having only a single robot among the ruins taking care of the grounds and its plant and animal life. In the grounds is a gargantuan tree, whose roots have pervaded Laputa's base.
The Goliath arrives at Laputa, whereupon the soldiers plunder the city's vast treasures. The Tiger Moth is found wrecked on the surface, with Dola and the pirates being held captive. As Pazu attempts to rescue Dola, Sheeta witnesses Muska locating a hidden entrance to a large sphere that surrounds the city's core; she is subsequently captured and taken inside. Pazu frees the pirates and, after many difficulties, finds another way into the sphere.
Muska takes Sheeta into Laputa's core, a chamber holding a gigantic Volucite/Aetherium crystal that serves as the city's power source, and reveals that he is also an heir to the throne of Laputa. He takes control of Laputa and all its technology and demonstrates the power of the city to the army by beaming an immensely powerful blast toward the surface. Betraying the general and the army, he then activates hundreds of robots to wipe out the army and the Goliath while Dola and the pirates hide from the robots inside the remains of the Tiger Moth. Sheeta frees herself, steals back the crystal and runs through the core with Muska in close pursuit. Eventually, she finds Pazu and passes the crystal to him.
Muska finally corners Sheeta in the city's throne room. He brandishes a handgun at her, blasting off her pigtails. Pazu, with a hand cannon provided by Dola, then enters and asks for a moment to talk to Sheeta, which Muska grants. Together, the two children decide to use the Spell of Destruction; with a single word, the pendant releases an enormous power surge that triggers the collapse of the city's core. Muska is blinded by the flash and falls to his death, while Sheeta and Pazu are hurled into the tangle of roots from the giant tree and survive. Afterwards they find their way back to the glider, also lodged in the tangle of roots, and leave Laputa.
The Dola pirates also survive Laputa's destruction aboard their moth fighters, and are overjoyed to be reunited with Sheeta and Pazu in midair, with some Laputan treasure as a compensation for their troubles. After reaching the coast, the pirates and the children bid each other a fond farewell and part ways. The ending credits show the remains of Laputa, held together by the tree, continuing to rise, until they apparently establish an orbit high above the earth.
|Character||Japanese||English (JAL / Streamline)||English (Disney)|
|Pazu||Mayumi Tanaka||Barbara Goodson||James Van Der Beek|
|Sheeta||Keiko Yokozawa||Lara Cody||Anna Paquin|
|Dola||Kotoe Hatsui||Rachel Vanowen||Cloris Leachman|
|Muska||Minori Terada||Jeff Winkless||Mark Hamill|
|General||Ichirō Nagai||Mike Reynolds||Jim Cummings|
|Uncle Pom||Fujio Tokita||Ed Mannix||Richard Dysart|
|Shalulu / Charles||Takuzō Kamiyama||Barry Stigler||Michael McShane|
|Lui / Louis||Yoshito Yasuhara||Dave Mallow||Mandy Patinkin|
|Anli / Henri||Sukekiyo Kamiyama||Eddie Frierson||Andy Dick|
|Boss||Hiroshi Ito||Cliff Wells||John Hostetter|
|Old Engineer||Ryūji Saikachi||Eddie Frierson||Matt K. Miller|
|Okami||Machiko Washio||Lara Cody||Tress MacNeille|
|Madge||Tarako||Barbara Goodson||Debi Derryberry|
- Additional voices in the Japanese version included Eken Mine, Megumi Hayashibara, Tomomichi Nishimura, Hōchū Ōtsuka, Masashi Sugawara, Reiko Suzuki, Hideki Fukushi, Nobuyuki Furuta, Kazumi Tanaka and Toshihiko Seki.
- Additional voices in the original English dub included Dave Mallow, Eddie Frierson, and Jeff Winkless.
- Additional voices in the Disney dub included Corey Burton, John DeMita, Eddie Frierson, Susan Hickman, Matt K. Miller, Scott Menville, Andy Philpot and Michael Sorich.
All compositions by Joe Hisaishi.
- "The Girl Who Fell from the Sky" – 2:27
- "Morning in Slag Ravine" – 3:04
- "A Fun Brawl (Pursuit)" – 4:27
- "Memories of Gondoa" – 2:46
- "Discouraged Pazu" – 1:46
- "Robot Soldier (Resurrection/Rescue)" – 2:34
- "Carrying You" – 2:02 (Chorus: Suginami Children's Choir)
- "Sheeta's Decision" – 2:05
- "On the Tiger Moth" – 2:32
- "An Omen to Ruin" – 2:18
- "The Sea of Cloud Under the Moonlight" – 2:33
- "Laputa: Castle in the Sky" – 4:36
- "The Collapse of Laputa" – 2:00 (Chorus: Suginami Children's Choir)
- "Carrying You" – 4:07 (sung by Azumi Inoue)
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 Welsh mining-town architecture, clothing, and even ground vehicles of Pazu's homeland; and the Victorian ambiance of the pirate ship.
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 reception
In the late 1980s, an English version of Laputa was briefly shown in the US 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 film 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 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.
After Princess Mononoke flopped financially in the US, Laputa's release date was pushed back yet again; on occasion the completed dub was screened at select children's festivals. The film was finally released on DVD and video in the US on April 15, 2003, alongside Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away. As with Mononoke and Kiki, critical opinion was mixed about the new dub, but Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill's performances as Dola and Muska drew praise. Laputa 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). Laputa was reissued on American home video in March 2010 as a tribute accompanying the home video release of Ponyo.
The film currently holds a 94% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. In an audience poll (with 80,402 voters) of 100 best animations of all time, conducted by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs in 2007, Castle in the Sky was the second highest-ranked animated film, and third highest-ranked animation overall on the list.
- 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
English language dubs of Laputa have 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. 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, Mexico, and Spain (In Spain instead of Laputa they named the castle: Lapuntu) 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. Although "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 original English dub (the older, non-Streamline dub, or the 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.
Differences between versions
Although the plot and much of the script was left intact, Disney's English dub of Laputa: Castle in the Sky contains some changes. These differences do not appear in the original dub.
- 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 effect 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 film more accessible to US 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 who called them into question. On the other hand, Miyazaki himself is said to have approved of Hisaishi's reworking; his compliments were echoed by several reviewers.
However, the recent 2010 DVD re-release omits most of these changes. The new score has been removed, having been replaced by Hisaishi's original synthesizer score, and quite a lot of the added dialogue has been eliminated, making the dub closer to the original Japanese. Additionally, the subtitles on the newer release are mostly dubtitles.
Video game adaptation
Japanese video game developer HOT-B began work on a video game adaptation of Laputa. The final product, released in Japan as Koutetsu Teikoku for the Sega Mega Drive video game console as a shoot 'em up, is very different to the source material. Some similarities with the film can be seen, in the aesthetic steampunk-esque designs of the game. The game was subsequently brought to western market in 1992 by Acclaim Entertainment's label Flying Edge under the title Empire of Steel in Europe and Steel Empire in the United States.
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Script error Anthony Lioi feels that Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky is similar to themes from Swift's Laputa, where the technological superiority of the castle in the sky is used for political ends.
- Tenku No Shiro Rapyuta at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky at the Internet Movie Database
- Castle in the Sky at Allmovie
- Castle in the Sky (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- 天空の城ラピュタ (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) at the Japanese Movie Database (Japanese)
- Detailed Laputa information on Nausicaa.net