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Castle in the Sky
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 Castle in the Sky

Castle in the Sky

Synopsis: Sheeta, an orphaned girl wearing a crystal pendant with mysterious powers, is pursued by Muska, a government agent with sinister ambitions, and a pirate gang led by the old woman Ma Dola. Sheeta is rescued by Pazu, a young boy who decides to protect her. The pendant, passed down through the ages in Sheeta's family, points to the mythical flying island of Laputa, which everyone wants to find for their own purposes.

After the success of his second feature, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), director Hayao Miyazaki founded Studio Ghibli with his colleague Isao Takahata. The studio's name (pronounced ji-bu-ri in Japanese) comes from an Italian World War II scouting plane used in North Africa. The studio is noted both for its focus on feature films rather than television animation and for doing most of its animation in-house rather than contracting work out to other companies or even overseas.

Cel animation typically requires a large workforce, including "key animators" (who draw the major steps of an action within a shot) and "in-betweeners" (who produce the intermediate steps necessary to animate a character fully). Fully animated feature films are usually far more labor-intensive and thus more costly than television animation, which tends to be more limited in its rendering of character movement. A dedicated craftsman, Miyazaki personally checks all the key animation work and occasionally even redraws individual cels, something few directors of animated films do themselves. Miyazaki's--and Studio Ghibli's--principles have amply paid off in terms of both the films' consistently strong box office performance and their reputation for fine artwork.

Castle in the Sky (1986), Miyazaki's first Ghibli production, originally bore the title Laputa: Castle in the Sky. The name "Laputa" comes from Jonathan Swift's classic satiric novel Gulliver's Travels. In Part III, Gulliver is captured by pirates--whose ranks include a Japanese captain--and set adrift on the sea in a canoe; eventually he happens upon Laputa, an island that flies in the air. The source of inspiration is somehow fitting, since the film as a whole is a fable-like commentary on the benefits and dangers of technology. The flying castle and the awe-inspiring destructive forces it can unleash undoubtedly represent a disguised commentary on the horrors of nuclear war. In an interview with author Helen McCarthy, Miyazaki said: "I'm not optimistic about the next fifty years because we're going to face more human tragedy as we human beings start to do more stupid and dangerous things. After that time, when we've tried them and they have failed, maybe we'll move on to try better ways of doing things and things will improve." The underlying ecological message of the film even includes a reference to the science-fiction film Silent Running (1972), with its image of robots tending a garden in an abandoned world.

As always with Miyazaki, the visual style of Castle in the Sky is exquisitely detailed. Many shots suggest engravings, and much of the technology depicted in the film is deliberately archaic, including dirigibles, windmills and flying machines. The mining community, down to its architectural style, was modeled after the Rhondda coal-mining district in South Wales. Thus much of the film, including the costumes, has a distinct nineteenth-century feel to it. At the same time, the elaborately designed airplanes and other flying machines are a recurring feature of Miyazaki's films.

For Disney's 1999 English-language version, composer Joe Hisaishi rescored the film to make it suitable for Western audiences, both in terms of the soundtrack's fidelity and its orchestral arrangements, while using the original themes as a starting point. In an interview for Keyboard Magazine, Hisaishi said: "According to Disney's staff, foreigners (non-Japanese) feel uncomfortable if there is no music for more than three minutes (laughs). You see this in the Western movies, which have music throughout....However, in the original Laputa, there is one hour's worth of music in the two hour and four minute movie. There are parts that do not have any music for seven to eight minutes." Reportedly, Miyazaki was pleased with the new score.

CASTLE IN THE SKY (JAPANESE VERSION)
Producer: Hideo Ogata, Isao Takahata, Yasuyoshi Tokuma, Tatsumi Yamashita
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Cinematography:
Film Editing: Yoshihiro Kasahara, Hayao Miyazaki, Takeshi Seyama
Art Direction: Toshio Nozaki, Nizou Yamamoto
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Mayumi Tanaka (Pazu), Keiko Yokozawa (Sheeta), Kotoe Hatsui (Dola), Minori Terada (Muska), Fujio Tokita (Uncle Pomme), Ichiro Nagai (Shogun Mouro).
C-124m. Letterboxed.

CASTLE IN THE SKY (ENGLISH VERSION)
Producer: Hideo Ogata, Isao Takahata, Yasuyoshi Tokuma, Tatsumi Yamashita
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki, John Semper
Cinematography:
Film Editing: Yoshihiro Kasahara, Hayao Miyazaki, Takeshi Seyama
Art Direction: Toshio Nozaki, Nizou Yamamoto
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: James Van Der Beek (Pazu), Anna Paquin (Sheeta), Cloris Leachman (Dola), Mark Hamill (Col. Muska), Richard Dysart (Uncle Pomme), Jim Cummings (General).
C-124m. Letterboxed.

by James Steffen VIEW TCMDb ENTRY
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