Castle in the Sky, 1986.
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Featuring the voice talents of Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill
GKids has secured the new home video distributor contract for Studio Ghibli films, and they’ve released a big batch of them on Blu-ray, with more bonus features than what was found on the earlier Blu discs. Here we take a look at Castle in the Sky, which was Studio Ghibli’s first release in 1986.
If you’re thinking about starting your own film studio, you couldn’t do much worse than releasing something like Castle in the Sky as your debut effort. It was released in 1986 as Hayao Miyazaki’s first movie through his newly-founded Studio Ghibli, and more than three decades later, it still holds up.
Castle in the Sky is a rip-roaring adventure film that can hold its own with the best cinematic tales in the science-fiction and fantasy genres over the past several decades. It opens in media res as a young girl held captive aboard a zeppelin escapes when the ship is attacked by sky pirates. She falls, seemingly to her death, but we learn that she carries a rare crystal on her necklace.
The girl, Sheeta, ends up in a mining town and encounters a boy, Pazu, whose father once claimed to have seen a floating island called Laputa, which, unsurprisingly, is the origin of the crystal. Sheeta wants to find Laputa, and Pazu tags along. Soon the pair find themselves on the run from Colonel Muska, who had originally captured the young girl, as well as Captain Dola and her band of sky pirates.
Castle in the Sky features the original Japanese voices, with optional English sub-titles, or you can listen to the dubbed version with Anna Paquin and James Van Der Beek in the main roles and Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill playing Dola and Muska, respectively. While dubbed animation can be a mixed bag, Disney has done a good job of casting the English roles in Miyazaki’s movies since they started distributing the films on home video in North America during the late 90s. Castle in the Sky is a fine example of that.
This movie came to DVD in 2010 and was released on Blu-ray in 2012. This new Blu-ray edition from GKids, which is Studio Ghibli’s new home video distributor, includes the movie on DVD as well as a booklet with statements from Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, Miyazaki, and Castle in the Sky producer Isao Takahata. The bonus features on the Blu-ray disc expand on what was available previously for this movie:
- Feature-Length Storyboards: This feature presents the movie in the form of Miyazaki’s original storyboards. If you’re really into examining the creative process of bringing a movie from storyboards to the finished form, you’ll want to watch this all the way through (too bad there’s no way to put the movie next to the storyboards), but otherwise, it’s not worth much more than some sampling.
- Behind the Microphone (4 minutes): The cast, minus Paquin, talk about voicing their characters.
- The World of Laputa (2 minutes): Miyazaki briefly discusses what influenced this film, such as John Wayne’s How Green Was My Valley.
- Creating Castle in the Sky (3 minutes): Miyazaki turns his attention to another influence, the works of Jules Verne, as he explains why he’s so interested in the idea of being able to fly.
- Character Sketches (2 minutes): Miyazaki talks about his heroic pair.
- Producer’s Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki (3 minutes): Suzuki discusses his long-running relationship with the director.
- Scoring Miyazaki (7 minutes): Composer Joe Hisaishi talks about creating the score for Castle in the Sky as well as several other Miyazaki movies.
- Promotional Video (12 minutes): The meatiest bonus feature is an archival one featuring a young Miyazaki talking about Castle in the Sky.
You’ll also find theatrical trailers as well as text-less opening and end credits (the artwork and music without any words getting in the way) on the disc. It’s a bummer that there isn’t a nice long making-of documentary found here, especially considering the volume of Miyazaki material that’s been released in Japan, where he’s their version of Walt Disney (minus the 1950s conservatism). If you haven’t given this film a chance, though, or if you want to upgrade your 2010 DVD purchase, you can’t go wrong here.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★