Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) (re-titled Castle in the Sky for release in the United States) (in English, literally translated as The Sky's Castle: Laputa) is a film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, released in 1986. It is the first film created and released by Studio Ghibli, although it is considered the second by some since Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was created by the founding members two years before. Laputa: Castle in the Sky won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986.
A zeppelin-like airship flies through the clouds at night. On board are Sheeta and Muska. The latter is a government agent who has kidnapped Sheeta and taken a powerful family heirloom of hers, a necklace made of pure Aetherium. Suddenly, the ship is attacked by Dola and her gang of pirates, which coincedentally are her sons. In the confusion, Sheeta manages to knock out her captor and reclaim her crystal. In order to escape the pirates who have gotten wind of her amulet, she goes through a window and grabs the outer walls of the ship. She is unable to keep her grip and she falls to what appears at first to be her doom. However, while unconscious her amulet emits a bright blue glow and she goes from a free-fall to a float.
In a small mining town below, a boy called Pazu is working very late. While returning to the mine with a meal for his boss, he sees Sheeta slowly descending from the sky. She falls straight to the head of the mine excavation and Pazu rushes to catch her. To his surprise, she appears to have no weight... that is until the stone stops glowing and she almost drags them both down into the shaft. Narrowly he catches the girl and decides to bring her back home.
The next morning, Sheeta is awakened by the sound of Pazu playing the trumpet on the roof. After she awakens, Pazu asks to see the stone, inquiring about its mystical properties of which Sheeta has no recollection of. When he tries to test the levitation himself, he falls head first through the roof below but gets up without a scratch.
In the house, Sheeta notices a photograph of the legendary Castle of Laputa. The picture was taken by Pazu's father, an explorer who snapped the photo during a harsh storm. Upon his return, nobody believed his discovery of the floating castle and he died in poverty. Pazu wants to prove his father's honor and honesty so he has been working on a small ornithopter which should allow him to rediscover Laputa. Unfortunately, it does not take much time for pirates to trace Sheeta to where she landed. With the help of the villagers, Pazu and Sheeta manage to escape and board a train. Dola, having gathered her sons, was right on their heels.
The hijacking of the ship did not go unnoticed and soon large military reinforcements were on their way: Muska and his men began to pursue two children. In order to escape the military force in front of them and the pirates on the track behind them, they take a turn and the two of them run across a third route. During this escape, the rail collapses and Pazu and Sheeta fall with the ruins into the darkness of the canyon below. But once again the stone takes action and the pirates and military look on in awe as the children float down quietly and out of their reach.
The two kids descend into an old mine and meet Uncle Pom, an eccentric old miner. Pom explains that he lives in the mines to escape the hustle and bustle of the outside world. When faced with the question of loneliness, he answers that he listens to the rocks. Pazu puts out his light and the cavern they are in lights up with the same blue glow that Sheeta's necklace emits. The rocks contain Aetherium, a rare element that could only be refined by Laputan technology that was lost ages ago. At this moment Sheeta realizes that her pendant shines even more brightly then the other stones and we discover it is made of pure Aetherium. Pom says that only the people of Laputa knew how to create such crystals, which is what enabled them to build their massive floating fortress. Pazu is overjoyed as he is now certain Laputa exists.
When the children leave the mine, Sheeta tells Pazu her true name: Lusheeta Toel-ul Laputa, which shows she may have some connections with Laputa. They are then captured by Muska and his men. They are taken to a military base on the coast, the famous fortress of Tedis. Pazu is enclosed in a dank and cold tower, whereas Sheeta is escorted into a lavishly decorated room. At the fort, General Muoro, who leads the Army of the nation and wants to plunder Laputa's riches, urges Muska to interrogate Sheeta instead. Sheeta is then taken by Muska to a room where a massive and broken robot is kept. Muska explains that this robot fell out of the sky and is almost certainly Laputan. The amulet Sheeta wears matches to an emblem on the soldier.
According to Muska, the amulet can show the way to Laputa, but it requires a spell which only Sheeta knows; however Sheeta insists she doesn't know such a spell. Muska then reveals that he knows Sheeta's true name, and explains that she is the direct heir to the throne of Laputa. In an effort to discover the spell, Muska threatens to kill Pazu She gave in and tells Pazu to stop searching for Laputa and go home. Shocked, Pazu leaves the fortress with three gold coins given to him by Muska, in "recognition of his services".
Pazu arrives home at nightfall where he is greeted by Dola and her sons, who have infiltrated the house. After being tied up and questioned, Pazu is told by Dola that Sheeta was forced to tell him this in an effort to protect him. She also stresses that once Muska has what he wants from her, he will most likely kill her. They managed to intercept a military coded message which called for the battle cruiser Goliath to be taken to the fort and that Sheeta will depart by dawn. The pirates decide to leave as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, in her room, Sheeta recites a charm that she had learned from her grandmother as a child. In response to these words, the stone begins to emit mysterious rays. These rays awoke the robot from his slumber and it begins to cause significant damage to the fortress, while trying to locate Sheeta. Back in his home, Pazu asks to join Dora and her group to save Sheeta. Dora accepts and they immediately fly to the fortress of Tedis.
There, all attempts to stop the robot have failed. The carnage continued as the robot noticed Sheeta and attempts to reach her. A frightened Sheeta ran to the top of a tower. The stone began shining and emits a light beam toward the sky, that Muska interpreted as the direction to find Laputa. Muska terminated the communication between Goliath, on which General Muoro is abroad, and the Fortress. Assuming emergency control, Muska ordered the Fort defenses to target the robot and avoid hitting Sheeta.
Sheeta is 'cornered' by the robot but then discovers that the robot is friendly to her. The Fort defenses, however, fired a large projectile, denting the robot's armor. The robot is temporarily disabled, and the blast knocked Sheeta's amulet off of the tower. The soldiers thought they had succeeded and attempted to grab Sheeta. The robot reactivates, to the shock of the soldiers, as it retaliates against the fortress.
Shocked by the carnage, Sheeta tried to stop it by covering its head. The robot then moves Sheeta away from it before being destroyed by Goliath. Pazu and Dora, arriving in the flapter, attempts to snatch Sheeta amidst the flames. The pirates escaped with some difficulty, however unharmed. The amulet pointing to Laputa, however, went into the possession of Muska.
Sheeta and Pazu, aboard one of the flaptops, return to the pirate's ship, the Tiger Moth. Through calm observation, Sheeta deduces that the amulet had pointed near due east and the ship routes eastward, accelerated by the trade winds. Dola assigns the two as cook and engineer assistant respectively. Soon, the pirates begin to take a liking to them.
At night, Sheeta expresses her concerns to Pazu. In fact, she does not want to go to Laputa. She is afraid of the power of the stone and wished they never find Laputa. Pazu thinks that with the advancement of airship technology and engineering, Laputa will be discovered, sooner or later. Sheeta recalls that she had learned a large amount of spells in her youth, including one destruction spell she should never use.
Suddenly, Pazu sees the silhouette of Goliath. The crew is awakened and the Tiger Moth dives into the clouds to avoid confrontation. Sheeta and Pazu is instructed to use the glider that is part of the post to watch for Goliath. Pazu tells Dola that they are headed into a gigantic cloud system, which Pazu later recognizes as the Dragon's lair, the cloud in which lies Laputa, which his father had discovered.
Goliath suddenly appears and attacks Tiger Moth. The wire connecting the glider and Tiger Moth is broken as a result, Sheeta and Pazu are dragged into the cloud system consequently. Pazu attempted to steer the glider with limited success. The clouds, however, begin to dissipate and they successfully reached Laputa, crashing on a floating pedestal.
They cannot find any person on the ruins. Pazu and Sheeta are then greeted by a lonely robot gardener. They follow the robot to discover a tombstone in the central garden. Suddenly, there was an explosion. It turns out the Goliath has landed on the other side and its soldiers are plundering the riches. Pazu and Sheeta sees that Dola and her son were captured. Trying to rescue them, the two are seen by Muska and his men. Sheeta is quickly captured and taken inside a hidden passageway. Meanwhile, Pazu frees the pirates and Dora gave him a gun and two cartridges to help rescue Sheeta. Pazu begins climbing the vines that lead to the centre of Laputa.
Muska arrives at the palace and control centre of Laputa, which contains a giant Aetherium crystal that keeps Laputa afloat. Muska is revealed to really be Romuska Palo-ul Laputa, and is the descendent of one branch of the Laputan royal family.
Muska gains control of the island by using the amulet on a Black Stone Tablet, on which Laputan symbols are engraved. Meanwhile an enraged General Muoro attempts to break into the control centre with explosives, because Muska has destroyed all radio equipment on Goliath. He then tells General Muoro and his men to go inside the control centre, opening a hole for them. It turns out to be an observation deck and a hologram of Muska, Sheeta and the Black Stone Tablet descends. Muska demonstrates the power of Laputa with an explosion of undescribable proportions conducted in the ocean below. The General tries to kill Muska, who calls himself King of Laputa, but fails due to it being only a hologram. Muska then removes the floor of the deck, causing the General and numerous soldiers to fall from Laputa. A large amount of robots are released as the soldiers attempt to escape, and the soldiers quickly board the Goliath and steer it away. While the pirates managed to remain undetected hiding in the ruins of Tiger Moth, aboard the flaptors. Pazu manages to get into one of the openings in which a large amount of robots are stored, as Muska releases them, the robots destroy Goliath and Pazu gets into the palace via the opening, using 1 of the cartridges in the process. Sheeta is disturbed by Muska's actions and steals the amulet. She then runs in the palace attempting to avoid the following Muska.
Pazu and Sheeta found each other by voice, albeit separated by a wall with only a tiny hole in it. Out of desperation, Sheeta passes the amulet through the small gap and asks him to get rid of it. Muska arrives and shoots Pazu, but misses. Pazu uses his last cartridge to widen the hole and squeeze through it, following Sheeta and Muska.
Arriving in the throne room, Sheeta realizes she is trapped. Muska arrives and orders her to surrender. Sheeta realizes that the reason Laputa was abandoned was that it was detached from Earth, where the humans originated. Muska refuses to believe and shot her hair, stating that Laputa will rebirth from then on. Pazu arrives just before Muska shoots Sheeta's ears and said Muska will never have the amulet back if he hurts Sheeta.
Given three minutes to talk privately, Pazu convinces Sheeta to teach him the spell of destruction. The two hold their hands and uttered the spell of destruction. The amulet emits extraordinary light and flings the two deep into the roots. The light temporarily blinds Muska and the giant Aetherium crystal is freed. Dola and the pirates witness the destruction and are forced to escape on their flaptors. The foundations of the palace begin to crumble and fall into the sea, bringing with them a large portion of the ruins of the city above. The pirates thought the two are dead, instead the two are saved by the roots. They find the glider, also stuck in the roots, and escape from Laputa. The giant Aetherium crystal is stuck in the roots and causes the remaining parts of Laputa along with the tree to rise to high orbit above Earth.
The pirates spot the glider and the two and pulls them towards their flaptors. They are overjoyed to see them alive. It is also revealed they had managed to grab some of the riches of Laputa before it fell to Earth and flew above the skies. Seeing land, the two says goodbye to the pirates for the last time and glides towards it.
|Character||Japanese original||English Streamline dub||Disney 2003 English dub|
|Pazu||Mayumi Tanaka||Barbara Goodson||James Van Der Beek|
|Sheeta (Princess Lusheeta Toel Ul Laputa)||Keiko Yokozawa||Lara Cody||
Anna Paquin / Debi Derryberry (Young Sheeta)
|Captain Dola||Kotoe Hatsui||Rachel Vanowen||Cloris Leachman|
|Muska (Romuska Palo Ul Laputa)||Minori Terada||Jeff Winkless||Mark Hamill|
|Uncle Pom||Fujio Tokita||Ed Mannix||Richard Dysart Shogun|
|General Muoro||Ichiro Nagai||Mike Reynolds||Jim Cunnings|
|Boss / Mr. Duffi||Hiroshi Ito||Cliff Wells||John Hostetter|
|Shalulu / Charles||Takumi Kamiyama||Barry Stigler||Michael McShane|
|Lui / Louis||Yoshito Tasuhara||Dave Mallow||Mandy Patinkin|
|Anli / Henri||Sukekiyo Kameyama||Eddie Frierson||Andy Dick|
|Motro / Engineer||Ryuji Saikachi||Eddie Frierson||Matt K. Miller|
Okami: Machiko Washio
- Additional Japanese Voices: Eken Mine, Megumi Hayashibara, Tomomichi Nishimura, Hōchū Ōtsuka, Toshihiko Seki, Masashi Sugawara, Reiko Suzuki
- Additional Voice (original English dub): Daniel Foster
- Additional Voices (Disney): Corey Burton, Tress MacNeille, John DeMita, Scott Menville, Debi Derryberry, Matt K. Miller, Eddie Frierson, Andy Philpot, Susan Hickman, Michael Sorich
The world in which the story takes place is clearly Earth, but apparently in an alternate history. None of the place names match real-life geography. The airships appear to use buoyant gas, but are different in appearance than actual dirigibles. The pirate flaptors and military planes do not resemble actual craft. The movie takes place sometime between 1868 and 1900, as the photograph of Laputa inside Pazu's house, taken by his father, is dated "1868. 7," which evidently means "July 1868."
The history of this alternate world is hinted at in various parts of the movie: Laputa, in ancient times, once dominated the world in a hegemony, presumably of other aerial cities (suggested by a woodcut-like piece in the opening credits or scenes), and may have had a rotor on its bottom and other rotors on its side. Land may have also been attached to Laputa in antiquity; possibly in a different time period than the one in which rotors were attached.
Laputa was abandoned 700 years before the setting of the movie, having controlled the manufacture and mining of the "sky-crystal"; such an art having been abandoned by the film's beginning. The royal family and their subjects abandoned the city, leaving behind an electronic, high-technology core topped by a chamber or greenhouse. There grew a central tree, which proceeded to sink its roots deep into the city and spread its branches outside of the city's top roof, along with several layers or terraces of walls or buildings done in various architectural styles. It is shown to have had at least three terraces of walls topped with one of buildings; it may have had as many as five, as indicated in a tomb marker's seal. This abandonment of Laputa, according to Sheeta and/or Uncle Pom, may have been due to an alienation of the Laputans from the earth; a forgetting that they are intimately connected to the earth and an over-reliance on technology to solve problems.
The opening part of the woodcut-like opening credits shows a simple windmill with a kiln behind it, set in a hillside, with a man tending it. Afterwards, the windmills grow into enormous, apparently partially wind-powered factories or machines, with machinery digging ever deeper into the earth. Dirigibles appear, along with airplanes and helicopters or autogyros flying against a clouded cityscape. A giant helicopter-ship is shown rising into the air, with the hull of an ocean liner and numerous rotors (possibly an exodus in search of new resources, as the factories surrounding it are now dark and motionless), and then a Laputa-like city appears, with the aforementioned rotors. Subsequently a scene of floating islands and cities appears; again with Laputa possibly among them. Enormous, boxy, metallic helicopter-ships are shown, having rotors propelling them from the bottom. Disaster strikes: lightning is shown and redness fills the screen. A sky-city can be seen, faintly, crumbling in the background, and then people are shown leaving the wreckage of a giant helicopter-ship. The end of the opening credits shows a farmgirl behind a windmill, almost exactly like the one shown previously to be the earliest seed of Laputan society, next to two beasts of burden: a scene later in the movie (showing Sheeta on a farm with similar beasts of burden) implies this is Sheeta. This opening-credit roll can be compared with the "history of the world" scenery shown at the end of Wings of Honneamise and the Bayeux Tapestry-like scroll at the beginning of Nausicaä.
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 British mining-town architecture, clothing, and even ground vehicles of Pazu's homeland; and the Victorian ambiance of the pirate ship. However, most of the movie's ancient civilisation designs seems to stem from early to mid-16th century European culture.
The medieval castle in the movie seems to be inspired by the European mid-16th century painting of The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, with its giant circular base and the presence of highly rounded and arched doorways all the way around its perimeter. Even the colour of the castle is similar to the colour of the tower in the painting, while the flying machines depicted in the opening scenes of the movie with its whirring blades are also similar to Leonardo da Vinci's early drawings of a wooden helicopter. The link with The Tower of Babel painting is also symbolic. According to the narrative in Genesis Chapter 11 of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built to reach the heavens by a united humanity.
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 the movie was briefly shown in the U.S. 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 movie 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 R2 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 (presumably because the first release under their deal with Studio Ghibli, Kiki's Delivery Service, performed better than expected on VHS).
After Princess Mononoke flopped financially in the U.S., Laputa's release date was pushed back yet again; on occasion the completed dub was screened at select children's festivals. The movie was finally released on DVD and video in the U.S. on April 15, 2003, alongside Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away. As with Mononoke and Kiki, critics and fans were mixed about the new dub, but Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill's performances as Dola and Muska drew nearly universal praise. Castle in the Sky 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).
The movie currently holds a 95% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
English language dubs of Laputa has 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, which was probably intentional on the part of Swift, who created the concept in Gulliver's Travels. For this reason, 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 (where Spanish is commonly spoken as a first language by around 10% of the population or as a second language by students), Mexico, and Spain. 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, despite Laputa (La puta) having no meaning in either English or French (however the French La pute is quite close). Curiously, although the word 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 aforementioned 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
Castle in the Sky Region 1 DVD cover.
Castle in the Sky Region 1 DVD cover.
- Australia: G
- United Kingdom: PG
- United States: PG
Although the plot and much of the script was left intact, Disney's English dub of Laputa: Castle in the Sky contains some changes.
- 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 appearance 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 movie more accessible to U.S. 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 and fans who called them into question. In particular, some fans pointed out that the new soundtrack placed music in scenes that previously involved the dramatic use of natural silence, as in the opening airship raid or when Pazu and Sheeta pass through the storm-cloud. On the other hand, Miyazaki himself is said to have approved of Hisaishi's reworking; his compliments were echoed by several reviewers.
- Many fans believe that characters from Miyazaki's 1978 series Future Boy Conan were prototypes for the characters of Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Moreover, according to Hideaki Anno, the original bill of the project of this movie was what Miyazaki had presented to NHK in the broadcasting station as the following work while producing Future Boy Conan. Illustration "Pazu, the child of the sea, 海の子パズー" collected to "Hayao Miyazaki image board collection, 宮崎駿イメージボード集" (issued in November, 1983) might be it (the composition that the boy who resembled Pazu looks up at the girl in the water tank in a dark room). In the plan, the original bill was SF novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea of Jules Verne, but when making it into a film, Miyazaki might have changed it to Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels. In addition, Miyazaki's plot outline for Castle in the Sky was also re-imagined by Toho as a TV series. The result was Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, a 1990-91 TV series aired on NHK, made by the Gainax studio and directed by Hideaki Anno (who reportedly considers Miyazaki one of his idols) and Shinji Higuchi (the predecessor to the same team's hugely successful Neon Genesis Evangelion).
- It is thought by some that the setting of Castle in the Sky is possibly the same setting as another of Miyazaki's movies, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but in an earlier period of history.
- Jamie Hewlett, the artist behind the band Gorillaz, said on a South Bank Show special about anime that he found inspiration from the film for the floating windmill island found in the two Gorillaz music videos "Feel Good Inc" and "El Manana".
- In the part where the robot comes back to Pazu and Sheeta, it shows four of the same animals that Nausicaa had befriended running & playing on the robot.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii and GameCube home video game consoles contains several elements inspired by Laputa, including a puzzle featuring two ancient robots covered in foliage, as well as the final level featuring a sky castle.
- The Laputa robot was credited in the end credits of Avengers: Age of Ultron
- 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