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Flying machines? Brave young heroine? It must be Miyazaki!

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 Steampunk, 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 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), was screened at select childrens festivals before finally debuting on 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.

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. It was briefly released in 1989, but failed to find an audience. (It should be known, too, that Carl Macek was said to have been dissatisfied with how it turned out.)

Tropes used in Laputa: Castle in the Sky include:

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
  • Clothing Damage: One of Dola's sons tries to intimidate Pazu's boss by flexing his muscles enough to burst his shirt, only to have the boss 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."


 Dola: "We'll all find her! And call me Captain!"

Pirates: "Yes, Mom!"

  • Nerd Glasses: Papa.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket
  • 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, who colors a lot of the pirate's stuff pink.
    • Sheeta's outfit is blue at the beginning of the film, but pink once she joins the pirates' crew.
  • Pin Pulling Teeth: Combined with Did Not Do the Research when 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: Although they do score quite a good haul of treasure at the end.
  • Plucky Girl: Sheeta. She is in a Miyazaki film, after all.
  • Power Glows: Aetherium (Volucite/Levitation), the Applied Phlebotinum of the story.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: When the Army begins looting Laputa, Pazu's reaction is a disgusted, "What a bunch of greedy thieves!" (in Disney's dub, it's "What a greedy pack of 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 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 the 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 only to drift off into space. The treasure and technology are all lost -- for the best, really.
  • Rose Haired Woman: Dola has pink hair.
  • Royal Blood: Both Sheeta and Muska have it.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Colonel Muska's glasses do this on at least one occasion.
  • Scenery Porn: It seems like every time you blink, there's another establishing shot or sweeping pan.
  • Shout-Out: The fox-squirrel critters from Nausicaa 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, though they only appear in the manga.
  • Sinister Shades: The villains have them.
  • Sky Pirate: Dola and her crew.
  • Smug Snake: Muska, once his true depravity comes to light.
  • Social Darwinist: Muska, as he reveals in a Motive Rant.
  • Spiritual Successor: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water took inspiration from this film.
  • Steampunk: 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 appear 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 Lusheeta Toel Ul Laputa and Romuska Palo Ul Laputa, which point out their status as members of the Laputian royal family.
  • 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
  1. In the original story, Laputan women were outright said to be heavily adulterous, taking whatever lover they could so as to cope with their husband's ignoring them