Castle in the Sky (which is known in Japan as Laputa: Castle in the Sky) is a film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film was released to theaters in Japan on August 2, 1986. While this film is technically the first one released by Studio Ghibli, many consider Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind as the first Studio Ghibli film, since the founders of the studio were involved in the production. Castle in the Sky won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986. In the United States, the first English-dubbed version of the film received a theatrical release on April 1, 1989.
After Disney acquired the rights to distribute the Studio Ghibli material, a new English dub was recorded in 1998. Disney originally planned to release Castle in the Sky to theaters in 1999; however, after the financial failure of Princess Mononoke, the film's release date was pushed back. The new English dub was finally released on DVD and home video on April 15, 2003, alongside Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away.
Castle in the Sky begins with a young girl named Sheeta in a flying vehicle, being escorted to an unknown location by Colonel Muska and his agents. The vehicle is attacked by a band of sky pirates; during the confusion, Sheeta grabs a small pendant from Muska and escapes. While the pirates try to grab Sheeta and the pendant, the girl falls from the vehicle. As she falls, the pendant emits a blue light, and Sheeta floats gently to the ground. A young boy named Pazu sees her falling and catches her. Pazu takes Sheeta to his home, where she sees a picture of Laputa (an ancient city that, according to myths, floats in the sky). Pazu explains that his deceased father took the picture of Laputa, but that no one believed his father. Pazu, however, does believe in Laputa, and plans to find it someday.
The sky pirates suddenly arrive at Pazu's house, which forces the two kids to escape on a railway. Their path ends up being blocked by an armored train, and the government agents traveling in the train try to capture Sheeta. While the pirates and government agents battle one another, the two kids fall from the rail trestle. However, Sheeta's pendant activates once again, and Sheeta and Pazu float down into an abandoned mine. In the mine, they meet Uncle Pom (who is an old miner). The miner explains that Sheeta's pendant is made of volucite (which is the crystal that provided Laputa with its power). Uncle Pom also says Sheeta's pendant is one of the largest and purest of these crystals in existence, and reminds her that the crystal's power rightfully belongs to the earth; she should never use it to commit acts of violence.
When the two kids return to the surface, Sheeta admits to Pazu that she has an ancient secret name: Lucita Toel Ul Laputa (which means, "Lucita, True Ruler of Laputa"). At that moment, government agents suddenly appear, and Sheeta and Pazu are separated. During the rest of the film, Sheeta learns more about her heritage and connections with Laputa, while Pazu finds himself teaming with the sky pirates to rescue Sheeta.
The DVD release was a bit of a disappointment. As usual, the second DVD only contains the storyboard version of the film. On the first disc, there are only three extras. The first is the introduction by John Lasseter from Pixar, which is the same as what you see at the beginning of the movie. The "Behind the Microphone" feature runs for about four minutes, and includes interviews and footage of recording sessions with the American voice actors. It was disappointing that Anna Paquin, who provided the American voice for Sheeta, wasn't included. The original Japanese trailers are also included, but these only run for slightly over four minutes.
The film successfully combines beautiful animation with a wonderfully written story. During the film, there is action, adventure, drama, and even a giant robot. It's a film that I would probably recommend for anyone eight years and older. While there's nothing inappropriate in the film for children under eight, I think that most kids younger than eight would not have the patience to sit through the film.
The DVD release is a little disappointing, but I would still recommend purchasing it if you enjoy the work of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The film itself is worth the money you spend on buying the DVD.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband purchased for me as a gift.