Throughout the 1980’s legendary director and animation pioneer Hayao Miyazaki, along with Studio Ghibli, released a string of animated classics designed to hold up now and forever. In 1986 the studio made its debut with Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which Miyazaki both wrote and directed, establishing a trend that would help transform the world’s perception of Japanese – and indeed the potential – of animation itself. Re-titled Castle in the Sky, Miyazaki’s classic finally gets the high-definition treatment it deserves with Disney’s stunning new Blu-ray release. As with the 2003 DVD release, the Mouse House has done a remarkable job bringing this masterpiece home again that is sure to make families want to visit the magical island of Laputa again and again.
The story follows Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka / James Van Der Beek), a young boy that works in the mines near his home. One night he just happens to see a young girl named Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa / Anna Paquin) floating down from the sky and catches her. He soon learns after bringing her to his house that she’s on the run from a band of sky pirates and their leader, Dola (Kotoe Hatsui / Cloris Leachman), who wants Sheeta to lead them to a treasure on a magical floating castle called Laputa. Pazu agrees to help and protect Sheeta, and the two soon run into a government agent named Muska (Minori Terada / Mark Hamill) who has also been chasing her, as both the pirates and the government are looking for Laputa. With this, Pazu and Sheeta embark on an epic adventure that only Miyazaki could bring to life as they try to avoid the power hungry groups that are out to capture them.
It was great seeing Castle in the Sky on Blu-ray, as I hadn’t watched it since the 2003 DVD release. There’s so much beautiful and scary stuff going on (the ancient giant robot that runs amok comes to mind), that it’s hard to talk about without giving the movie away. The voice acting for the both the English and Japanese dub are also well done, as they really draw you into the characters and magical world Miyazaki created. And speaking of magical, the transfer of the video by Disney is excellent, as they really cleaned up the picture here. The fluid animation still holds up in today’s age, while the level of color and detail is so vibrant, you would swear it was made recently and not in 1986. The sound is just as impressive, as the DTS 5.1 for the English audio track and 2.0 Japanese track both ring in loud and clear with their dialogue along with Joe Hisaishi’s wonderful score.
The special features here are just as exciting as the feature presentation. There’s an option to watch the movie in storyboard form, while “The World of Laputa” features Hayao Miyazaki discussing his travels to Cardiff to see the famous mines there for inspiration of the mine sequences in the movie. “Creating Castle in the Sky” goes into Hayao Miyazaki’s reasons for wanting to make the film and his desire to write a sci-fi adventure story. “Character Sketches” shows of some artwork for the characters and has Miyazaki discussing why he wanted the two lead characters to be an ordinary.
“Producer’s Perspective” features producer Isao Takahata talking about his first meeting with the legendary director and how they came to work together after a rough start. “Scoring Miyazaki” features an interview with the world famous composer Joe Hisaishi who goes into his inspirations for several of the films he’s scored for the director. Finally, “Behind the Microphone” gives viewers a look at actors James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill, and Mandy Patinkin behind the scenes as they recorded their dialogue for the English language version of the film.
Studio Ghibli’s stunning debut gets the high-definition treatment it deserves with Disney’s new transfer of Castle in the Sky (Laputa: Castle in the Sky), which bring Miyazaki’s masterpiece to life like never before. An exciting story, beautiful animation, and great performances (by both the original Japanese and English casts) are as memorable as ever, and the gorgeous new video transfer makes the film look better than ever. For longtime fans and newcomers to the world of Ghibli alike, this is definitely one Blu-ray you’ll want to add to your collection as you’ll be drawn into the magical world that is Laputa and will want to visit it time and again.
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Walt Disney Video