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AKA: Laputa: Castle in the Sky
In addition to its distinction as the only PG rated Hayao Miyazaki title releasing as a two-disc Disney/Studio Ghibli Special Edition to help celebrate the disc debut of Ponyo, 1986's Castle in the Sky is also the longest and most action packed Japanese Anime venture of the quartet.
Halfway through the movie, I wrote the words, “should be a video game,” in my notes only to discover that it was later adapted into a Sega game. However, unfortunately research revealed that the game was very loosely based on Miyazaki's extraordinarily complex and detailed adventure that also rivals most studio blockbusters in terms of effects, unexpected twists, and its adherence to the Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.
In Castle in the Sky, when Sheeta's airship is hijacked by pirates, she manages to escape with her precious heirloom-- a magical crystal pendant-- before she falls to the Earth.
Breaking her fall-- which by this time has become more of a peaceful float-- teen miner Pazu catches the young woman and discovers that she has no concrete memory of what happened way up in the sky.
And although others believe its existence is the stuff dreams are made of, the two fast friends realize that the answers both are looking for in their life can be found by seeking out the legendary Laputa, the eponymous castle in the sky, that received its name from Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
Meanwhile, the US version ditched references to classic Swift literature along with Robinson Crusoe, which obviously became a controversy for purists who understood that the film needed the intellectual influences to augment it and remain true to Miyazaki's vision.
However, one change that helps the film keep viewers riveted well into the overly long second half was the decision to give Castle a musical Disney makeover by expanding its sparse musical track into a score three times longer since children are unaccustomed to experiencing that much silence in an animated movie.
The first film ever produced and released by famed Studio Ghibli, Castle in the Sky (also known as Laputa) still makes your breath catch today due to its awe-inspiring visuals.
And of the four titles recently released in gorgeous gold and blue packaging by Disney-- complete with personal introductions with Pixar's John Lasseter and an extra disc to bring you into the many lands involved in the movies-- Castle is undoubtedly the one I'd recommend for the oldest children.
Despite our brave heroine Sheeta, it's largely targeted to boys post-Dragonball, for unlike the delightful toddler friendly lessons and adorable characters in Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro, the deadly air pirates and intimidating robots make Castle a bit too intense for younger viewers.
Yet, more than that and given the literary references that have been removed, the plot is so intricate and follows the same type of logical hero's journey problem solving that would most appeal to them at that late elementary/middle school age in order to best appreciate Sheeta and Pazu's brave adventure to the Castle in the Sky.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.