Blu-ray Review: Castle In the Sky

There Feature animation in America was clearly a child’s market in 1986. Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective was a moderate success. Don Bluth had a hit with An American Tail about the immigrant mouse. But the other major films were tied into the toy markets including My Little Pony: The Movie, GoBots: War of the Rock Lords. Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, Robotech: The Movie and The Transformers: The Movie. They weren’t movies so much a catalogs in motion. And it made being an adult that liked animation a tough thing to admit. But If you were lucky enough to fly on Japan Airlines, you were treated to a film that while about children was an science fiction film that could be enjoyed by adults without an excuse. Director Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle In the Sky proved that an animated film could be as exciting as any action adventure film starring Sly, Arnold or Bruce.

An zeppelin crosses the night sky with a nervous little girl sitting in a room with an angry man. Before they reach their destination, they airship is attacked by sky pirates. Turn out the girl was being held hostage and does her best to escape man. Sheeta (True Blood‘s Anna Paquin) climbs outside and the ship and holds on. But her grip fail and she falls earthbound. But instead of going splat, she floats down because of a rare crystal on a necklace. She lands in a mining town and befriends Pazu (Don’t Trust the B. In Apartment 23‘s James Van Der Beek). He tells her that his father once saw the floating island of Laputa. It turns out that her gravity defying crystal is from the island of Laputa. They duo do their best to escape the clutches of the sky pirates led by Captain Dola (Bad Santa‘s Cloris Leachman) and by Colonel Muska (The Big Red One‘s Mark Hamill) and his soldiers. Their goal is to find Laputa and discover more of the crystal since her destiny is tied to the floating castle in the sky.

It’s a shame that Castle In the Sky didn’t get released in the ’80s, but it would have been too much of a shock for kids who couldn’t rush off after during the end credits to Toys ‘R Us to grab all the tie-in toys. Miyazaki made a movie for watching and not as a leaping off point for merchandizing. What kid wanted to see that in the ’80s? How cool can an animated movie be if there’s no action figures? This is a great movie with so much action on the screen. The opening sequence with the pirates attacking the airship didn’t falter. The science fiction elements are natural to the story and not merely ready to appear in a Christmas catalog. This was a film that transcended age like his previous Nausicaa Of the Valley of the Winds. The movie looks beautiful and magical with its tale of giant robots, a floating island, strange mines and sky pirates. There had to be quite a few people flying from Tokyo to San Francisco who were hoping at some point that they could share Castle In the Sky with their families and friends only to have to wait years for the film to finally arrive in America.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the beauty of the hand drawn animated post-apocalyptic world. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 versions of both the original Japanese cast and the English cast. There’s a 2.0 mix of the French voices. It sounds fine on all tracks. Besides the all star cast soundtrack made by Disney, there’s the original cast that dubbed the film for Japan Airlines. Both are fine. The subtitles are in English and French.

DVD with movie and some bonus features.

Feature-Length Storyboards has to original sketches and the final soundtrack.

Original Theatrical Trailers (4:21) is how the floating and flying action was promoted in Japan 31 years ago.

Promotional Video (12:39) features a very young and beardless Miyazaki talking about his film. The special is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Behind the Microphone (4:11) lets the English language cast discuss the film with Mandy Patikim, James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill and Cloris Leachman. The talk centers on creating a character that was drawn and voiced long before the Hollywood actors sat down in the ADR studio.

World of Luputa (2:22) has Miyazaki chat about how Wales and John Wayne’s How Green Was My Valley influenced the animated world’s look. He wanted to see how the country mined coal.

Scoring Miyazaki (7:22) interviews composer Joe Hisaishi about his approaching to working on the movies.

Producer’s Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki (3:15) is longtime producer Toshio Suzuki speaking of their relationship.

Creating Castle in the Sky (3:38) allows Miyazaki to share how flying matters so much in his life. He reveals how the floating island matters to his life.

Textless Opening and End Credits (4:46) allows you to enjoy the artwork and music without pesky words.

Character Sketches (2:43) has the director speak of the lead characters. There’s more original art from the production.

12-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statements

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present Castle In the Sky. Directed and Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill. Rated: PG-13. Running Time: 125 minutes. Released: October 31, 2017.

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