Laputa: Castle in the Sky (FAQ)

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Q: Is Laputa based on a manga or a novel?

[laputa novel cover]

It is an original story by Miyazaki.

"Laputa" was later made into a novel, and Miyazaki illustrated it.

  • (The Novelization of the Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Volume 1 and 2)
  • 1986, AM JuJu, Tokuma shoten, 380yen each
  • Written by Osamu KAMEOKA; Illustrations by Miyazaki

Q: When did it take place?

It is believed to have taken place at the end of the 19th Century or the beginning of the 20th Century, in an alternate universe where flying technology was more advanced (a la Verne). According to Miyazaki, he wrote "Laputa" as a "science fiction novel which was written in the end of the 19th century".

Q: Where did it take place?

In an imaginary country. The Slug Ravine, where Pazu lived was modeled after a mining town in Wales. Miyazaki went to Wales for location hunting, and learned that the town had had a huge labor dispute the year before. This story and the scenery of the depressed mining town (he being a former chairman of a union) affected him, and made him put the scene of the townfolk fighting with the pirates in the movie. You can also see a socialist-looking poster in the house of Pazu's boss.

Q: What does "Laputa" mean?

"Laputa" is a floating island in Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", though according to Pazu, Swift's Laputa "is just a story in a book", and his Laputa is for real. In Swift's novel, Laputans are a people who literally have their "heads in the clouds".

At first, Miyazaki wanted to make a film about a "flying Treasure Island", and he borrowed the name "Laputa" from Swift's book. He probably shouldn't have. "Laputa" is actually a (really) bad word in Spanish. It means "prostitute" (or worse - it's really indecent, so we can't tell you), and Swift knew this when he named the island. It is not clear whether Miyazaki knew the origin of this word or not, but he could've avoided the problem only if he'd stuck to his original plan of spelling it as "Raputa" (the Japanese language doesn't differentiate between L and R). Read more on this subject on Marc Hairston's Laputa Name page.

Q: Why was Laputa deserted?

The early draft of "Laputa" explains that Laputa first appeared in history as "Laputatilis", in Platon's lost geography, "The Book of Sky". Platon wrote that Laputatilis was built by a people with a highly advanced civilization to escape from war. However, they became too dependent on the highly advanced mechanical civilization, which eventually weakened their vitality. Then, a disease hit, and killed off most of them, around 500 B.C. A handful of survivors came down to earth, and Laputa was deserted. However, the story in the movie was changed from this earlier setting, since in the movie, Laputa was deserted 700 years ago. We do not know why Laputa was deserted in the movie.

Q: Muska called Laputa's fire "Indra's arrow in 'Ramayana'". What does it mean?

"Ramayana" is a Hindu epic saga, written in the 4th Century B.C., which is a story about a Prince Rama and his wife, Shita (!). Indra is a God who commands thunder and rain. He sends lighting down to punish humans, and that is called 'Indra's arrow'.

Q: Dola said that Sheeta was exactly like her when she was young. Could it be possible?

Sometimes, time can be cruel. ^_^; In Dola's bedroom, there is a painting of a girl with pigtails. She (Dola) is rather beautiful, and it could be said that she looks somewhat like Sheeta. More importantly, Sheeta shows the same kind of toughness, bravery, and intelligence which made Dola such a great pirate. Further, Dola's late husband (some fansubs mistook the old engineer as her husband, but he is just her good friend) was a genius engineer, and invented the flapters (the dragonfly-like machine the pirates fly). Pazu, who also wants to be an engineer, was building his own plane at his house. As for the possibility of Sheeta becoming like Dola, well, time will tell. According to Miyazaki's brother, their mother was as mentally tough as Dola.

Q: Who designed the robots in Laputa?

Miyazaki did. Actually, they're very similar to the design of the robot in "Farewell Beloved Lupin", which Miyazaki wrote and directed in 1980. This episode was, in turn, an homage to the Fleischer brothers' "Superman" (episode #2, "The Mechanical Monster", 1941).

Q: Are there in-jokes in "Laputa"?

Fox-squirrels made a cameo appearance in the garden of Laputa.

Q: I heard there is an English dub. Is it true?

Yes. Laputa was originally dubbed into English, but not by Streamline Pictures as is often reported. Fred Patton from Streamline Pictures says:

Streamline Pictures theatrically distributed an English-dubbed print of Laputa from March 24, 1989 for the next year, but Streamline never dubbed it. Streamline licensed Laputa from Tokuma Shoten in late 1988 or early 1989, and was sent a print from Japan that had already been dubbed into English for use as an in-flight movie by Japan Air Lines on its trans-Pacific flights. We have no idea who actually dubbed it.

The dub was shown at a few art house theaters in the US. It has also been shown at least twice on TV in Britain, but some scenes were cut. It is only found in the Ghibli LD Box Set and the Japanese R2 DVD.

Disney redubbed the film and commissioned Joe Hisaishi to update the soundtrack, the changes are included in the other worldwide DVD releases (along with the Japanese language track).

However, on the recent 2010 R1 DVD release, the rerecorded score is replaced by the original Japanese sound mix. Likewise, some of the extra lines for the new dub have been omitted.

Q: I heard that the Japanese Laputa LD wasn't properly letterboxed. Is it true?

Yes. The letterboxing aspect ratio (AR) of the original Japanese Laputa LD is about 1.66:1 whereas it should have been 1.85:1. Both sides of the original 1.85 AR film image were cropped off in the LD. However, this problem was corrected for the LD in the Ghibli LD Box Set. It's properly letterboxed.

White lines = 1.85 AR
Yellow lines = 1.66 AR