Porco Rosso (FAQ)

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Q: Why is the English title "Porco Rosso", not "Crimson Pig"?

"Porco Rosso" means "Crimson Pig" in Italian. This is the official title Ghibli gave to it.

Q: Is it based on a manga or a book?

It's based on a manga, originally serialized in Model Graphix magazine in 1989.

The Age of the Flying Boat, was first published separately in 1992 by Dainippon Kaiga (ISBN 4-499-20595-6). The manga was published again by Dainippon Kaiga in the revised 1997 edition of the manga anthology Hayao Miyazaki's Daydream Data Notes (Expanded Edition). This manga was also translated into English and serialized as The Age of the Flying Boat in Animerica magazine in 1993.

Q: When did the story take place?

At the end of the 1920s. It sounded like the middle of the Great Depression, which started in 1929 (in the manga, it was stated that the story took place in the summer of 1929).

Q: Where did it take place?

Most of the story, except when Porco went to Milan, took place in the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and the former Yugoslavia. Porco lived on an island on the Croatian shoreline of the Adriatic Sea.

At first, Miyazaki planned to set the story in Dubrovnik, Croatia. However, Miyazaki was shocked by the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, which started while he was making "Porco". As a result, the story became a bit more serious than he intended (at first it was supposed to be "a fun movie for middle-aged businessmen whose brains became tofu from overwork"), and he moved the story out of Croatia.

Q: In which languages were the opening lines written?

From the top: Japanese, Italian, Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French, and German.

"Porco Rosso" was first planned as a 30-45 minutes in-flight movie on Japan Airlines ("a movie which tired businessmen on international flights can enjoy even with their minds dulled due to lack of oxygen"). As Miyazaki's imagination took off, it became a feature-length movie. To show it on JAL's international flights, they had to provide an introduction in many languages (supposedly).

Q: Why did Porco become a pig?

Miyazaki with Marco Pagot in Milan
Miyazaki with Marco Pagot in Milan

Although it was never mentioned in the movie, a press release states that he was disillusioned with humanity, and cursed himself to be a pig. Miyazaki stated that "When a man becomes middle-aged, he becomes a pig". It seems that Porco is carrying a lot of baggage, and that has something to do with him quitting being a human.

The official story goes as follows: Captain Marco Pagot (named after the Italian animator and friend of Miyazaki - they worked together on Sherlock Hound for Italy's RAI TV) was an ace pilot of the Italian Air Force during World War I. He quit the IFA since he saw fascism on the rise, and he wanted to fly following his own will. He became a bounty hunter, assuming the name "Porco Rosso". He crossed out his own face as a young man in the picture that Gina had hung on the wall of her restaurant, so that no one would know what he looked like as a human.

Miyazaki said that Porco once intended to marry Gina, but then World War I broke out, and Gina was living on an island which was Austrian territory. As a military officer, he could not bring himself to marry an enemy national. Torn between his loyalty to his home country and his love for Gina, he chose his country. But when he witnessed the deaths of his fellow pilots, including that of his best friend (Gina's husband), he started wondering about the meaning of his actions, and the meaning of flying and dying for his country. Unable to resolve the conflicts in his mind, he became a pig.

Q: What is Porco's plane?

Porco's Savoia S.21
Savoia S.21
Macchi M.33

A "Savoia S.21"

There is actually a real Italian made Savoia S.21, but it doesn't look much like the one Porco flies. Miyazaki didn't know much about the real S.21 when he designed Porco's plane. His design came from a plane he saw when he was a boy.

Porco's S.21 looks somewhat like the Macchi M.33.

Q: What is Curtis's plane?

Curtis' Curtiss R3C-0
Curtiss R3C-2

A Curtiss Model R3C-0. The RC3-0 is a pretty close copy of the R3C-2.

In the manga, it was explained that Donald Chuck (Donald Curtis in the movie) modified a R3C-2 to turn it into a fighter plane. The R3C-2 is a racing plane, which Jimmy Doolittle (yes, the "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" Doolittle) flew to win the 1925 Schneider Cup, beating an Italian Macchi M.33 (which looks like Porco's S.21).

In the movie, Piccolo said it (Curtiss the plane, not Curtis the pilot) won in 1927, but in reality, Flight Lt. S.N. Webster of England won the 1927 Schneider Cup race with his Supermarine S-5.

All of the aircraft in "Porco" are "almost" real planes - Ferrarin's MC72 was, like the Curtiss, a racing plane. And the Italian Air Force's S/M S.55s are also real, but not quite like that. The plane Porco was piloting during World War I was Macchi M.5.

Q. Why is the Air Pirate Gang Named 'Mamma Aiuto!' ?

The phrase, 'Mamma aiuto!' means 'Momma, help!', and this is used by Italian children to this day.

However, it also SPECIFICALLY applies to the Cant Z.501 Gabbiano, a single-engined seaplane used by the Italian forces (both the Fascist state, and the Co-belligerent AirForce) for coastal patrol, and reconnaissance. As such, the type was responsible for the rescue of many downed Italian aviators, and thus earned its nickname.

Thanks to Ross Sharp (http://shortfinals.wordpress.com) for the information.

Q: What do those Italian newspaper headlines say?

The newspaper the pirates were reading at Gina's hotel reads:

Il canto di trionfo del Porcellino Rosso si leva di nuovo. The triumphal song of the Crimson Little Pig soars again.
Il gruppo "Mamma Aiuto" nei guai. The gang "Mamma Aiuto" is in trouble
[text hidden under a thumb] sconfitta [...] defeat
Le bambine sono sane e salve. The little girls are safe and sound.

The newspaper Porco was reading on the way to Milan reads:

Giornale del Mare [name of the newspaper] Newspaper of the Sea
Le ali rosa si sono spezzate The pink wings have broken
Il Porcellino Rosso, morto o vivo? Porco Rosso, dead or alive?
Nascita di un nuovo (Birth of a new...)

Q: When Porco saw Piccolo's engine, he said "It's Folgore!". What does that mean?

Folgore means "lightning" in Italian. It's the model of the engine (Fiat Folgore A.S.2), but we don't know why Miyazaki chose the name Folgore.

In the manga, "Folgore" is the name of Porco's plane, not its engine. In 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, the TV anime series Miyazaki worked on, "Folgore" is the name of the ship which the Italian boy, Marco (from Genova, as Porco is) took to Argentina to look for his mother.

Q: What was the song Gina was singing in the bar?

"Le Temps des Cerises (The Time of Cherries)", lyrics by J.B. Clement, music by A. Renard.

The song is about Paris Commune, and is subtly telling the Porco's feeling towards the days which are gone now. It was actually sung by the voice actress of Gina, Tokiko Kato (加藤 登紀子 Katou Tokiko?). Ms. Kato is a very famous chanteuse in Japan, and her image suits Gina very well. She also wrote and sang the ending song, "Toki ni ha Mukashi no Hanashi wo (Once in a While, Talk of the Old Days)". For links to English and Spanish translations of the lyrics for these songs, check the Porco Rosso (scripts and lyrics) page.

Q: What was the movie Porco was watching in a theater in Milan?

It's Miyazaki's homage to old cartoons. According to the book The Art of Porco Rosso, it's a film that features a "joint performance of the Disney-like hero and Fleischer-esque heroine" (page 79). The "Disney like hero" is probably a reference to Mickey Mouse, as the movie bears some resemblence to "Plane Crazy", the first animated short that featured Mickey's character (and debuted 1928 - around the same time the plot of "Porco Rosso" takes place). The "Fleischer-esque heroine" is obviously Betty Boop (the Fleischer brothers also produced a series of Superman animated shorts, to which Miyazaki paid homage in both "Farewell Beloved Lupin" and "Castle in the Sky").

The dinosaur character in the movie may be a reference to the "Gertie the Dinosaur" performances by animation pioneer Winsor McCay. McCay is probably best-known as the creator of the comic-strip character "Little Nemo", which he also adapted into an animated short. Miyazaki was involved in the early production of an animated feature based on the character of Nemo.

Porco's friend is named Ferrarin, probably named after Arturo Ferrarin, an Italian seaplane pilot during WWI and test pilot afterwards. Among other things, Ferrarin flew from Rome to Tokyo in 1920.

Q: When Porco first tried his new plane, Fio said "the aileron's been hit by water". What is an aileron?

Ailerons are hinged, movable control surfaces located on the left and right trailing edges of a wing. They rotate a few degrees up or down and in opposite directions to each other in order to control the air flow around the wing, causing the plane to turn by raising one wing and lowering the other.

Q: Then Fio said "Use the tab!" What is the tab?

"Tabs," short for trim tabs, are small hinged movable control surfaces fitted on the rear of bigger control surfaces (like the ailerons on the wing (see above), and the rudder and elevators on the tail). They represented an important breakthrough in aviation technology that greatly helped to balance and reduce the control forces the pilot has to apply during flight.

Fio added tabs to the ailerons as part of the improvements she made to the plane's design. But because they had to make that hasty early-morning getaway without any test flights, Porco didn't know that tabs had been installed, and thus the tabs hadn't been properly set. In the scene, Porco complains at first that the plane is even more difficult to control, and he is shown using both hands to try to level the wing enough for takeoff (normally an aircraft of that size and power can easily be flown one-handed).

Once Porco knew about the aileron tabs, he cranked in the needed amount of trim and the wing leveled out. Once the wing tip was out of the water, they could accelerate enough to takeoff.

Q: What was the strange cloud which Porco told Fio about?

It's a cloud made of dead pilots and their planes making their last flight.

The story is taken from Roald Dahl's "They Shall Not Grow Old" in "Over to You: Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying", 1946. Miyazaki says he loves Dahl's stories about pilots and planes (Dahl was in the Royal Air Force during World War II), though he doesn't much care for his children's stories such as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".

Q: Are there some in-jokes in "Porco"?

Porco's rebuilt plane's new engine has "GHIBLI" embossed on the valve cover. The engine is actually a FIAT A.S.2, though there's no explicit mention in the movie. The real one had an emboss of FIAT instead of GHIBLI.

When Porco drives the truck with Fio and takes a sharp turn at the street crossing, there is a "Pensione Ghibli" (Boarding house "Ghibli") banner at the house corner. It is visible for only two frames through the truck window.

"Ghibli" engine
Pensione Ghibli

Q: Did Porco become a human again?

The general consensus is, yes (though whether he stayed human is another matter).

In the last shot of the two of them wading towards their planes, Curtis was insisting on seeing Porco's face, implying something had changed about it. The conversation between Porco and Fio at the camp set up the "kiss the frog prince" theory, so Fio's kiss (and Gina's love) at the end did turn Porco back into a human. He became a pig because he was disillusioned with humanity, but Fio's innocence made him feel that "there is still some hope for humans", as Porco said. This time, he won, and he did not "make another girl unhappy". It seems that he finally overcame his self-hatred.

Q: Did Gina win her bet?

That is a secret between Gina and Fio. ^_^

The general consensus is, she did. We don't see her waiting in the garden in the last scene. Also, Porco's plane is docked near Gina's private garden when Fio flies over near the end. Miyazaki said that in the scene where Porco remembers what happened during World War I, Porco (then Marco) was on plane No. 4, because he is (to be) the 4th husband of Gina (and Berlini, Gina's first husband, was on plane No. 1. ^_^

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

Yes. It was dubbed and shown on JAL trans-Pacific flights. For some reason, the last line about Gina's bet wasn't in the dub. The dub has been included in the Ghibli LD Box Set (English on the right analog track). There is also a French language version in which Porco is voiced by Jean Reno. (Interestingly, Miyazaki has said that he preferred this version to the Japanese voice cast.)

Streamline Pictures (and Carl Macek) are often cited as the company responsible for the English dub. However, this is not true as Fred Patten of Streamline Pictures writes, "The only two Studio Ghibli features that Streamline Pictures dubbed itself were My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service."

Disney re-dubbed the film in 2003 with:

  • Michael Keaton as Porco
  • Cary Elwes as Donald Curtis
  • Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Fio
  • Susan Egan as Gina
  • Brad Garrett as Mamma Aiuto Boss
  • David Ogden Stiers as Piccolo