Classic Film Scene: Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Great films appear every year and with them are potentially classic scenes that may become more famous than the film itself. The shower scene in Psycho, the chariot race in Ben Hur, the chest bursting moment in Alien, and the opera music sounding across the prison yard in The Shawshank Redemption are just some of the examples of the classic celluloid moments that we may be familiar with even if we’ve never seen the film. I’ll be sharing my favourite film scenes, some you will know others may be unfamiliar, but hopefully they’ll be moments you enjoy as much as I do.

Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986) – Patsu and Sheeta’s Escape

Laputa: Castle in the SkyHayao Miyazaki’s 1986 classic was the first anime film I saw when it was screened on British TV in the late eighties. It’s one of the films I grew up with after my late grandparents recorded it. My brother and I retained that video for years with Disney’s Christmas Carol being the first feature on it followed shortly afterwards by Laputa. Sadly, that video was recorded over (not by me I might add) but I now own the film on DVD, though unfortunately the Americanised voice acting is not up to the standard of the one I grew up with despite the welcome addition of Mark Hamill who doesn’t disappoint. The film is full of wonderful scenes from start to finish, enhanced by a sublime soundtrack and some great animation.

Set in a Victorian society where coal mining is still the staple employment and giant airships fill the air, the film opens with a girl, Sheeta, being held on a civilian airship by agents led by Colonel Muska. When a band of pirates (on airships of course) attack and try to claim Sheeta she climbs outside the airship before losing her footing and seemingly falling to her death. However, Sheeta carries a mysterious blue pendant, desired by both the pirates and Muska, which lights up and slows her descent. An unconscious Sheeta floats to a coal mine where an orphan, Patsu, is on hand to catch her. When Sheeta awakes she finds Patsu has brought her back to his home and the two soon strike up a friendship. Patsu’s late father is one of the few pilots to have seen Laputa, a floating island spoken of in myth and legend. It is Patsu’s desire to find the island himself and when Sheeta reveals her pendant has a link to Laputa their journey begins. What follows is a difficult path for Patsu and Sheeta, not only to find Laputa but evade the attentions of Muska and the army as well as Dola and her band of pirates.

The scene of note for me comes early in the film when pirates arrive at Patsu’s house searching for Sheeta. Disguising Sheeta as a boy, Patsu leads her into town where more pirates are questioning the locals. After Sheeta loses her hat and reveals her pigtails the pirates give chase but are halted by the mining locals led by Patsu’s boss. A fight ensues in the town while Patsu and Sheeta make their escape onto a nearby railway trestle. The children hop on a small steam train but are pursued by Dola and her pirates who, despite being in a car, proceed to drive along the railway line, scattering timber in all directions. After halting the pirates’ progress, the steam train is stopped by an armoured train owned by the army. At this stage Patsu only believes the pirates are after Sheeta but when she proceeds to run from the army and the government agents that appear he quickly follows her down a neighbouring line leading off from a crossover. At this point Dola catches up and pursues the children down the adjoining railway line. The armoured train opens fire on the pirates damaging the railway and as Dola’s car continues its progress the rail trestle begins to collapse behind her! With Dola’s car almost on their heels Patsu grabs Sheeta and leaps from the railway leaving them hanging precariously from the crippled timber. The pirates and army look on as the children fall but, as before, Sheeta’s pendant lights up and the two children float safely to a mine below. It’s just the start of a memorable journey for Patsu and Sheeta.

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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  1. Hate to disagree with you, but I personally think the Disney dub of LAPUTA is quite good. Granted, the leads DO sound too old, but they didn't bother me that much and the rest of the cast was awesome; Hamill was especially good, but Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin, Jim Cummings, Andy Dick, Mike McShane, and Richard Dysart were all excellent as well. The new score was a nice touch, as well.

    I personally have a lot of trouble believeing that the previous older dub of LAPUTA is any better, because when I tried to listen to it, I just couldn't find anything… great about it. The voices in the older dub all sounded quite off and the acting was pretty stilted all around; Muska's VA, in particular, disappointed me compared to Hamill, and even the leads didn't really impress me at all–Barbara and Lara maybe didn't sound so mature, but there was still something about their "acting" that seemed very stale and artificial. So even though I'm probably in the minority, I think the Disney dub of LAPUTA is much better and easier to listen to, as it doesn't feel as stiff as this older dub sounded to my ears.

    1. No probs Jon, we're all entitled to our own opinions and I'm glad that you've shared yours. Thanks for reading and would welcome feedback from you in future. Always great to talk to other fans of Miyazaki films. I know there's a lot but wish there were more

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