Castle in the Sky

By Garth Franklin
Castle in the Sky

Last year Disney released the lacklustre "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" animated adventure which was then immediately accused of ripping off ideas from the early 90's Japanese TV animated series "Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water". Funnily enough when 'Nadia' came out, it was accused of the same thing - stealing from this work from genius animator Hayao Miyazaki and now Disney is re-releasing 'Castle' in a whole new spruced up DVD format. How's that for irony. Seriously though there are some elements here which "Atlantis" viewers will recognise, most notably a glowing crystal necklace, the search for a lost city, and giant Jules Verne-esque machines (in this case airships).

However 'Castle' is far superior in practically every way to "Atlantis" - this is a truly epic animated fantasy, certainly on a scale bigger than I expected - and yet like all Miyazaki films, its the young boy-girl relationship and characters at the centre that give warmth and heart to this majestic fable. As always Miyazaki comes up with a visually rich world in which entire cities hover in the clouds, air pirates attack passenger zeppelins, and the military is a unscrupulously bad element out for its own gain. Whilst the supporting characters aren't very memorable, and the sequences don't strike one as powerfully as say "Spirited Away", overall its an even bigger scale project and clocks in at a very full and satisfying two hours.

Disney has spruced up some elements for this cut. For example Jo Hisaishi's score has been redone and now sounds like work which could rival that of any current Disney animated movie - its a whole other character in itself and does wonders. Of the voices both Cloris Leachman and Anna Paquin give us solid work, Mark Hamill delivers his usual finesse behind the mic, though surprisingly its James Van Der Beek who holds our attention best with some strong voice talent on offer. Its been over fifteen years since this film was released and yet today it still holds up beautifully strong. This is animation on a "Star Wars" scale, a film adults and kids will equally enjoy and an utterly entertaining and unforgettable creation.