Howl's Moving Castle (film)

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Howl's Moving Castle
Howls-moving-castleposter.jpg
Japanese release poster
Japanese ハウルの動く城
Hepburn Hauru no Ugoku Shiro
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki
Based on Howl's Moving Castle 
by Diana Wynne Jones
Starring Chieko Baisho
Takuya Kimura
Akihiro Miwa
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography Atsushi Okui
Edited by Takeshi Seyama
Production
company
Distributed by Toho
Release dates
  • September 5, 2004 (2004-09-05) (Venice)
  • November 20, 2004 (2004-11-20) (Japan)
Running time 119 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget ¥2.4 billion
USD$24 million
Box office ¥23.2 billion
USD$235,184,110 (worldwide)

Howl's Moving Castle (Japanese: ハウルの動く城 Hepburn: Hauru no Ugoku Shiro?) is a 2004 Japanese animated fantasy film scripted and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film is based on the novel of the same name by English writer Diana Wynne Jones. The film was produced by Toshio Suzuki, animated by Studio Ghibli and distributed by Toho. Mamoru Hosoda, director of one episode and two movies from the Digimon series, was originally selected to direct but abruptly left the project, leaving the then-retired Miyazaki to take up the director's role.

The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2004, and was released in Japanese theaters on November 20, 2004. The film is one of only three (out of a current 18) Studio Ghibli films which were not released in July, and the last since 2004. It went on to gross $190 million in Japan and $235 million worldwide,[1] making it one of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The film was later dubbed into English by Pixar's Peter Docter and distributed in North America by Walt Disney Pictures. It received a limited release in the United States and Canada beginning June 10, 2005 and was released nationwide in Australia on September 22 and in the United Kingdom the following September. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006.

Wynne Jones's novel allows Miyazaki to combine a plucky young woman and a mother figure into a single character in the heroine, Sophie. She starts out as an 18-year-old hat maker, but then a witch's curse transforms her into a 90-year-old grey-haired woman. Sophie is horrified by the change at first. Nevertheless, she learns to embrace it as a liberation from anxiety, fear and self-consciousness. The change might be a blessed chance for adventure.[2]

Howl's Moving Castle:ハウルの動く城

Plot[edit]

Sophie, an eighteen-year old hatter, is a responsible young woman who encounters a mysterious and tremendously powerful wizard named Howl while on her way to visit her younger sister Lettie. The Witch of the Waste, who romantically pursues Howl, comes to the hat shop and curses Sophie who refuses to serve her by transforming Sophie into a ninety-year old woman. Seeking a cure for the transformation spell, Sophie travels into the Wastes but instead finds a cursed living scarecrow whom she calls "Turnip Head", who takes her to Howl's castle. Here, Sophie meets Howl's young apprentice, Markl; and the fire-demon Calcifer, who is the source of all of the castle's energy and magical power. Calcifer offers to break the curse in exchange for Sophie's help in breaking the spell he's under, which keeps Calcifer bound to the house. When Howl appears, Sophie announces that she is the castle's new cleaning lady hired by Calcifer.

At the same time, Sophie's country is caught up in the beginning of a war with its neighboring country, following the mysterious disappearance of the other country's Crown Prince. Howl receives summons from the King, who orders his various assumed identities to fight in the war. However, Howl comes up with an idea to send Sophie, under the guise of being his mother, to the King to profess the cowardice of one of Howl's two aliases. Before leaving the castle, Howl gives to Sophie a magic charm (ring), which connects her to Calcifer and will guarantee her safe return. He also assures her that he will follow her to the palace in disguise. At the palace, Sophie runs into an asthmatic dog, Heen, who she thinks is Howl undercover. She also meets the Witch of the Waste, who Suliman, the king's magic advisor, punishes by draining all of her power, causing her to regress into a harmless old woman. Suliman tells Sophie that Howl will meet the same fate if he does not contribute to the war. As Sophie vehemently protests these measures, the Witch's spell temporarily weakens revealing Sophie's true form due to the passion in her words. Suliman realizes Sophie's true relation to Howl and her purely intense romantic feelings towards him. Howl then arrives to rescue Sophie under the guise of the King. Suliman tries to trap Howl but with the help of Sophie, they manage to escape, taking Heen and the former Witch of the Waste with them.

Sophie learns that Howl transforms into a bird-like creature in order to interfere in the war, but each transformation makes it more difficult for him to return to human form. Sophie fears that Howl is preparing to leave them, as his remaining time as a human is limited, he returns to interfering in the war. Sophie's mother—under Suliman's control—arrives and leaves behind a bag containing a "peeping bug" under her orders. The former Witch of the Waste discovers it and promptly destroys the bug by tossing it into Calcifer. Unfortunately, Calcifer gets sick after eating the bug, rendering him unable to protect the castle from being discovered due to his weakened state. Sophie's mother says Sophie can live with her again, but Sophie says she will stay with her new family.

A few hours later, Sophie returns to her young form just as the city is carpet bombed by enemy aircraft. Suliman's henchmen invade the flower shop Howl made for Sophie. After protecting the flower shop from the bombing, Howl draws the guards away just after healing Calcifer. He tells Sophie he is not going to run away anymore because he has something he wants to protect - Sophie. Afterwards, he takes his leave. Deducing that Howl is trying to protect the castle and everyone inside it, Sophie moves everyone out and removes Calcifer from the fireplace, and destroys the castle. She offers Calcifer her braid, allowing him to power a portion of the remaining castle. They head toward Howl, in order to let him know that they are not attached to the castle anymore when the former Witch of the Waste realizes that Howl has given his heart to Calcifer, just like Sophie did with her hair. The Witch takes Calcifer and refuses to let go of him although it is burning her. A panicked Sophie pours water onto the Witch of the Waste, which douses Calcifer, making him lose his magical strength and power. The castle is split in two; Sophie and Heen fall down a chasm, while Markl, the Witch of the Waste and Calcifer continue traveling on the disintegrating castle.

Making her way toward Howl's heart with the ring that Howl gave her as a protective charm, Sophie enters through the broken door of the castle into the black region and discovers a recollection of how Howl and Calcifer met: as a boy, Howl took pity on a falling (dying) star—Calcifer—and gave it his heart. The act bound Calcifer to Howl indefinitely; however, by losing his heart, Howl was emotionally trapped in adolescence.

Sophie finds Howl, having now lost his human consciousness in bird form. They head back to Calcifer, accompanied by the Witch of the Waste and Markl who are on a plain wooden platform, the only remaining part of the former castle, moving on the edge of a cliff. Sophie asks the Witch for Howl's heart. She gives it to her and Sophie places the heart back inside Howl, returning him to life, and freeing Calcifer. With Calcifer gone, the remaining platform collapses and starts falling down the mountain. Turnip-head saves the plaftorm by putting his pole against the falling platform. Sophie warmly kisses Turnip-head on the cheek as thanks, which breaks his curse revealing that he is actually the missing prince from the neighboring country and was trapped in the form of a scarecrow until he received a true love's kiss. Although Calcifer is now free, he returns to his former company. Heen shows the scene of the happy end and the discovery of the missing prince to Suliman, and Suliman decides to put an end to the war. Howl, Sophie, and the others are seen high above the bomber planes upon a new flying castle, while the bombers return from the war.

Cast[edit]

Character Japanese English
Sophie (young) Chieko Baisho Emily Mortimer
Sophie (old) Jean Simmons
Howl Takuya Kimura Christian Bale
Witch of the Waste Akihiro Miwa Lauren Bacall
Calcifer Tatsuya Gashūin Billy Crystal
Markl Ryūnosuke Kamiki Josh Hutcherson
Madame Suliman Haruko Katō Blythe Danner
Lettie Yayoi Kazuki Jena Malone
Honey Mayuno Yasokawa Mari Devon
Prince Justin/Turnip Head Yō Ōizumi Crispin Freeman
Madge Rio Kanno Liliana Mumy
King of Ingary Akio Ōtsuka Mark Silverman
Heen Daijirō Harada

Production[edit]

In September 2001, Studio Ghibli announced the production of two films, the first would become The Cat Returns and the second was an adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones novel, Howl's Moving Castle.[3] A rumor persists that Miyazaki had an idea to do Howl's Moving Castle during a visit to Strasbourg Christmas market.[3] Mamoru Hosoda of Toei Animation was originally selected to direct the film, but quit after being unable to meet expectations of Studio Ghibli's bosses.[4] The film would remain shelved until Miyazaki took over.[4] The project resumed with production in February 2003.[3]

Miyazaki went to Colmar and Riquewihr in Alsace, France, to study the architecture and the surroundings for the setting of the film.[3] Additional inspiration came from the concepts of future technology in Albert Robida's work.[3] Miyazaki, a pacifist, said that the production of the film was profoundly impacted by the Iraq War.[5][6]

The film was produced digitally, but the original backgrounds were drawn by hand and painted prior to be digitized, the characters were also drawn by hand prior to scanning them into the computer.[3] The 1400 storyboard cuts for the film were completed on January 16, 2004.[7] On June 25 the in-between animation was completed and checking was completed on June 26.[8]

The complex moving castle changes and rearranges itself several times throughout the movie in response to Howl's eccentricity and the various situations.[3] The basic structure of the castle consists of more than 80 elements including turrets, a wagging tongue, cogwheels and bird feet, that were rendered as digital objects.[3]

Differences between film and novel[edit]

Diana Wynne Jones did meet with representatives from Studio Ghibli, but did not have any input or involvement in the production of the film. Miyazaki traveled to England in the summer of 2004 to give Jones a private viewing of the finished film. She has been quoted as saying:

It's fantastic. No, I have no input — I write books, not films. Yes, it will be different from the book — in fact it's likely to be very different, but that's as it should be. It will still be a fantastic film.[9]

The film is very different from Jones's original novel. The plot is similar, but it is flavored with Miyazaki's familiar style and characters, as well as several missing or drastically altered key plot points from the book. The plot is still focused on Sophie and her adventure while cursed with old age. The movie retains the novel's original story line of how Sophie gradually grows from thinking of herself as a plain, ordinary girl who pales in comparison to her popular and beautiful sister Lettie to ultimately coming to accept herself for who she is and thinking of herself as a beautiful woman. However, the main action of the film's story takes place during a war, and its plot is chiefly concerned with Howl's attempts to avoid fighting in it for pacifist reasons. Also, the relationship of Howl and Sophie differs between the novel and the movie in that the two gradually develop their relationship through lots of bickering and quarreling in the novel while the movie does not portray this aspect as much.

In contrast, the novel is concerned with Howl's womanizing and his attempts to lift the curse upon himself (discovering later how his lethal predicament is entangled with the fates of a lost wizard and prince) as well as running from the incredibly powerful and beautiful Witch of the Waste, who is the story's main villain and not at all the old yet harmless character she plays on screen. Also in the book, the Witch of the Waste was later killed by Howl while the anime film keeps her alive in an old age. Another noteworthy difference is that Sophie, in the book, is herself an unwitting sorceress totally unaware of her power, with the ability to "talk life into things" like the hats she makes and her own walking stick; objects take on a life of their own the more attention Sophie gives to them.

The book detours for one chapter into 20th-century Wales, where Howl is known as Howell Jenkins and has a sister with children. This glimpse into Howl's complicated past is not shown in the film, but one of Howl's aliases is "The Great Wizard Jenkins".

In addition, Sophie has two sisters in the book, Lettie and Martha, not just one. Markl is called Michael in the book, is 15, and is in love with Sophie's youngest sister, Martha (in the novel, Howl also courts Lettie for a while). Suliman is actually a man from Wales whose real name is Ben Sullivan, not a woman as portrayed in the movie. The film conflates this Suliman,as a powerful wizard in his own right who has gone missing after a confrontation with the Witch of the Waste, with Mrs. Penstemmon, the Professor who taught Howl sorcery and gives Sophie clues as to how to free Calcifer and Howl from their contract. Neither is an enemy of the heroine in the book. Besides Martha, several other characters were left out.[10]

Music[edit]

The soundtrack CD was first released on November 19, 2004 by Tokuma. Artist Joe Hisaishi also composed and conducted a Howl's Moving Castle: Symphony Suite, an album published on January 21, 2004 which includes ten re-arranged pieces from the original soundtrack.[11] He and Youmi Kimura also composed Howl's Moving Castle CD Maxi-Single, a CD single published on October 27, 2004 which includes the film's theme song, sung by Chieko Baisho (the Japanese voice actor for Sophie), its karaoke version, and a piano version of the film's main theme, "The Merry-Go-Round of Life".[12]

Reception[edit]

Howl's Moving Castle received mostly positive reviews. As of August 2011, review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 87% of critics gave positive reviews, based on 157 reviews, certifying it "Fresh".[13] USA Today critic Claudia Puig praised it for its ability to blend "a childlike sense of wonder with sophisticated emotions and motives"[14] while Richard Roeper called it an "insanely creative work". Other critics described it as "a visual wonder", "A gorgeous life-affirming piece", and "an animated tour de force." Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave it two and a half out of four stars, and felt that it was one of Miyazaki's "weakest" films.[15] Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies says that natural world is "beautifully represented here", with "some absolutely breathtaking mountains and lakeside landscapes". She also praises the design of the Castle and adds that Miyazaki added his own themes to the film: "man's relationship to nature, the futility of war, and the joy of flight".[16]

Top ten lists[edit]

"There's a word for the kind of comic, dramatic, romantic, transporting visions Miyazaki achieves in Howl's: bliss."
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone[17]

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2005.[18]

Accolades [edit]

Influences[edit]

Gore Verbinski cited the film as an influence for Rango.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "All-Time Worldwide Box office". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  2. ^ A. O. Scott. "Howl's Moving Castle (2004)". NYT. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. McFarland. pp. 157–171. 
  4. ^ a b Shilling, Mark (17 December 2002). "New Hayao Miyazaki film heads Toho line-up". ScreenDaily. Archived from the original on 7 August 2003. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  5. ^ Devin Gordon (2005). "A 'Positive Pessimist'". The Hayao Miyazaki Web. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  6. ^ Lindsay Smith. "War, Wizards, and Words: Transformative Adaptation and Transformed Meanings in Howl’s Moving Castle". 
  7. ^ "Diary (Page 7)". Nausicaa.net. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "Diary (Page 23)". Nausicaa.net. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "FAQ / Howl's Moving Castle". The Hayao Miyazaki Web. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  10. ^ "Howl's Moving Castle" (Book)
  11. ^ "Discography | 久石譲オフィシャルサイト". joehisaishi.com. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  12. ^ Online Ghibli. "Howl's Moving Castle". Online Ghibli. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  13. ^ "Howl's Moving Castle Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  14. ^ Puig, Claudia (June 9, 2005). "'Howl's Moving Castle' enchants". USA Today. Retrieved June 2, 2013. 
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 9, 2005). "Howl's Moving Castle Movie Review (2005)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved June 2, 2013. 
  16. ^ McCarthy, Helen. 500 Essential Anime Movies: The Ultimate Guide. — Harper Design, 2009. — P. 298. — 528 p. — ISBN 978-0061474507
  17. ^ Travers, Peter (June 9, 2005). "Howl's Moving Castle". Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  18. ^ "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  19. ^ "The 78th Academy Awards (2006) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  20. ^ Appelo, Tim. "The Making of 'Rango': Gore Verbinski's Risky Ride Into Animation". The Hollywood Reporter. 

External links[edit]