Animé and Toons
Miyazaki's Oscar-Nominated "Howl's Moving Castle"
By Leroy Douresseaux
May 20, 2013 - 09:36

Studios: Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Studio Ghibli
Writer(s): Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: English dub voices) Emily Mortimer, Sofie Gråbøl, Christian Bale, Josh Hutcherson, Blythe Danner, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Release Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Rating: G (General Audiences)
Distributors: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Howl's Moving Castle Disney release movie poster

Howl’s Moving Castle, the animated fantasy film from Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), arrives on Blu-ray for the first time.  Walt Disney Home Entertainment proudly presents this remarkable Studio Ghibli film with a new HD digital transfer, and perfect picture and sound.  Howl’s Moving Castle is the story of a quiet, hat shop girl and a handsome but mysterious wizard and the vain and vengeful witch who puts a spell on the girl.

In Howl’s Moving Castle, 18-year old Sophie (Emily Mortimer) lives a humdrum existence working in her late father’s hat shop, located in a dull town.  Then, powerful magic enters her life, and she meets the mysterious, handsome, and self-indulgent young wizard, Howl (Christian Bale).  However, the evil Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) is looking for Howl, and wants Sophie to help her find Howl.  Since Sophie won’t cooperate, the witch casts a spell on Sophie that turns the unconfident young woman into an elderly woman, Grandma Sophie (Sofie Gråbøl).

Determined to get the spell reversed, Sophie seeks out Howl again.  With the help of a scarecrow who moves by bouncing up and down on his pole (Sophie calls him “Turnip”), she finds Howl’s moving castle, an amazing contraption that walks across the landscape on spindly mechanical legs.  Inside the castle lives Calcifer (Billy Crystal, who mixes comedy, mock menace, and a touch poignancy for a fine vocal performance), a fire demon (in the form of a ball of fire) that gives the moving castle the power to travel through time and space.  However, Howl’s life is very complicated, and he fights for one side in an on-going war that leaves a terrible wake of destruction.  It’s up to Sophie to free Howl of the curse that haunts him, while he plots to end the war.

Howl’s Moving Castle is another masterwork from revered Japanese animated filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki.  Howl’s Moving Castle received a 2006 Oscar nomination for “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year,” an award Miyazaki won in 2003 for Spirited Away.  While Howl doesn’t reach the heights of Spirited Away, it is a brilliant film, and in many ways surpasses most American films of the last two years in terms of narrative and use of technical achievement in a creative way.

Miyazaki and his collaborators have once again created enormous panoramas of images – awe-inspiring, extravagant, spectacular visuals that coalesce into a narrative that is almost too big even for a Miyazaki film.  His movies usually have a novel’s worth of sub-plots and enough characters for an ensemble film, which is the case with Howl’s Moving Castle, although the film really focuses on Sophie and Howl.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a quiet anti-war film.  It may be hard to imagine that an animated film could capture the astounding devastation that war can bring to a city, (especially through aerial bombing) as well as a live action film does.  However, watching the marvelous flying contraptions of war drop bombs on the countryside and in cities and towns in this film is breathtaking.  Miyazaki even takes it up a notch.  Magical creatures and monstrosities launch from the incredible flying battle warships and engage Howl in grand aerial battles.  Strangely, this art (some of it computer generated) makes war seem cool instead of scary.

For all that this film is about war, Howl is at its heart a romance with war almost as a backdrop, and Sophie and Howl are superb star-crossed lovers.  Miyazaki’s script (a loose adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ novel of the same title) deftly mixes romance with a magic-drenched fantasy of competing wizards and enchanted machinations.  It all rings true, except for Christian Bale’s horrid voice acting as Howl.  Howl’s Moving Castle is a visual assault on the senses, and it captures the imagination with magic and engages the heart with a love that overcomes all.

Bonus Features:
1. Behind the Microphone – Interview with Pixar Animation Studios Director, Pete Docter
2. Hello Mr. Lasseter: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar Animation Studios
3. Original Japanese TV Spots and Trailers
4. Original Japanese Storyboards

Blu-ray/DVD product details:
Suggest retail price:  $39.99
Format: AC-3, Animated, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (DTS-HD High Res Audio), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, French
Dubbed: French, Japanese
Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment Presents A Studio Ghibli Film
DVD Release Date: May 21, 2013
Run Time: 119 minutes

Video clip: That's My Girl - Howl and Sophie fly over the town to escape

Preview Link:


Rating: 9/10

Related Articles:
VIZ Media Announces Miyazaki's "The Art of Princess Mononoke"
VIZ Media Releases Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises" Art Book
VIZ Media Announces "Turning Point" from Hayao Miyazaki
Miyazaki's "My Neighbor Totoro" Blu-ray-DVD
Miyazaki's Oscar-Nominated "Howl's Moving Castle"
Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle
ToonSeum Screens Miyazaki Films
Miyazaki's 'Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess' at Tokyo's Ghibli Museum
Miyazaki Considers Porco Rosso Film Sequel
"I Wouldn't Like 3D Miyazaki"