The story begins when a young girl named Sheeta has been kidnapped by the army. She is soon “rescued” by a group of sky pirates who are after the mysterious crystal on her necklace. She soon finds herself in the care of a boy named Pazu, whose dream is to find the legendary floating aisle known as Laputa. The two soon find themselves on a high flying adventure to find Laputa before the army claims it as their own.
Laputa is a very important to me. It was the film that initially sparked my curiosity about
It would be two years before I was finally able to obtain a legit copy of the film. However I was less than pleased with Disney’s initial DVD release. So why don’t we talk about some of the changes that have been made in this new re-issue.
Original 2003 Release
The DVD Cover
The first thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that the cover art has been replaced. No longer are we stuck with overly glossy, terribly awkward photoshop face lifts with gigantic spoilers throughout. Instead we are treated with the image that was used for the original spoiler-free Japanese theatrical poster from
Studies show that about 60% of anime fans prefer English dubbing. I myself have always preferred watching anime subtitles or even raw. But if there’s one thing Disney learned very quickly, it’s that ignoring that 40% can really hurt your sales. That’s why the original DVD as well as all subsequent Ghibli DVD releases were bilingual. However the subtitles on the original Laputa DVD left a lot to be desired. They were over simplified, mistranslated, or at times even mistimed all together. This clearly demonstrated that the disc, as well as Kiki’s Delivery Service, were merely rush jobs intended to capitalize on the success of Spirited Away. It’s negligence like this that drives people to produce fansubs. Sadly, this time around it’s not that much better. They decided to rewrite the subtitles to omit the glitches that were present in the original and to improve the translation. However the text is clearly a tweaked version of the English dub script. This becomes painfully obvious when the timing matches the English actors better than the original Japanese version. This is one area where I'm going to have to recommend the original 2003 DVD.
The Bonus Features
Disc 1 of the 2003 release featured the usual “Behind the Microphone” featurette that is present on almost all of the U.S. Ghibli discs. It was kind of painful to watch considering how terrible the English version was (more on that later.) We also got the original Japanese trailers. Disc 2 featured a storyboard presentation of the entire film. The only problem there was that you were unable to switch between the film and the storyboards, a feature that was present on the R2 release. The new DVD provides all of the features listed above as well as brand new interviews with Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki that were made specifically for this release. There’s also a feature called “Enter the Lands” that serves as a mini introduction to Studio Ghibli for those who are new to their films. It’s a neat little feature.
The English Dub
This is probably the biggest and most unexpected change, but first here’s a little bit of history. Back when Disney first announced the casting for the English version of Laputa, there was quite a bit of anticipation. It featured stars such as James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Mark Hamil, Cloris Leachman, and Jim Cummings. Considering that English speaking audiences weren’t able to hear the dub until four years after it was recorded and considering that Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away had drastically raised the bar for English dubbing by this point, it was fair to assume that expectations were pretty high for Laputa’s new dub. What we got was one of the most insultingly bad English dubs ever recorded. The writers and ADR director clearly had no idea what the hell they were doing. Lines were poorly read, characters were out of character, there was dialogue inserted with the sole intention of destroying dramatic silence, and worst of all it felt as though anyone that was originally a fan of the movie was purposefully being driven away to make room for a new demographic. And that wasn’t even the half of it. The back of the case boasted about containing an English 5.1 track and a new score by the original composer Joe Hisaishi. The 5.1 was a joke. I can only assume that there was no soundtrack that included the sound effects but didn’t contain the music so they simply replaced all of the sound effects, very poorly might I add. Half the time it was as if there were no sound effects at all. And Joe Hisaishi was less than thrilled about having to essentially butcher his own score to get rid of most of the silence. It would have made for a great CD but it did little to enhance the experience of watcing Laputa. If you can believe it, this was all done for a theatrical release that never happened.
So you may be wondering why in the hell did I just told you about all that. That’s because this new DVD release features a “Remastered English 5.1 track,” meaning that the English dub has been completely re-edited. In all my years as an anime fan I don’t think I’ve ever seen this done before. None of the lines were re-read by the actors. Instead most of the dialogue that killed the dramatic silence or was added to humor small children has been omitted. The original 1986 score has also been restored as well as the original sound effects. While I still feel many of the lines from the core cast are poorly read (with the exception of Cloris Leachman as the pirate captian Dola), this makes for a far more faithful dub that’s an overall vast improvement over the original. It’s the best thing they could have done aside from rerecording the entire voice track. But with that said it's still a pretty bad dub. I would most definitely recommend the Japanese version even if the subtitles are crap.
I should mention that there’s one thing that wasn’t changed that would have been welcome. I always felt that the picture quality of the original disc was lacking a bit. While it certainly looked better than any VHS or maybe even Laserdisc copy, it seemed as if someone turned the Detail setting all the way up. It makes the outlines look distorted and I found it to be a little distracting. This was not present on the Japanese R2 release so I was hoping they would fix it up a little.
If you’ve never purchased Laputa on DVD before I would say that this recent release is a no-brainer. It’s a far superior to the original in almost every way. It’s a great film to add to your collection and it’s certainly worth checking out if you’ve never seen it.