‘Howl’s Moving Castle‘ is easily one of the top tier Studio Ghibli films, and in fact, may be one of Miyazaki’s best films period. It’s a sweeping epic, gorgeously animated, and features some of the most memorable characters in any of his films, possibly only topped by what could be considered the crown jewel of his career, ‘Castle in the Sky’, his first film. In a way, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and ‘Castle in the Sky’ could be looked at as companion pieces, because they both bring a very fun and exciting adventure to the table, and two very lovable main characters. It’s great to see Disney delving into the back catalog of Studio Ghibli films and remastering them for blu-ray. Fans have been clamoring for a release of ‘Howl’s’ outside the DVD for years, and Disney finally listened, bringing fans the film they love, in a way they’ve never seen before.
Sophie is a young girl who works in her family’s hat shop, keeping to herself and doing here work. But when a chance encounter with a mysterious man named Howl, her life is flipped upside down. Her encounter brings the evil Witch of the West into her life, who curses the young Sophie, turning her into a 90 year old woman. Bent on breaking her curse, Sophie sets off an adventure that she never anticipated, and one that will change her forever.
The film features one of the best casts of any of the Studio Ghibli dubs, which is led by Emily Mortimer as Sophie, and also features Christian Bale, Josh Hutcherson, and Billy Crystal, They all bring a certain charm to their characters, really helping elevate the film. Many dubs of imported films can seem cheesy or forced, something that has become a running joke with martial arts films, but Studio Ghibli seems to avoid that pitfall every time, thankfully. While some of the choices are a bit “flavor of the week” when it comes to the casting, it’s never a distracting choice. They choose the actors and actresses right for the part, and it shows. Emily Mortimer brings a lot of life to Sophie, giving her the young naivety to the character that is really needed to make her connect with the audience. The standout though, unsurprisingly, is Billy Crystal, who voices Calcifer. Crystal is a natural at voice acting, and he brings so much heart and humor to Calcifer, he’s one of the most memorable characters of the film.
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ has always been one of the most gorgeously animated films of the Studio Ghibli filmography, and now it is one of the most gorgeous blu-ray releases in Disney’s line of releases, period. This film looks nothing sort of spectacular on blu-ray. It’s simply breathtaking to look at. The film has never looked this good, and the remaster is just striking. This is a disc that could absolutely be used to show off just how awesome an HDTV can look, and that’s basically the highest praise possible. The disc also boasts a wonderful 5.1 DTS-HD audio mix for both the American dub and the Japanese dub, and they both really sound incredible. It’s good to see the film getting such wonderful treatment, and it’s never looked or sounded this great before.
The disc is also padded with a few special features to give you a little bit more bang for your buck. The original Japanese storyboards of the film, played with the original Japanese audio is a fun experience, and is the standout of the disc. This is a feature that has been carried over on all the releases so far, so it’s good to see it’s still here as well. There’s a short feature on the American dub, where you can see the cast getting into their roles, as well as an interview with Pixar director Pete Doctor, who talks about working with the cast on the dub. Finally, we get to the best of the special features, which is just too short because it’s so great, is “Miyazaki Visits Pixar”. It’s just great to see Miyazaki and John Lasseter together, as the two are responsible for so many of the best animated films of the past three decades, and it makes you wonder what it would be like if Lasseter made a film at Studio Ghibli, or Miyazaki made a Pixar film. Overall, it’s a nice group of supplements, but it’s not the best group of special features on the previous Ghibli releases.
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ proves to be just as excellent now as it was when it was first released, and Disney’s new blu-ray release of the film is nothing short of spectacular. The movie has never looked or sounded this good, and it’s great to see the film treated this well here. The film still stands out as one of the best of Ghibli catalog, and is a great adventure film that features excellent characters, beautiful animation, and an excellent score. This is just an excellent release all around and deserves a spot on the shelves of all animation fans, as well as film fans. This disc is highly recommended.
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