Howl's Moving Castle

DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle

The first disc of this special two-disc edition from Optimum Asia boasts an impeccable transfer of the original Japanese language version (with English subtitles) as well as the superb English dub (with optional subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing), both presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It is also possible, using the alternative angle function, to compare the finished film scene-by-scene with its original storyboards.

The second disc has several interviews, featurettes and trailers, although hardly enough material to warrant a whole extra disc. In a seven minute interview, Diana Wynne Jones, author of the original novel from which the film has been adapted, talks of being "overwhelmed" by Miyazaki's "rich and strange" animation, admires how the director has "very closely interwoven" new scenes into the plot and reveals how the Witch of the Waste was modelled on one of her "formidable aunts".

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In a second seven-minute interview, Pete Docter, who translated and directed the English dub, expresses his admiration for Miyazaki's finely observed details and intuitive approach to the material. He also tells a fine anecdote about Lauren Bacall, who voices the Witch of the West, and her affinity to playing "despicable" characters.

Hello, Mr Lassiter is a 16-minute featurette, documenting Miyazaki's unexpected visit, along with Studio Ghibli's producer Toshio Suzuki, to Pixar studios to attend the premier of the English dub. No doubt, this meeting between Miyazaki and Pixar's John Lassiter, two titanic figures in the world of animation, is a legendary moment, but it is also rather banal and in dire need of editing. Lassiter is breathless and clearly wrong-footed by Miyazaki's unannounced arrival (with a film crew in tow) and tries to compensate for his surprise with a sort of avuncular sycophancy, all of which is rendered even more protractedly awkward by the need for a Japanese interpreter to repeat Lassiter's every utterance.

The notoriously media shy Miyazaki gives little away. Later, in an interview in the same featurette, Lassiter describes the meeting and his surprise all over again (as though we had not just seen it for ourselves), and then gushes about Miyazaki's imaginative genius. Few would disagree, but that of course is just another way of saying that this overlong piece does not tell us anything we do not already know.

How To Move Howl's Castle (Japanese, with English subtitles), on the other hand, is excellent - a 20 minute featurette, in which Studio Ghibli staffer Mitsunori Kataama talks the viewer through some of the more innovative ways in which the film conjoins Computer Generated imagery and hand-drawn animation. His explanations, supported with an abundance of test images, scene breakdowns and algorithmic analyses, manages to be highly technical while only adding to, rather than dispelling, the film's magic.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2006
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Howl's Moving Castle packshot
A magical tale in a troubled kingdom on the brink of war.
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Product Code: OPTD0181

Region: 2

Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Interview with Diana Wynne Jones; interview with Pete Docter; Hello Mr Lasseter featurette; How To Move Howl

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