Howl’s Moving Castle Double (Bluray+DVD) Available For Pre-Order

To be released June 25th. The following are included in the extras:

– Alternative angle storyboards
– Interview with author, Diana Wynne Jones
– Interview with Pixar’s Peter Doctor (Monster’s, Inc.)
– Hello Mr. Lasseter Featurette: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar
– Explanation of CG Featurette
– The Sounds of Howl’s Moving Castle Featurette (new!)
– Behind the Microphone Featurette
– Japanese trailers and TV spots
– Studio Ghibli Trailer Reel

SFX Magazine, Issue 56, 2012 | The Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy And Horror Movies: The Christian Bale Films On The List


Top 10 Hayao Miyazaki Characters: Howl

02. Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004)
“I give up. I see no point in living if I can’t be beautiful.”
Howl is a confident, charming, oddly sexy animated character – and one of Miyazaki’s funniest. He’s complex – cool and in control sometimes, fighting against a great violent war and voicing Miyazaki’s pacifist ideals – but also cowardly – he hides from his problems, and throws tantrums when his hair gets messy. The character is childlike and more kind-hearted than he lets on, but also a womaniser who is, at times, lazy and cruel. There’s a sense of him losing himself to magic and becoming a heartless monster, in a love story with parallels to Beauty and the Beast.

There’s so much going on with Howl’s character and it’s surprising to see such a realistically conflicted figure in animation. Voiced by Takuya Kimura in the Japanese version and Christian Bale in the English dub, with Bale actually standing on top as the definitive Howl, giving a smooth performance which oozes personality and wit (it’s actually one of Bale’s strongest roles). It’s easy to see why so many fans have fallen in love with the character.
Check out the rest of the list here.

Howl’s Moving Castle Author Diana Wynne Died

Like many good writers, Diana Wynne Jones, who has died aged 76 of cancer, worked for long years in relative obscurity, in her case sustained as a children’s fantasy author by a modestly sized but devoted young readership. That obscurity provided the freedom to develop her own voice without the distractions of having to build on perceived success. By the time real success found her, in Jones’s case almost by chance, she was a mature writer with a solid and varied body of work that was ready to be appreciated by a much bigger new audience.
Her intelligent and beautifully written fantasies are of seminal importance for their bridging of the gap between “traditional” children’s fantasy, as written by CS Lewis or E Nesbit, and the more politically and socially aware children’s literature of the modern period, where authors such as Jacqueline Wilson or Melvyn Burgess explicitly confront problems of divorce, drugs and delinquency.

Jones’s fiction is relevant, subversive, witty and highly enjoyable, while also having a distinctly dark streak and a constant awareness of how unreliable the real world can seem. Disguises and deceptions abound. Though avoiding criminally dysfunctional families or unwanted pregnancies, her cleverly plotted and amusing adventures deal frankly with emotional clumsiness, parental neglect, jealousy between siblings and a general sense of being an outcast. Rather than a deliberately cruel stepmother, a Jones protagonist might have a real mother far more wrapped up in her own career than in the discoveries and feelings of her child. The child protagonist would realise this, but get on with the adventure anyway.
Jones wrote from experience: her parents were neglectful of her needs, and those of her two younger sisters. The sisters often went hungry, and for years were banished to sleep in an unheated lean-to shed, to make room in case of visitors. Both parents were intellectuals and progressive educators, but were stingy not only with money but also with warmth and attention. The skinflint father bought the children a complete set of Arthur Ransome books as Christmas presents, but doled them out at a rate of one a year. In self-defence Jones began to write stories for her sisters and herself. When the second world war broke out Jones and her family were evacuated to the Lake District, eventually living in the house once inhabited by the Altounyan children, on whom Ransome had based his Swallows and Amazons series. The great children’s author was still around, one day complaining angrily that the children were making too much noise. On another occasion, Diana’s younger sister and a friend had their faces slapped by a second Lakeland author who hated children but who was rich and famous because of them: Beatrix Potter. Jones’s distinctive scepticism about conventional children’s fiction must have started to set in early.
Later, when she went to St Anne’s college, Oxford, two of her lecturers were JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Both were then engaged on their famous works of fantasy, but at that time fantasy was distinctly de trop at Oxford. The two professors were tolerated because they were also excellent scholars. Lewis boomed excitingly to crowded halls, while Tolkien muttered inaudibly to Jones and three other students.
Years later, just as she was starting to write and publish professionally, and was taking bed-rest because of pregnancy, Jones read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings for the first time. This made her realise that a fantasy novel could be not only long, but seriously intended too.
As she became more certain of her own writing, she also grew more sceptical of the conventional tropes of fantasy, including those of Tolkien. This questioning became overt with the publication of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1996). Presenting her book as a tourist guide to a foreign land, Jones, with affectionate but deadly effect, spoofed or parodied the numerous cliches that riddle those hordes of three-volume sagas about elves and quests.
Jones, of course, knew that her novels too were not immune from lampoon, but this book declared her self-awareness, the likeable distance so relished by her audience. Her growing band of readers also knew that Jones’s own novels easily transcended the routine stuff of rings and magic and ancient runes.
The first of the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling appeared in 1997, and by the turn of the century had become a sensational success. Other publishers were looking around for books they could market to the same vast audience, and were quick to realise that Jones had been fruitfully engaged in fantasy for nearly 30 years.
Superficial similarities may be a double-edged sword; one of her series of books features a wizards’ university. Among her most popular creations is the Chrestomanci series (novels and short stories – the first appeared in 1977), in which a nine-lived enchanter operates across multiple realities as a civil servant in charge of preventing the abuse of magic; the series includes an idiosyncratic school story, Witch Week (1982). Of the apparent coincidences, Jones said generously to this newspaper in 2003: “I think that she [Rowling] read my books as a young person and remembered lots of stuff; there are so many striking similarities.”
Her career began as a playwright, with three plays produced in London between 1967 and 1970; her first novel, Change- over (1970), was adult humour; since then her work has been written for younger readers. Besides the two series already mentioned, she wrote the Howl books, beginning with Howl’s Moving Castle (1986; filmed in 2004 by Hayao Miyazaki), and two sequels, and the Dalemark sequence (1975-2003), dark-tinged fantasies set in that eponymous country.
Some of her best and most enjoyable books are stand-alones, in particular The Ogre Downstairs (1974), The Time of the Ghost (1981) and Fire and Hemlock (1985), each a remarkable blend of pathos and genuinely funny writing. Archer’s Goon (1984), extravagantly mixing fantasy with science fiction, was serialised for television by the BBC in 1992. Her most recent novel, the light-hearted Enchanted Glass, appeared last year.
Jones won innumerable awards for her writing, including three Carnegie commendations, the Guardian award and a lifetime achievement World Fantasy award. In 2006 she was made an Honorary DLitt by the University of Bristol. She was amused by the considerable academic attention her work attracted; reading in one paper that her work was “rooted in fluidity”, she remarked: “Obviously hydroponic, probably a lettuce, possibly a cabbage.”
Jones was born in London of Welsh parents; she met her husband-to-be, the Chaucerian scholar John A Burrow, just before she went up to Oxford; they married in 1956 and had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin, all of whom survive her, as do five grandchildren.
• Diana Wynne Jones, writer, born 16 August 1934; died 26 March 2011
Obituary by Guardian (thnx, Inkwell).

A Really Interesting Review of Howl’s Moving Castle


Howl’s Moving Castle marks the third Ghibli movie to receive a large-scale theatrical release, courtesy of the folks at Disney.  Their first, Princess Mononoke, although highly acclaimed (for the most part), failed to repeat the sterling business of its Japanese box office take; Spirited Away fared considerably better, although it barely cracked $10 million.  Sadly, Howl took in only about half as much as Spirited, but of course, went on to have a solid afterlife on DVD.  As with the previous Disney-distributed Ghibli films, a dub was recorded, consisting of famous names and screen legends.  The reactions to the dub, as usual, were mixed, with the usual supporters and detractors (for every person who relishes the actors in the dubs, there are others who refuse to listen to it.)

Love it or hate it, though, it cannot be denied that Howl’s Moving Castle is a very fine dub, although considering the consistently top-notch track record for previous Ghibli productions, it really isn’t so surprising.  As directed by Pete Docter (the man behind Monsters Inc. and Up), and adapted by the now expected team of Cindy and Donald Hewitt, the dub is the usual mix of star-studded actors and experienced voice artists.

HOWL (Christian Bale) — The title character of Miyazaki’s interpretation of Diana Wynne Jones’ beloved fantasy is a dashingly handsome but enigmatic wizard.  He is very charismatic and has a charm that enchants many a lady, but he can also be, at other times, tormented, childish, self-centered, caring, cowardly, and courageous.  It was decided to cast Christian Bale for the part.  Ironically enough, this choice has drawn the typical split reaction that most lead characters in Ghibli dubs often face — there were viewers who found him to be an ideal choice and effective, but there were others who declared that he was miscast and ultimately underwhelmed the character.  Divided views aside, Bale has voice acted before as a minor character in Disney’s Pocahontas, but Howl is quite different.  He intones his lines in a very deep voice, which effectively conveys both the character’s sensual appeal and unusual nature.  In at least two scenes, Howl speaks as a fearsome, gryphon-like creature–the gritty, raspy tone that Bale brings to these moments will remind viewers of his work in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.  There are a couple of places where some of his lines sound a little too monotonous, and it is somewhat curious that Bale decided not to use his natural British accent for the character; after all this is a British fantasy.  Nonetheless, these are only minor quibbles of an otherwise fine performance.  (One of my personal favorite parts from him is the scene where he throws a tantrum after his hair is “sabotaged”–Bale lets loose in this scene without overacting, and it’s all the more funny for it.)

SOPHIE (Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons) — Aside from Howl, the real main character of the story is Sophie.  There are two different incarnations of this character, as noted from the use of two different actresses.  First, there is young Sophie, a beautiful but very reserved young woman who is rather mousey and soft-spoken.  Emily Mortimer conveys young Sophie’s fragile nature in a way that feels very genuine and natural.  She also does an excellent job of bringing out her more emotional moments (her concern for Howl, and screams of terror, for instance) without overdoing it.
The film is barely halfway through when our heroine is transformed (by the Witch of the Waste) into “Grandma” Sophie, an aged woman with an aching back and an arguably fiestier nature than her younger counterpart.  Interestingly, in the Japanese version, the actress voicing Sophie plays both versions of her character, but here, her older “form” is portrayed by the late Jean Simmons.  One strange oddity is that Mortimer speaks with a somewhat light British accent, and Simmons does not.  Issue aside, Jean sounds like she is really into her character, obviously relishing such funny moments as when Sophie expresses her frustration over being cursed (“If I ever get my hands on that witch, I’m going to ring her fat neck!” before responding with a very sharp “Finish your breakfast!” to the surprised Markl) and very relaxed when she is saying softer, less forceful dialogue.  Her crying scene, too, is very effective and doesn’t sound strained.  It’s unfortunate that Simmons isn’t with us anymore, but her voice will definitely live on as Old Sophie.  All told, both versions of this character are voiced excellently.
LETTIE (Jena Malone) — Sophie’s younger sister, who works at a bakery, has a very small part, showing up for only one scene (the one where Sophie is just recovering from her first encounter with Howl).  Her primary role is to warn her sister that her newest “friend” may actually be dangerous (something which naturally turns out to be not true).  For this minor role, Malone gives her a somewhat higher-pitched voice with a thick British accent.  It is very appropriate for the character, and her acting never hits a false note.  I’ve always admired how Disney’s dubs give a lot of thought to even the minor supporting roles in these movies, and this is no exception.

WITCH OF THE WASTE (Lauren Bacall) — When Docter approached Bacall for this role, she confessed, “Dahling, I was born to play despicable!”  There couldn’t have been a more ideal choice for this character, who initially starts out as sinister and creepy (not to mention condescending, hence she uses the word “tacky” to describe Sophie’s character and environment), then becomes exhausted and breathy (as her outer beauty literally melts away to reveal her true form–starting from her tortorous climb up the stairs to Suliman’s palace), and ultimately, becomes a kindly grandmother.  (Even so, she is still caught smoking a cigar and nearly gets our pals into trouble by her own greed for Howl’s heart.)  Bacall nails all these facets of her character to a T and beyond; her sultry voice is equally effective, with a slight air of “prissiness” to convey the Witch’s authority.

CALCIFER (Billy Crystal) — Yet another alumni from The Princess Bride gets to be in a Ghibli dub, this time it’s Miracle Max himself as the film’s truly memorable character, Calcifer, a self-proclaimed “fire demon” who mostly resides in the hearth of Howl’s castle.  (What next, Robin Wright Penn for The Borrower Arriety?) The tone of voice he uses for this little guy is somewhat similar to Phil Hartman’s tone for Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service, only his character is less of a zany smart aleck and more of a down-to-earth type.  He gets to be grumpy, critical, fussy, and even show bits of elation (notably when he reacts to Sophie’s compliment, “She likes MY SPARK!” — which brings some echoes of his role from Monsters Inc.).  Like Bale, Crystal’s Calcifer has gotten the usual love/hate reaction — for fans of the dub, he steals the show (adding to the traditional “stand-out” role that typically characterizes these dubs), but for others he was an obnoxiously grating distraction that was not complimentary to the character or the film at all.  Whatever side of the fence you’re on, it cannot be denied that Crystal obviously enjoys himself in every second of his role, and the chuckles he emits from audiences are a testament to that.  (And yes, he IS my favorite voice in the dub.)
MARKL (Josh Hutcherson) — Aside from Calcifer, the only other person who lives in Howl’s castle is Markl (initially named Michael), a small boy who (aside from being the spitting image of Ket from Kiki’s Delivery Service) serves as an apprentice magician.  Whenever a customer comes calling (where the magic transportation dial of the castle switches colors), he often dons a cloak and disguises himself with a large grey beard.  I wager this must have been an early role for Hutcherson, because in many of the subsequent films I’ve seen him in (Zathura, and arguably most memorably, Bridge to Terabithia), he obviously has grown quite a bit.  So it was a good thing that he was cast while he was around the character’s age!  Hutcherson obviously enjoys the bits where he has to pose as an old man for customers (deepening his voice in the process), but he’s also conveys the other aspects of his character very effectively–this shows in his growing love for Sophie and in how he cares for the Witch of the Waste.  His screams of “Sophie” are also very effective and never once sound obnoxious or irritating.  Great work all around.
MADAME SULIMAN (Blythe Danner) — The most surprising aspect about this icy character is that she only shows up for two scenes.  That probably is more of a criticism of the script, but since Suliman doesn’t have much screen time, it’s somewhat difficult to determine if she is a genuine villainess or just a misunderstood grump.  But as confused as the nature of the character may be, it in no way affects Danner’s voicing of her.  The soft, yet cold tone she uses is properly affective for the part and she does a good job sounding contemptous without being “over-the-top”.
KING (Mark Silverman) — Anyone familiar with Silverman’s voicing for King Jihl in Nausicaa will probably know what to expect for his brief cameo as the King:  soft-spoken, authoritative, and natural.  Actually, when we meet him, for the first time, he turns out to be Howl in disguise.  (Hence he declares that he refuses to use magic in a war that his country is fighting–a subplot that never really feels fleshed out.)  The real King shows up about several seconds later, where he guffaws at his own clone with pompous amusement.  Silverman handles both of these parts very well.
HONEY (Mari Devon) — As with Lettie, Sophie’s stepmother has a very small part; near the end of the film she shows up at the newly refurbished hat shop to beg Sophie to stay with her and her new husband.  While speaking with an American accent, Devon amusingly nails the overly smothering qualities of this latter scene, sounding effectively obnoxious, desperate, and, later on, regretful.  Since her character appears so briefly, it’s difficult to evaluate her overall performance, but for the time that she’s on, it’s solid work overall.
PRINCE (Crispin Freeman) — Aside from Crystal, the surprise of the dub is Mr. Freeman as a character who only appears at the end.  (Actually, he spends most of the film as a bouncing scarecrow dubbed “Turniphead”.)  Freeman has always expressed his passion for Miyazaki’s work, and to hear him voice a character in one of his films is not only a treat, but a dream come true for this actor.  The tone of voice he uses for the prince is very similar to the earnest, youthful quality heard in characters such as Tylor and Spark (from Lodoss TV); but the genuine enthusiasm he brings to this minor character is what really makes any dub involving him a pleasure.  Here’s hoping that Crispin will get to have other parts in future Ghibli dubs.
Aside from the performances (which include the usual background voices), the writing, direction, and overall production values for Howl’s Moving Castle are as impeccable as one would expect from a Disney dub, sounding as professional and polished as a film of this caliber would demand.  (The lip sync is sometimes uneven, but not to the point of distraction.)  While I wouldn’t call this my favorite Ghibli dub, Howl certainly earns its place alongside the other Disney-Pixar produced English tracks for these films.  It’s remarkable that the Ghibli-Disney partnership has resulted with great translations such as this, and one hopes that trend will continue.