Howls Moving Castle is a 2004 Japanese animation film partly based on the 1989 book authored by the British author Diana Wynn Jones. Hayao Miyazaki wrote and directed the film.
The Japanese voice cast featured Chieko Baisho (Sophie) and Takuya Kimura (Howl), while the English dub version starred Jean Simmons (Sophie – old), Emily Mortimer (Sophie – young), Lauren Bacall (Witch of the Waste), Christian Bale (as Howl), Josh Hutcherson (Markl) and Billy Crystal (Calcifer).
The plot revolves around a young girl named Sophie who is cursed by a wicked witch who is envious of Sophie. Then, with the aid of Howl and his friends, Sophie sets out to attempt to break the curse. As a fantasy anime film featuring romance and drama, this one may be appealing to a wide audience.
At her late father’s hat shop, Sophie leads an ordinary life until she makes friends with the wizard Howl, who resides in a magical flying castle. However, the wicked Witch of Waste objects to their developing relationship and uses a spell on young Sophie to abruptly age her. To defeat the envious hag and bring Sophie back to her previous youth and beauty, Howl must now use all of his magical skills.
Books in the series:
Howls Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
Sophie, the oldest of three girls, has the awful misfortune of being doomed to failure if she ever leaves home. Sophie, however, finds herself the focus of a dreadful spell that changes her into an elderly woman after unwittingly earning the wrath of the Witch of the Waste. The Wizard Howl’s castle in the hills provides her with the sole opportunity to destroy it. To break the enchantment, Sophie must cope with the terrible Howl, make a deal with a fire demon, and confront the Witch of the Waste. Along the way, she discovers that Howl—and herself—are far more complex than they appear.
Castle in the Air – Diana Wynne Jones (1990)
The novel is a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle and is set in the same fantasy world, but instead of focusing on Sophie Hatter’s adventures, it centers on Abdullah’s. The plot is based on stories from the Arabian Nights. Numerous Howl’s Moving Castle characters make appearances in the book as supporting characters, frequently in disguise.
House of Many Ways – Diana Wynne Jones (2008)
The plot takes place in the same universe as Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air. Charmain meets Sophie Pendragon (Howl’s wife), her son Morgan, a beautiful child named Twinkle, and their fire demon Calcifer while she is caught up in an intense royal search to solve the kingdom’s financial problems. Twinkle climbs onto the roof of the Royal Mansion after getting Charmain into one of her messes. She quickly becomes involved in healing the kingdom’s ailments and recovering the long-lost mysterious Elfgift.
Wonderful music from the movie:
Joe Hisaishi wrote and conducted the New Japan Philharmonic’s performance of the film’s musical score. Our absolute favourite is Howl’s Moving Castle’s theme song.
8 Fun Facts About Howl’s Moving Castle (might contain spoilers)
(1) The city Sophie resides in takes design cues from Colmar, France.
(2) Howl’s moving castle was originally going to appear in “My Neighbor Totoro”.
(3) Due to the film’s translations, Sophie’s age varies depending on which language version you watch. In both the Japanese and the English dubs of the film, Sophie is listed as being 19 years old. Her age is given as 39 in the French translation.
(4) Howl’s Moving Castle was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2006 Academy Awards.
(5) This is the second Ghibli movie to include a live-action Batman actor. After Michael Keaton played the titular Porco Rosso, Christian Bale provided the voice for Howl Pendragon.
(6) After reading the book, Miyazaki was curious about how the castle would move and decided on chicken legs.
(7) In its first two days of release in Japan in 2004, the movie attracted an audience of 1.1 million viewers and made 1.48 billion yen in box office revenue. This broke the previous benchmark for a Japanese film by 40%, which was also set by Miyazaki with Spirited Away.
(8) One of the big differences between the original work and the movie is that the war theme was added to Howl’s Moving Castle.
Watch the trailer here: