When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.

Director:

Hayao Miyazaki

Writers:

Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay), Diana Wynne Jones (novel) (as Daiana Win Jônzu)
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Popularity
644 ( 37)
Top Rated Movies #137 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 14 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chieko Baishô Chieko Baishô ... Sofî (voice)
Takuya Kimura ... Hauru (voice)
Akihiro Miwa Akihiro Miwa ... Arechi no Majo (voice)
Tatsuya Gashûin ... Karushifâ (voice)
Ryûnosuke Kamiki ... Marukuru (voice)
Mitsunori Isaki Mitsunori Isaki ... Koshô (voice)
Yô Ôizumi ... Kakashi no Kabu (voice)
Akio Ôtsuka ... Kokuô (voice)
Daijirô Harada Daijirô Harada ... Hin (voice)
Haruko Katô ... Sariman (voice)
Jean Simmons ... Grandma Sophie (voice)
Christian Bale ... Howl (voice)
Lauren Bacall ... Witch of the Waste (voice)
Blythe Danner ... Madame Suliman (voice)
Emily Mortimer ... Young Sophie (voice)
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Storyline

A love story between an 18-year-old girl named Sophie, cursed by a witch into an old woman's body, and a magician named Howl. Under the curse, Sophie sets out to seek her fortune, which takes her to Howl's strange moving castle. In the castle, Sophie meets Howl's fire demon, named Karishifâ. Seeing that she is under a curse, the demon makes a deal with Sophie--if she breaks the contract he is under with Howl, then Karushifâ will lift the curse that Sophie is under, and she will return to her 18-year-old shape. Written by Sophie Ball

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for frightening images and brief mild language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although the film was not released in the United Kingdom until 23 September 2005, director Hayao Miyazaki personally traveled to England in the summer of 2004 to give a private showing of the film to Diana Wynne Jones. See more »

Goofs

After the portals change, Howl says "See that new color on the dial?" to Sophie, to show her the meadow. He then sets the portal to red (from yellow). Red (the "new portal") was on the original dial - yellow is the new color (replacing blue). See more »

Quotes

Howl: You're wearing that hat? After all the magic I used to make your dress pretty?
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Soundtracks

Sekai no Yakusoku
Written by Yumi Kimura
Performed by Chieko Baisho
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User Reviews

 
Terrific Miyazaki, although not his best
12 January 2005 | by life_on_screenSee all my reviews

"Howl's Moving Castle" opened here in France on Jan. 12th (as "Le Château Ambulant," natch), and I saw it at an avant-première. As a raving fan of Miyazaki and of Diana Wynne Jones, I feel lucky to be an American living in France -- I see there's no release date announced yet for the U.S. Sorry, folks, and blame Disney!

I understand the feelings of viewers who have criticized the movie as trite. I find it's less imaginative, in terms of character development and emotional profundity, than Miyazaki's best masterpieces. However, even a pedestrian Miyazaki movie is infinitely more rich, frightening, imaginative and humane than any six Disney films put together, and there's a lot to love in "Howl's Moving Castle."

I am glad I didn't reread Jones' book before seeing the film; even going on my six-year-old memory of the novel, I can see the movie's a very loose adaptation, and I think Jones fans would do best to try to take the movie on its own merits instead of looking for a faithful adaptation. That said, Miyazaki is surprisingly successful, at moments, in capturing the richness of the novel's characters: the peculiar co-habitation of charm and terror in Howl the sorcerer and his demon companion Calcifer, and the pragmatic strength of will that makes us love Sophie, the protagonist, who embodies both the fairy-tale archetypes of the young girl and the old woman at once.

Miyazaki's directorial trademarks are here in spades. Most of them lend strength and power to the film: his passion for open landscapes, his vision of the power and horror of war, the uncompromised way his movies work to empower children, and especially girls. A few of them are just Miyazaki quirks that fans will recognize with amusement (walrus mustaches, cobbled European squares, and flying machines for everyone!) Richer and stranger, though, are the very successful integration of two things that Disney animation never even approaches: the way even a children's story can blur lines between an enemy and a friend, and the cohabitation of the monstrous and the sublime. Enemy, ally, monster, beloved: Miyazaki gives both visual and moral weight to these disturbing contradictions, and certain scenes in "Howl's Moving Castle" evoke a frightening sublimity I have never seen elsewhere than in "Princess Mononoke."

I think the film suffers from a slightly hurried pace, especially with respect to the protagonists' character development, and the result is a loss of the subtlety that makes Jones' book such a gripping fairy tale. Her Howl is more ambivalent, and her story is a more complex investigation of adolescent heartlessness and the growth of the heart. The ending, which falls back too much on clichéd imagery and deus-ex-machina, also could have been better handled. All that said, "Howl's Moving Castle" contains lots of treasures and will, I think, stand up to repeated viewings. Miyazaki fans will be delighted, and kids around the world should be given the chance to taste this latest rich, respectful children's tale. (Be warned, though: there are moments as terrifying as those in "Princess Mononoke," and younger kids will need their parents with them.)

On a final note, as few hardcore fans of Japanese anime will need to be reminded, the movie is doubtless best seen in its original version with subtitles. The Japanese voice acting is terrific -- although the voice of "young Sophie" doesn't strike me as anything special, the actors playing the aged Sophie, Howl, and especially Calcifer are fantastic. Calcifer is a magnificent creation and should delight even the most conservative fan of the novel. I have serious doubts that the inevitable English-language dub will do the nuances justice.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Official Sites:

Disney [United States]

Country:

Japan | USA

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

17 June 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Howl's Moving Castle See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$24,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$427,987, 12 June 2005

Gross USA:

$5,576,743

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$236,214,446
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital EX | DTS-ES | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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