Article from The Daily Camera - June 17, 2005
'Howl's Moving Castle'

Miyazaki's latest is OK, but it's not among his best

On one hand, the Disney-Pixar partnership has helped choke off hand-drawn animation in favor of the computer-generated variety.

On the other hand, the two outfits have preserved traditional animation with loving translations of films from Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away," the 2002 Academy Award winner for feature animation).

Thank the spirit of Uncle Walt for that other hand. Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle," the English-language version of which was overseen by key figures at Disney and Pixar, is a strange delight awash in visual splendor, understated humor and clever body-and-soul transmogrifications among its bonny band of weirdoes.
Where Disney-Pixar productions such as "The Incredibles" and "Monsters, Inc." caricature reality, Miyazaki's films shatter it. He offers finely detailed images of grimy mid-Industrial Age progress juxtaposed with fanciful war machines and flying craft that are both retro and futuristic.

Characters are in a constant state of flux, Sophie's visage changing depending on her moods and who's perceiving her, Howl's shape alternating between human and soaring winged thing depending on the needs of the moment.

The action and imagery grows increasingly surreal even as the core of the story becomes a more and more familiar love story between Sophie and Howl.

Pixar creative mastermind John Lasseter, who pioneered feature-length computer animation with the "Toy Story" flicks and "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc." director Pete Docter and Disney executive Rick Dempsey led the team that produced the English-language version of "Howl's Moving Castle." Lasseter and Disney also oversaw the translated edition of "Spirited Away," while the studio did the same for DVD releases of many of Miyazaki's earlier films. Disney and Pixar, while focusing their future on the digital world, clearly recognize the artistry of a master who refuses to let go of animation's glorious pen-and-ink past.
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