10 Things You Never Knew About Howl’s Moving Castle

From the beginning of Batman's Growl to Sophie's magic powers...

Howl's Moving Castle

One of Studio Ghibli’s most critically acclaimed movies, Howl’s Moving Castle, is a firm fan favorite. Although it wasn’t as big a hit at the box office as Spirited Away, it was nevertheless a huge success, garnering critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination. Here are a few fun things you never knew about the movie…

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1. Sophie Is A Witch In The Novel

The movie’s portrayal of Sophie is a little different to the novel. While the Sophie of the film has no magical powers, the novel depicts her as gradually discovering her powers the more time she spends around Howl, and other magical beings. The decision to leave this out of the film was based on a desire to give Sophie a unique perspective as an outsider with no magic looking in on the shenanigans of more powerful beings and helping them remember their humanity.

In the novel, she gradually comes into her power and ultimately defeats the Witch of the Waste and a Fire Demon of her own. While the movie left most of this character arc out of the film, there are still a few nods to it. Markl asks if Sophie is sure she isn’t a witch, while Sophie can move Calcifer from his hearth and even take him out of the Castle without killing both he and Howl. How she can do this is never explained in the film.

2. Sophie’s Second Sister

Howls Moving Castle Sophie Sister

Another element that is left out of the film is Sophie’s extended family. While Lettie – Sophie’s pretty and popular sister – appears briefly in the movie, the novel also includes Martha, a second sister. She has, ironically, been sent to learn to become a witch in the novel. As part of her apprenticeship, she can change her appearance to look like other people, allowing her to work at a nearby bakery. Lettie works at the bakery in the movie, and Martha is never mentioned.

3. Christian Bale Was Up For Any Role

Christian Bale As Howl

One fan of the film and the beautiful animated style of Japanese artistry was Christian Bale. He was so impressed by Spirited Away that he agreed to play any part available in Howl’s Moving Castle. As it turns out, he was given the role of Howl himself.

4. The Birth Of Batman’s Growl

Speaking of Christian Bale, he’s now better known for playing the role of Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy. Many fans view this trilogy – and Bale’s portrayal – as the pinnacle of live-action versions of Batman. 

Howls Moving Castle Christian Bale

In the film, he also created the infamous ‘Batman growl’. While fans of the caped crusader may suppose this growl first appeared in Batman Begins, it can actually be heard in Howl’s Moving Castle, which predates the trilogy.

5. Ghibli Collect Batman Actors

Michael Keaton Batman Studio Ghibli 1

It’s not unusual for big names to appear in Ghibli films. However, Christian Bale isn’t the only one to appear in a Ghibli movie while also donning the mask of the Batman. Michael Keaton – who played Batman in 1989’’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns – also took on the starring role in Porco Rosso.

6. Sophie Has Twice As Many Voice Actors In The English Version

Much of the film’s plot revolves around the fact that Sophie has been cursed to appear as an old woman. In the original Japanese version, Chieko Baishô voiced both young and old versions of Sophie. In the English dub, however, the choice was made to have young Sophie voiced by Emily Mortimer, while Jean Simmons lent her voice to old Sophie.

7. Markl And Lettie Were Both In The Hunger Games

Part of Howl’s Moving Castle’s charm is the characters’ depth, even when they are only minor. Howl’s young apprentice, Markl, stands out as a great character, perfectly voiced by Josh Hutcherson. Meanwhile, Sophie’s sister, Lettie, only appears briefly and has few lines, yet manages to be memorable and perfectly captures the pretty, vivacious girl that makes Sophie feel so plain by comparison. Voiced by Jena Malone, the actors playing both Markl and Lettie would both go on to star in The Hunger Games.

Hows Moving Castle Markl Hunger Games

It’s not the only time Ghibli has caught an up-and-coming star, as Tom Holland’s first ever role was in Arietty, long before he went on to become Spiderman.

8. Hayao Miyazaki’s Private UK Screening

While the UK release of the movie was set for the Autumn of 2005, Miyazaki went the extra mile and flew over to the UK to give the author of the original novel, Diana Wynne Jones, an early look at the film in a private screening during the Summer of 2004.

9. Hayao Miyazaki Wasn’t The Original Director

Hows Moving Castle

Speaking of Hayao Miyazaki, he wasn’t originally slated to direct Howl’s Moving Castle. That privilege was given to Mamoru Hosoda in the first instance. When he left the project, Miyazaki took over. Given much that we see in the film, from the inclusion of a war plot to the appearance of Miyazaki’s much-loved flying machines, it’s strange to think how different the movie would have been without his direction.

10. The Castle Is A Metaphor For Howl

One of the most distinctive elements in How’s Moving Castle is the depiction of the castle itself. Visually, the movie captures Dianne Wynne Jones’ original vision for the castle while also putting the now-familiar Ghibli stamp on it. There are a lot of metaphors at work in the film, but perhaps the most beautiful is how the castle reflects Howl himself. 

Hows Moving Castle 1

The castle is a hulking, roaming, completely disorganized beast that contains pockets of beauty and wonder, like Howl’s bedroom. As knowing Sophie begins to change Howl and we see him evolve, he reshapes the castle into a more orderly version of itself.

We can also view the blocked door, which only Howl can pass through, as a representation of the darkness confined within Howl’s mind.

Looking for more awesome Studio Ghibli movies to watch? Check out our list of the best Ghibli films, ranked.

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Hazel Butler
Hazel Butler

During daylight hours, Hazel is a freelance copywriter and editor crafting copy and offering marketing training for businesses and entrepreneurs around the world. After dark, she morphs into an Urban Fantasy and Dark Fantasy author with a penchant for all things dark, twisted and geeky.