Put together a heroic young boy, a mysterious young girl, a group of benevolent pirates, and a magical blue pendant, and what do you have? Nadia? Wrong! You get Laputa: The Castle in the Sky.
Released in 1986 and directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaš and Mononoke Hime), Laputa was the primary inspiration for Nadia. Itself loosely based on the city of Laputa from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift, Laputa is the story of Pazu and Sheeta -- two young orphans connected by the mythical floating castle, Laputa.
Pazu (Jean) is an engineer's assistant working in a small mining town. His father was an explorer who was searching for Laputa before his death. Driven by the shame that society placed on his father, Pazu's goal in life is to make an aircraft and search for Laputa to prove its existence.
Sheeta (Nadia) had been a yak herder living by herself in the mountains until she and her pendant (Blue Water), a secret family heirloom, were captured by government agents. While she is being transported, the Dora pirate gang (Grandis) attacks, seeking the same pendant.
In the ensuing fight, Sheeta falls from the airship to be saved, when the pendant casts a magical light and causes Sheeta to float safely to the ground. While cleaning up at the mines, Pazu spots Sheeta, unconscious, floating down from the sky. The two subsequently set off on their journey, first to escape from the Dora gang and the sinister government agents, and then to find the mysterious city, Laputa.
Laputa was the first film to be produced by Studio Ghibli (Nausicaš was actually produced before the studio was formally created). While not a philosophical film like Mononoke Hime, it features many of Miyazaki's trademark elements, such as excellent direction and storytelling, fantastic images of flight, and a marvelous musical score by Joe Hisaishi (who has worked on all of Miyazaki's films, including Mononoke Hime).
Following the successful release of Kiki's Delivery Service in the U.S. by Buena Vista Entertainment (i.e. Disney), Laputa is the next film by Studio Ghibli that is scheduled to be released in the United States. It is scheduled to be released early this year, and the dub will feature Anna Paquin as Sheeta, James Van Der Beek as Pazu, and Mark Hamill as Muska.