Laputa: Castle in the Sky pirates' map WIP


New Member
Watched this movie again recently at a friend's, and I noticed something new (shouting and making my friend pause the film): a beautiful and strange map in the private quarters of the senior pirates aboard the Tiger Moth (Death Chicken). I knew I had to take a hand at replicating it, but it's only shown in two shots in the film: once when the two pirates are discussing their situation over chess, and once when the pirate queen is kitting-up Sheeta

I took these two images into photoshop and created a rough composite to maximize the detail.
Of course there are any number of discrepancies between the two, but I intend to use the details from the first scene only in areas not shown in the shot from the second scene.
Next I added a more obvious grid for my own reference from the grid in the full image. It is uneven because the source is uneven. At this point the discrepancies between the two maps become far more obvious.
Now came the first challenge: Text. I needed names for all of those labelled things for my final map, and the source provides nothing.
I began to pour myself into researching the film.
  • The mining town from the beginning of the film was, as it turns out, directly inspired by a trip Hayao Miyazaki took to Wales.
  • The uniforms of the soldiers in the film are strongly reminiscent of German or Prussian uniforms from the late 19th/early 20th century.
  • The name Laputa comes from Gulliver's Travels, and actually means "The B*tch" in Spanish. It's unknown if Swift knew this writing the book, but it's very likely. As such the Studio Ghibli film was re-titled to the shorter "Castle in the Sky" for release in America and several other countries with Spanish-speaking populations. I could have used the name as justification for incorporating Spanish-inspired names in my map, but instead opted for a close cousin of Spanish: Italian. This gave me a little distance, same as Ghibli (though not much, the same term is "puttana" in Italian).
Using Google Maps, I quickly harvested some long lists of Welsh, German, and Italian town names.
Now, I could have stopped there. Inserting those names directly onto my map would be sufficient for most English speakers, but to create a sense of the strange and fantastical I decided to mix them up.
Taking elements of names from each of my languages, I created a list of sixty or so original names cobbled together from three languages.
I got results like, "Christenmawr," "Vicenthausen," and "Santa Oechsen"
With this list I populated my reference map.

Thus ends Day 1
Last edited:

Mike J.

Master Member
Neat. Are you going to draw the master in Photoshop or Illustrator?

I tried my hand at making up a map of a fictional small town, with contour lines & shorelines & streets whatnot. My god was it labor intensive.... You've got it easy: all you have to do is trace what's already there :)



New Member
Neat. Are you going to draw the master in Photoshop or Illustrator?

I tried my hand at making up a map of a fictional small town, with contour lines & shorelines & streets whatnot. My god was it labor intensive.... You've got it easy: all you have to do is trace what's already there :)


I'll draw the shape of the land-masses by hand, then take it into Photoshop to clean and color it. In addition, I plan to write out all the text by hand. Making extra work for myself.

The drawing of the actual map should be one of the easiest things when all's said and done. It's not incredibly complex and I have experience making fantasy maps with roughly the same techniques.


New Member
Day 2

Did some more research yesterday and learned some interesting new things.

Although Castle in the Sky was an original story written by Miyazaki, there have been several books released related to and expounding on the story or setting.

The first was an art book of high quality cell scans and some small sections of concept art. These have been released for most if not all Ghibli films and I own the one for Kiki's Delivery Service. I may pick this up at some point, but I can hazard from a YouTube review that it does not include anything related to the map (can anyone confirm?). Additionally, all of the text is in Japanese so if there are any names of places in this book they would be romaji and unreadable to me anyway. May pick this up at some point, but for now it's a pass. This was released in 1986 along with the film. Amazon Link

The second is a simple picture book that uses stills from the movie and is intended for children. It has no content beyond that in the film, so I'll skip it as well. This was released in 1993. Amazon Link

There was a four-volume manga-ish adaptation of the film created with stills and written (supposedly) by Miyazaki. I don't think these books will be very useful for my purposes, but I was curious enough from the reviews and they're quite cheap so I ordered them. These came out in 2003 Amazon Link

There have been a few other bits and pieces including a third party artbook with 111 pages to the official one's 194, but nothing of any significance.

It's incredibly hard to find information on the production of the film, but I've managed to glean tiny bits and pieces about the world here and there online. Here's a bit copied from
The early draft of "Laputa" explains that Laputa first appeared in

history as "Laputatilis", in Platon's lost geography, "The Book of

Sky". Platon wrote that Laputatilis was built by a people with a

highly advanced civilization to escape from war. However, they became

too dependent on the highly advanced mechanical civilization, which

eventually weakened their vitality. Then, a disease hit, and killed

off most of them, around 500 B.C. A handful of survivors came down to

earth, and Laputa was deserted. However, the story in the movie was

changed from this earlier setting, since in the movie, Laputa was

deserted 700 years ago. We do not know why Laputa was deserted in the


Where that site got its information I have no idea, but I may end up contacting them at some point.

Aside from research I did some minor illustration work on some of the symbols on the map.

These triangle symbols appear scattered across both maps:
At first I took these to mean either mountains or towns, but if you look closely you'll note that in the above screen many of these points are actually in the water. This isn't consistent with the first scene with the map where nearly all of the reference points are on land:
But I thought about it for a long time, and I came up with a third option. Towns wouldn't be in the water, underwater mountains wouldn't be marked on such a map, so maybe...
And I thought of these pictures from the film's opening sequence:

If huge flying landmasses once roamed the skies, they must BE somewhere, right? If they crashed down to Earth hundreds or even thousands of years ago, their ruins would even look like mountains. Could the pirates know more than they're letting on? Have they been searching the ruins of these cities, hoping to discover that one was the jewel of them all, Laputa?

Probably not, but the idea stuck in my head enough that I decided to compromise. I didn't want big, ugly, simple triangles on my full-scale map anyway, so I would make my symbols a bit more interesting:


These aren't final, but they're my first step with the symbols for the map. They look vaguely mystical and mechanical, but I didn't want to make their symbology explicit; they could still be just mountains. It will be up to someone perusing the map to decide what they are. There's a lot more of these peaks that I'll need to do, as well as a few strange symbols and bullet points scattered about the reference, which I have a few sketches for.

That's all for now!


New Member
First full-map sketch

Had some time to do a sketch of the map layout today. This helped to iron out the differences between the slightly contrasting geographies and symbol locations. I'll wait to draw the full-scale coastlines until as late as possible for two reasons: 1) I want to make sure no new information is out there that would change anything and 2) I'll really enjoy that portion and seeing everything come together, so it's my carrot.


New Member
Font update

Been plugging away at things, but it's mostly been tedious work. Halfway done with the font I'm hand-drawing for this project.

With the lower case done it's time to move onto capitals. Not every letter will be used, but I can save these files for future projects or in case I want to change something later.
Before moving on I quickly check to see if they work assembled as a word:
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