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Fans of Hayao Miyazaki's Academy Award-winning SPIRITED AWAY should put this cartoon feature on their must-see list; unusually detailed animation glides hand in hand with the film’s aura of wonderment. Young Sheeta (Anna Paquin), held captive in a military zeppelin, watches as pirates assaulting the aircraft from their mini-planes. She has no idea why she’s the hotly contested prize in a rivalry between the government, represented by Agent Muska (Mark Hamill), and the sky bandits, led by a Ma Barker type named Dila (Cloris Leachman). Sheeta falls from the blimp but magically stops plummeting and floats to the ground, thanks to the medallion she wears. After her safe landing, Sheeta is befriended by Pazu (James Van Der Beek), a child laborer. Pazu’s story about the lost land of La Puta jogs Sheeta’s memories of her past and the origins of her protective
necklace. But she hasn't yet put together that her pursuers don't want her — they want the necklace, because it can lead them to the airborne, floating island of La Puta. The pirates attack Pazu's village, and he helps Sheeta flee by train. While the cut-throats fend off a counter attack by soldiers, Pazu and Sheeta find refuge in a cave with a prospector who
fleshes out the saga of La Puta. Muska eventually captures the children and tries to persuade Sheeta to provide him with a portal to the aerial Atlantis by claiming falsely that La Puta plans to wage war against the ground countries. Sheeta must resist the temptation to use her necklace to locate La Puta, despite pressure from all sides. Though filmmaker Miyazaki is widely characterized as Japan’s Walt Disney, his work more closely resembles that of surrealist cartoonist Max Fleischer. And while this film doesn’t reach the rapturous heights of SPIRITED AWAY, it boasts sharper story-telling and more accomplished drawing than the overwhelming majority of American-made animated features.