And the Oscar Goes to… the Airplane!

Some of the airplanes that loom largest in our collective memory have flown only in the movies

(Courtesy Warner Communications / Your Trailers)

Savoia S.21 in Porco Rosso (1992)

Porco Rosso

Hayao Miyazaki, who is sometimes referred to as the Japanese Walt Disney, is one of the masters of the Japanese form of animation known as anime. Miyazaki was captivated by the seaplanes that raced for the Schneider Trophy during the 1920s, and, as he explained in Helen McCarthy’s 1999 scholarly biography, “I wanted to express my love for all these ships.” Set in, around, and over the Adriatic Sea in 1929, Porco Rosso is densely populated with stylized combat versions of several of these between-the-war beauties. The eponymous hero of Porco Rosso—a cynical World War I ace-turned-mercenary-pilot known as the Crimson Pig—flies a gorgeous seaplane identified as a Savoia S.21. In fact, the real S.21 was an ungainly biplane that never raced in the Schneider Trophy. Actually, Miyazaki styled the airplane on the basis of childhood memories of the more successful—and much more attractive—Macchi M.33, a monoplane with a single engine housed in a nacelle mounted on struts above the sleek fuselage. In 1925, the M.33 was defeated in the Schneider Trophy by a Curtiss R3C-2, which, not so coincidentally, is the airplane (modified by Miyazaki into a fighter) flown by the villain in Porco Rosso. Another non-coincidence: Miyazaki named his company, Studio Ghibli, after the Ca.309 Ghibli (desert wind) twin-engine transport produced by Italy’s Caproni aircraft company.


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