Alphabet Soup is an anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Osamu Tezuka, Leiji Matsumoto, and Shinobu Matsumoto, released on October 18, 1981. The movie is about six children that take a magical train to a land of photos.
Rokuro Hamasaki, Hana Minami, Yoshi Kurosawa, Hina Ikeda, Jurou Tanaka, and Misaki Kita all live in inner-city Tokyo. They have enough money to go to school, but are otherwise poor. One day, they are out by the train station at night. A train mysteriously pulls into the station, confusing the kids, who know that trains only come during the day. A voice comes from the train, calling the kids to get on. The kids embark the train and ask the conductor why he called them and where they're going. The conductor introduces himself as Oshiro-san, and tells them that this train is called the "Alphabet Soup" and that he's taking them on a trip to the Land of Pictures, where they can find photos of children around the world, some of which are just like them. The children sit in their seats as the conductor starts the train, and they watch as the night sky turns into a blur as they speed away from the station.
They're only a few minutes into their journey when they suddenly stop. Oshiro-san tells the kids that they're stuck in glue, and not to worry as they will be out of it shortly. He pushes a button on the train that speeds it up and allows it to outrun the glue. The kids realize the train is magic.
Yoshi asks Hana if his mom is worried about him, and Hana replies that it's only 7:30 PM. Then Yoshi asks Oshiro-san how long it takes to get to the Land of Pictures. Oshiro-san says it takes in a hour, thus Yoshi is relieved.
The kids notice that the train is approaching water and yell for Oshiro-san to stop. Oshiro-san tells them that they're going into the water, at which the train dives straight in. After swimming through the stream, the train emerges and pulls up at a grassy scenery. Oshiro-san says this is a short stop, and the kids get out of the train.
While looking at the moon and stars, Rokuro starts to miss his family, but the rest of the children convince him that the kids they are going to see in the Land of Pictures also miss their family. Misaki comes up with a plan to help get more money to afford nice things. They're going to try and find a job along the way.
Oshiro-san tells the kids they can come back on the train, and they do. The train starts up again, and they're off. Hina makes a wish to be safe, get richer, and have a good time.
They pass through a jungle and admire nature, as it's one of life's greatest creations. Suddenly, spiders start latching onto the train, and the kids plead with Oshiro-san to leave. The train speeds away from the spiders and is back on the trail.
Soon, city lights are visible from the sky. The kids want to find a job, and Oshiro-san drives the train into the big city, spotting a steak restaurant. The kids apply for the job and get it, just like magic! While they're cooking steak, another worker at the steakhouse spills mashed potatoes, and the potatoes flood the restaurant, forcing the kids to escape. Outside, Jurou tells the group that at least they got the money, and board the train again.
The train stops at a dance hall, and Oshiro-san tells the kids that they have to dance through the hall or else they can't go to the Land of Pictures. Fortunately, the kids can dance and the gate opens. The train magically appears at the other side, ready to start moving.
Along the way, the kids hear a cry for help coming from a castle. They tell Oshiro-san to go to the castle and find out what's wrong. Upon entering the castle, they find out that five princesses are being held prisoner. They rescue them and take them up to one of the towers, where a hot air balloon is waiting just for them. The princesses thank Oshiro-san and the kids as they fly out of the castle.
Back on the train, a river of taffy comes up ahead. The kids tell Oshiro-san to watch out, but train starts flying over the river! The kids are amazed. Oshiro-san tells the kids that they will arrive at the Land of Pictures any minute.
Soon, they finally arrive at the Land of Pictures. The kids take a tour, and see many kids just like them, as Oshiro-san had promised. Someone takes their picture, and they see their photo appear in the land with many others. A while later, the kids get back on the train and go home.
Back at home, each of the kids' parents are surprised to see that they have more money, and get to afford nice things. They treat the kids out to a yakisoba restaurant the next day with their money, and during the meal, the kids tell their parents that they went on a magical train to a world full of pictures of many kids. Soon, the six kids' life starts to become brighter.
The music was composed by Luke Yamashita, who also wrote the songs with Shinobu Matsumoto. The main theme is "Magical Train Ride" (魔法列車ライド) performed by Satomi Fujioka. The song sung in the dance hall scene is "Everybody's Dancing" (誰もがダンス) and the song in the Land of Pictures scene is "The Land of Fun" (楽しいの土地). Some of the songs are Japanese language adaptations of existing American children's songs, such as "Down by the Station" and "Water, Water Everywhere".
- Souma Yamaguchi (english: Steven Blum) - Rokuro Hamasaki
- Koharu Tsukuda (english: Melissa Fahn) - Hana Minami
- Tarou Yamashita (english: Johnny Young Bosch) - Yoshi Kurosawa
- Akane Fujimoto (english: Wendee Lee) - Hina Ikeda
- Kouki Fukui (english: Crispin Freeman) - Jurou Tanaka
- Kiyoko Nakajima (english: Michelle Ruff) - Misaki Kita
- Tsubasa Kimura (english: Brian Beacock) - Oshiro-san
- Kotone Tanaka (english: Dorothy-Elias Fahn) - Mrs. Hamasaki
- Yuuki Yamasaki (english: Bryce Papenbrook) - Mr. Ikeda
- Yuina Hisakawa (english: Cristina Vee, Amy Palant, Mona Marshall, Stephanie Sheh, and Corinne Orr) - Princesses
The film sold really well at the box offices in Japan, as it was a collaboration between some of the greatest people in anime (Osamu Tezuka, Leiji Matsumoto, and Shinobu Matsumoto animated the film, Rumiko Takahashi and Shinobu Matsumoto wrote the script, and Hayao Miyazaki directed). There never was a sequel, but the film remains popular in Japan.
When the film was released by Disney in February 2017, critics likened it to The Magic School Bus "on crack", gave attention to the school-age children who sound like adults, and praised it for the animation and music.
World Events Productions (the people who brought Voltron to the US) dubbed the film in English and released it on VHS in 1983. The kids' names were changed to "David", "Sally", "Elliot", "Tracey", "John", and "Kaitlin". Oshiro-san was renamed "Mr. Castle", and the Land of Pictures was changed to "Pictureland".
In 1992, Warner Bros. released a second English dub of the film, making it more close to the original film, but maintained a few changes (ex. the Land of Pictures still being called "Pictureland", and the kids' surnames being changed).
Disney announced a third English dub of the film, it being uncut (as Hayao Miyazaki does not want any edits to his films). It was released on DVD in February 2017. However, just like the previous two adaptations, the Land of Pictures is still "Pictureland".
Ever since the re-release of the film in 2017, Alphabet Soup has entered popular culture for its many strange scenes, such as Rokuro screaming "WATER! WATER!", the kids' collective shouting, and the random mashed potatoes scene. Some found it hard to believe that the first out of those three was in the original.