Few filmmakers are as beloved as Hayao Miyazaki. Though he only made 11 feature films, his animation style and sheer sense of fun, whimsy, and love of the natural world are evident on every individual frame. It’s sad that we won’t get any more features from him, and it’s sadder to think of the work we could have had.
Prior to his first feature film, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro in 1978, Miyazaki and his partner in crime Isao Takahata, who would eventually start Studio Ghibli together, made anime series and were actively looking at properties to adapt. One that never ended up seeing the light of day, despite Miyazaki doing extensive sketches and storyboards, was Pippi Longstocking.
Pippi Longstocking was the popular series of Swedish children’s books by Astrid Lindgren, which began publication in the 1940s. There had already been movies and television series made of the character and her adventures by time Miyazaki and Takahata got to it in 1971. They traveled to Sweden and began “location scouting” for the distinctive areas Lindgren wrote about in the stories, and Miyazaki began plotting and drawing what would have been their first anime after branching out from Toei Studios. Unfortunately, they couldn’t reach an agreement with the rights holders and the idea had to be scrapped. It was only recently that the Studio Ghibli archives released Miyazaki’s artwork for the proposed series.
Apart from just being gorgeous to look at, you can also see the inklings of some of Miyazaki’s future work in the drawings with either character designs or themes later reused in the short film Panda Kopanda from 1972 (which Miyazaki wrote and created and Takahata directed), as well as the later features My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Ponyo.
Below, you’ll find a full gallery of these beautiful images. And if you’d like to read more about Miyazaki, I wrote a series last year on each of his films, collectively titled Miyazaki Masterclass.
All images Copyright Studio Ghibli