The celebrated anime artist/director Hayao Miyazaki began his career in 1963 working for Toei Animation, where he established a close working relationship with fellow animator Isao Takahata. In 1971, the two left Toei to freelance for other studios. They began their independent career by proposing an anime series based on the Pippi Longstocking [Pippi Långstrump] books by the Swedish children’s writer Astrid Lindgren. The animators traveled to Sweden to visit Visby, the original setting of the tale, and Miyazaki made a large number of preliminary sketches in pencil with watercolor accents. During the trip, the two artists met with Lindgren to try to gain her support. In the end, however, permission was not granted, and the project was abandoned.
But beforehand, Miyazaki and Takahata created a number of test cels to give potential backers a sense of what the series would look like. Evidently, they photographed these test images using a large-format view camera, using Kodak 4×5” slide film. It is unknown whether duplicates of these slides were made or distributed, or if only one set of safety copies were made. In any case, it’s not known if the set-ups themselves still survive, or if so, in what condition. However, in 2011 a collection of seven such slides came up for sale, of which this image is one.
It shows an iconic moment, Pippi nonchalantly picking up her horse Lilla Gubben (“Ole Feller”) and carrying him up the steps into her house. The complicated porch with flowers and heart-shaped decorations matches up with other watercolors by Miyazaki, published in a 1983 book of his early anime-related sketches and paintings. These transparencies are probably the best – perhaps the only — surviving record of the cels Miyazaki and Takahata had made for the Pippi project before it was abandoned.