Yuki's Sun (1972) - Miyazaki Pilot Film
Here is something that I've been forgetting to write about for far too long, so there's no better time than the present to finally bring it to your attention. It's not like I need sleep or anything.
This screenshot comes from an unaired television pilot called Yuki no Taiyo, or Yuki's Sun. It was created in 1972, and was created in hopes of building into a television series. Unfortunately, the plans fell through, and the series was never developed.
This pilot is remembered, really, for one notable reason: this is Miyazaki's first time as a solo director. He teamed up with Takahata for the later episodes of the 1971-72 Lupin III series, but Yuki's Sun marked his first time solely in the captain's seat.
Yuki's Sun was based upon a popular shoujo manga (girls' comic) by Tetsuya Chiba which was serialized in 1963. It involves a 10-year-old orphan girl who is adopted into a family. The storyline is somewhat complex, and seems to play out like grand melodrama. Chiba's stories were more sophisticated and grown-up than, say, Osamu Tezuka, who of course was the godfather of postwar Japanese manga.
As to Miyazaki's 1972 pilot, very little is known. If not for the footage that aired on television a few years ago (a retrospective to promote Sen to Chihiro, aka Spirited Away), we probably would never learn anything, apart from a minor footnote here and there. I don't know who else worked on the pilot, though I would have to assume that much of that loyal group from Toei would have been involved. Many of them worked on Lupin, Panda Kopanda, and Heidi, so why couldn't they have been involved in this?
Until one of us manages to sit down with Yoichi Kotabe or Ryoko Okuyama or even Miyazaki himself, I don't know if we'll ever find the answer. The problem, of course, is that so many years have past, and there were a number of productions during this period that fell through. There's the Pipi Longstockings project which collapsed (and was then refashioned into Panda Kopanda), Yuki's Sun, and another unaired pilot that strongly presages Heidi. I still haven't learned anything about that last item, so that's another mystery.
Thankfully, someone was kind enough to upload the footage from the Yuki no Taiyo pilot to YouTube, and, hey, it hasn't been deleted yet! More good news. If you've been studying your early Miyazaki, you'll notice some influences, including Yasuo Otsuka's comic running from Lupin (did he work on this?), Panda Kopanda, and a still-shot montage straight out of Horus, Prince of the Sun. Finally, the more dramatic tone stongly predicts Heidi two years later; this also suggests that Miyazaki had a stronger creative role in shaping Heidi than I realized. As if constructing the layouts and the shots wasn't involving enough.
Anyway, here's the unaired pilot for Yuki no Taiyo. I don't know if this is the entire pilot (probably not), but at least we're grateful for what we have.