Hayao Miyazaki Image Boards - My Neighbor Totoro

Here is a collection of image boards, created by Hayao Miyazaki, for My Neighbor Totoro back in 1976.  These illustrations come from the 1983 book Hayao Miyazaki Image Boards.  The book is a scrapbook of sorts, containing image boards for Panda Kopanda, and a series of unfinished anime projects - Pipi Longstockings, My Neighbor Totoro, Mononoke Hime.  It's a thrilling book that must have been a treasure for those who discovered it back in the early 1980s.

We already know the story, but let's sing along one more time: Miyazaki conceived of My Neighbor Totoro during the production of Isao Takahata's masterful 1976 TV series, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother.  He continued to develop the story idea, but was never able to secure funding for an anime project.  Years later, Totoro was finally given the green light, by which time Miyazaki had matured considerably as an artist and filmmaker, and the 1988 Studio Ghibli Totoro would be different in many ways.  Yet the core of these lovable characters can still be found in these original image boards.

How fascinating that the iconic image of Totoro at the bus stop was such an early idea.  Here was a revelation that was already present in embryonic form.  Here, the three Totoros remain the same, unchanged.  The boy, Kanta, is present as well; what role he was intended to play is not clear, but I suspect he would have had a larger role.  The big difference is the little girl - only one, not two.  This character appears the most fluid.  Miyazaki is still changing her around, with different hair styles and facial expressions.  Who she is and where she fits in remains a mystery at this point, but it's conceivable that she would follow in the mold of Pipi Longstockings and Mimi, the girl from Panda Kopanda.

Notice anyone else that's missing?  That's right, the Catbus.  There is no Catbus in the '70s incarnation of My Neighbor Totoro.  Now that's rather interesting; the popularity of Catbus rivals that of the big Totoro himself.  Interestingly enough, Hayao Miyazaki Image Boards includes a section of pre-production artwork for what would become Nausciaa of the Valley of Wind.  In a couple drawings, a large insect with many train-like passenger windows can be seen.  They appear to be the earliest incarnation of what would become the Catbus.

Miyazaki is quite skillful at using and recycling literally everything in his scrapbooks.  Some ideas are tossed back and forth for years before finding a proper home.  Totoro and the Catbus are two excellent examples.  The cover of Image Boards (1983, remember) offers another pair of surprises, two characters that would one day star in their own Studio Ghibli movies:

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