Before it was the critically-acclaimed film that opened more international eyes to the work of Studio Ghibli, Princess Mononoke was an ever-revolving concept lurking in the mind of Hayao Miyazaki. Concept sketches were first drawn in 1980 with the purpose of selling the idea to a film studio or television station. Miyazaki was unsuccessful in selling this first concept for Princess Mononoke, and instead published his sketches in a book of illustrations in 1983.
Princess Mononoke: The First Story is the tale that Miyazaki eventually sent out to be published, although he wasn’t entirely thrilled with his work:
I came to notice several weak points once I had finished drawing it. The biggest problem was that the world of the story was too much borrowed from existing films and folklore. Although it supposedly takes place in a larger historical context, one in which Japanese history and farming culture were changing dramatically, these ideas were not reflected in the story in the slightest. Everything just snapped together too nicely.
The story he had written was based upon Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast. When long-time Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki discussed with Miyazaki the possibility of republishing Princess Mononoke, some felt it was impossible, due to the well-received Disney film adaptation. Miyazaki, however, felt that he was trying to do something different with his piece, and had no reservations on the matter. Thus, he began the process of turning his published story into a film.
There are quite a few major differences between this book and the film. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to see how Miyazaki’s 1999 movie is related to Beauty and the Beast. Princess Mononoke: The First Story, however, does in fact have a stronger connection to de Beaumont’s famous tale. Even so, it captures Miyazaki’s particular eye for storytelling. While the prose itself isn’t terribly long or detailed, there are details within the sketches that suggest further plot points or scenes that would be embellished if it had been sold to a film or television company. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how the distance between the creation of this and production on the film changed and shaped what Princess Mononoke came to be in the mind of Hayao Miyazaki.
Here’s a look at the beginning of Princess Mononoke: The First Story, published in English by Viz Media, LLC. (Click the image to see the full-sized pages.)
Source: Miyazaki, Hayao. Princess Mononoke: The First Story
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