Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pippi Longstocking - The TV Series ( 1969 )

Astrid Lindgren's little freckled face imp, Pippi Longstocking, made an immediate impression on her readers when she appeared in "Pippi Långstrump" ( 1945 ), the first in a series of children's story books. Pippi is the embodiment of the mischievous elf hidden within every child. Parents are always telling their young ones to behave, and sometimes they just want to run amuck with wild behavior. She's friendly and kind to everyone she meets - including criminals - but has no "proper manners" whatsoever, and as far as Pippi is concerned, who cares! 

Pippi, whose mother is an angel in heaven, and whose father is king of a South Seas island ( actually a stranded sea captain ), lives alone in a mansion called Villa Villekulla, and has learned to take care of her own inimitable way. She washes the kitchen floor by pouring buckets of soap water on it, and then skates around the kitchen in shoes strapped with brushes. She cleans the dinner table by folding the four corners of the tablecloth into the center, leaving all the dishes on it, and then throwing the sack into a drawer. If she finds a bit of old food later, it's all the tastier. 

Pippi isn't just a red-headed rascal...she has superhuman strength, too, like being able to lift a horse single-handedly. Where Pippi got her powers from is never explained ( nor how her pigtails stay air-born ), but since these are children's stories, why bother with explanations? The little girl never has to worry about money troubles because her father gave her a treasure chest full of gold coins to survive on. 

Annika and Tommy are two well-behaved youngsters whom Pippi befriends in town when she first arrives. They like to spend the day with Pippi and see what antics she can get herself into, vicariously enjoying her mischievousness without getting into trouble themselves. 
In 1949, Pippi popped onto the silver screen for the first time in the Swedish film Pippi Långstrump, starring Viveca Serlachius, an actress who resembled the dynamic Betty Hutton. She was such a hit with audiences, that ten more films followed, even though it was obvious that she was a woman playing a part meant for a child. It was not until Shirley Temple's Storytime ( 1961 ) that a child actress - Gina Gillespie - got to play Pippi. 

While this was an adequate version for American audiences, the best series that captured the true Pippi was the 1969 television series, starring Inger Nillson, a funny looking moppet who resembled the original book drawings of Pippi perfectly. Nillson had a natural charm about her that really brought Pippi to life and, unlike many child actors do today, she played her part without displaying an ego. 

The series was filmed throughout the charming villages of Kyrktrappen and Visby, showing Sweden in her days before the "modern look" took over. What makes the series truly entertaining is its gentle pace. It makes you feel like you are another child, tagging along with Tommy and Annika, to watch what Pippi is up to today. At one moment she may decide to go riding on her speckled workhorse, or buy out the candy shop. When the circus comes to town you can be sure Pippi will treat everyone to free tickets. No outing is boring because Pippi uses her imagination to spice things up all the time. 

This series, simply called Pippi Longstocking, was so popular that it was dubbed and released throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, repeatedly airing on television for many years. Children in the States who grew up with the show either remember with fondness the American voices who dubbed the main characters or the British voices ( which are featured on the DVDs ). 

The same year the series was released, its producers decided to edit segments from the show into a feature film version. This film, Pippi Longstocking ( 1969 ), was released throughout Europe and, in the US, and spawned another butchered compilation, Pippi Goes on Board ( 1969 ). 
Inger Nillson and the cast reunited then for two feature film versions of Pippi - Pippi in the South Seas ( 1970 ) and Pippi on the Run ( 1970 ), which were hurriedly made because all of the children were having growth spurts. Alas, these films lacked the laid-back charm of the television series which, to this day, remains the most beloved version of Lindgren's Pippi legacy. If you have a little one with a mind bent towards adventure, then this series is well worth checking out. 


  1. Interesting piece - I've always known of the character but never watched any of the films/TV shows based on her. She was also referenced in a memorable 'Gilmore Girls' episode.

  2. The correct name of the Shirley Temple anthology TV series was Shirley Temple's Storybook, not Storytime.

  3. A great profile of the PIPPI movies, though I must admit they've always kinda scared me!

  4. I'm quite sure I've seen the movie version starring Nillson! Long ago, on a grainy VHS copy. I loved the books more, but that movie was great fun.

  5. Is the 1969 series in English? Is it different from the movies? Or was the series compiled into the 4 movies?

  6. Is the 1969 series in English? Is it different from the movies? Or was the series compiled into the 4 movies?

    1. It was dubbed in English, and aired on Cable in the late 70's in the USA.