Heidi, Girl of the Alps

Heidi, Girl of the Alps (アルプスの少女ハイジ, Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji) is a 1974 Japanese anime series by Zuiyo Eizo (now Nippon Animation) based on the Swiss novel Heidi's Years of Wandering and Learning by Johanna Spyri (1880). It was directed by Isao Takahata and features contributions by numerous other anime luminaries, including Yoichi Kotabe (character design, animation director), Toyoo Ashida (co-character design, animation director), Yoshiyuki Tomino (storyboard, screenplay), and Hayao Miyazaki (scene design, layout, screenplay).[1]

Heidi, Girl of the Alps
Cover of Japanese DVD 1
(Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji)
Anime television series
Directed byIsao Takahata
Produced byJunzō Nakajima (Head)
Shigehito Takahashi
Written byIsao Matsuki
Music byTakeo Watanabe
(Japanese version)
Gert Wilden
(German version)
StudioNippon Animation
Original networkFuji TV
English networkCartoon Network (India)
Original run January 6, 1974 December 29, 1974

Heidi is one of several World Masterpiece Theater titles produced around the "classical children's literature period" (1974–1997), based on classic tales from the Western world. The animation studio responsible for Heidi, Zuiyo Enterprises, would split in 1975 into Nippon Animation Company, Ltd. (which employed the anime's production staff and continued with the World Masterpiece Theater franchise) and Zuiyo Company, Ltd., which retained the rights (and debt) to the Heidi TV series. The feature-length movie edit of the TV series, released in March 1979, was engineered completely by Zuiyo, with no additional involvement from Nippon Animation, Takahata or Miyazaki.


Heidi (short for Adelheid) is five years old when her aunt Dete, who has raised Heidi since her parents' death four years earlier, takes Heidi to live with her formidable grandfather on the Swiss Alps. Dete has found a promising job in Frankfurt, but cannot leave while still Heidi's guardian. The only relative left is Heidi's grandfather, and in Dete’s opinion, he should take some responsibility. Alm-Onji (Alps-Uncle), as Heidi's grandfather is commonly known, has a fearsome reputation with the villagers of Dörfli, as rumors claim that in his youth he killed a man. Now he lives a solitary life with his dog Josef in a cabin halfway up the mountain. However, Heidi quickly wins her way into his heart with her enthusiasm and intelligence, firmly establishing herself in his life. She spends her summer days on the mountain top with the goatherd Peter, whose responsibility it is to take the villagers' goats to the high mountains for pasture, and her winters occasionally visiting Peter's grandmother, a blind old woman whose dream is to one day hear her cherished book of psalms read to her. Alm-Onji's misanthropy prevents Heidi from going to school, of which she has no experience anyway.

Heidi continues to live happily in the mountains until Aunt Dete returns from the city, excited about a good opportunity for Heidi. A wealthy German businessman, Mr. Sesemann, is searching for a companion for his crippled daughter Clara. Thwarted by Alm-Onji, Dete tricks Heidi into accompanying her, ostensibly to get a present for Peter and her grandfather. Promised that she can return at any time, Heidi is taken to Frankfurt. There, Dete abandons her to the care of Miss Rottenmeier, the strict, no-nonsense governess in charge of Clara's welfare. Heidi and Clara quickly become friends, and Heidi quickly turns the household topsy-turvy with her escapades and well-meaning faux pas. Clara is enchanted by Heidi's stories of the Alps, which paint a picture of a life completely different from the sheltered and lonely one she is accustomed to. Her father is mostly away on business, and Clara's only constant companions until now are the servants and her canary.

Heidi's longing to return home and occasional attempts to escape are punctuated by the occasional distractions of new friends. She smuggles a small kitten into the house, and she and Clara care for it until Miss Rottenmeier discovers it and has it thrown out. Clara's doctor befriends her, and occasionally keeps a benevolent eye on her, but it is Clara's grandmother that has the most impact. On one of her rare visits to Frankfurt, she and Heidi become fast friends. Under her kindly tutelage, Heidi finally learns how to read, to the astonishment of the tutor who has struggled for months to do the same. However, the old woman's departure home again proves a turning point for Heidi. Forbidden by Miss Rottenmeier to ever mention or even think of the Alps again, Heidi rapidly goes into a decline, eventually becoming a sleep-walker whose ghostly passage through the hallways terrorizes the household.

Summoned home to deal with the haunting, Mr. Sesemann, with the aid of the doctor, catch Heidi in the middle of the night. The doctor diagnoses Heidi's condition and persuades Mr. Sesemann to send the girl back to her Alps before she dies of homesickness. Clara is only reconciled by the promise that she will be allowed to visit Heidi in her mountains. Under the care of Sebastian, the kindly butler, Heidi embarks on the long trip home, finally returning to the arms of her overjoyed grandfather, Peter and his family.

Heidi's return and her enjoyment of reading prompt Alm-Onji to partially restore a ruined house down in the village, where they retire the following winter so that Heidi can start going to school. Over the course of the season, Heidi and Alm-Onji become friendly with the villagers, and Peter builds his own sled and wins a local race. The subsequent spring, they return to the mountain in the Alps, bidding farewell to their new friends. In Frankfurt, Clara, who has been longing to see her friend again, reminds her father of his promise to her, but he reminds her that the conditions in the Swiss Alps may be too harsh for her to handle. The doctor is sent to the Alps in her place, to determine whether it is an appropriate environment for a crippled, sick young girl. Heidi, Peter, Alm-Onji, and the limitations of the terrain convince the doctor that this may be just the place for Clara to try her legs again.

In due course, Clara comes to the Alps with Miss Rottenmeier, whose disapproval of the rustic conditions and fear of animals is patent. However, Clara's grandmother soon arrives, and after seeing first-hand the vast improvement in Clara's condition, sends Miss Rottenmeier home, commending Clara to the Alm-Onji's care before departing herself. After having established that Clara's legs are capable of functioning, the children and Alm-Onji begin to work on Clara's physical therapy. Eventually, Clara is able to walk without assistance and returns home with her father and grandmother, promising that she will return the following spring to be with her friends again.


Character Japanese English
Heidi (ハイジ, Haiji) Kazuo Sugiyama Randi Kiger
Alm-Ohi (アルムおんじ, Arumu onji) Kohei Miyauchi Vic Perrin
The Doctor Yoshiaki Nemoto
Postman Unknown
Peter (ペーター, Pētā) Noriko Ohara
Hiroko Maruyama (film version)
Billy Whitaker
Großmutter (おばあさん, Obasan) Miyako ShimaTerue Nunami Irene Tedrow
Dete Taeko Nakanishi Janet Waldo
Clara Sesemann (クララ・ゼーゼマン, Kurara Zēzeman) Rihoko Yoshida
Keiko Han (film version)
Michelle Laurita
Miss Rottenmeier (ロッテンマイヤー, Rottenmaiyā) Miyoko Asō
Hisako Kyouda (film version)
Jacqueline Hyde
Sebastion (セバスチャン, Sebaschan) Kaneta Kimotsuki Alan Reed
Mr. Usher Unknown
Mr. Sesemann (ゼーゼマン, Zēzeman) Taimei Suzuki Barney Phillips
Mr. Kaehlin Unknown
Clara's Grandmother Natsuko Kawaji
Miyoko Aso (film version)
Lurene Tuttle
Neighbor Lady Unknown Julie McWhirter
Peter's Mother Akiko TsuboiTakako Kondo
Johann (ヨハン, Johann) Yoshiaki Nemoto
Mitsuo Senda (film version)


Main characters

Heidi (ハイジ, Haiji)
Heidi, christened Adelheid, is 5 years old and an orphan at the time the story begins. The story eventually ends some three years later. Heidi's curiosity, enthusiasm, and intelligence charm most people and animals into friendship, with one notable exception being Ms. Rottenmeier, the housekeeper of the Sesemann family. Her only relatives are her Aunt Dette, from her mother's side, and her paternal grandfather, the Alm-Onji.
Alm-Onji (アルムおんじ, Arumu onji)
The Alm-Onji, or Onji (Alm-Öhi in Swiss German), is never identified by any proper name. He is an old man, but still physically formidable, with a deep well of wisdom and mountain knowledge that he uses to survive the harsh conditions of the Swiss Alps. He is rumored to have killed a man in his youth, and has a popular reputation as being godless, bad-tempered and hard. He is a skilled woodworker, creating bowls and assorted utensils out of wood, and keeps two goats which provide milk he turns into cheese for trade with the villagers.
Peter (ペーター, Pētā)
Peter is an 11-year-old goatherd, who is responsible for caring for the village goats during the summer. He lives with his mother and his blind grandmother in a shack some distance from the village. His father was a goatherd as well, until he died. Peter's family is not wealthy, and he was used to going hungry until he befriended Heidi. He is an indifferent student, and is somewhat notorious for his greed and academic incompetence; however, towards the end of the animated series he discovers a natural talent at carpentry.
Clara Sesemann (クララ・ゼーゼマン, Kurara Zēzeman)
Clara is the 12-year-old daughter of a wealthy wine merchant who due to professional and personal reasons spends most of his time away from his home in Frankfurt since his wife's death. Because her legs are paralyzed (the exact cause is left unknown, but it is hinted to be due to a long-term illness), Clara has spent a lonely life in her home; therefore the Sesemann housekeeper, Miss Rottenmeier, has publicized a request for a playmate, which Heidi's aunt Dete answered. Despite their age difference, and because they have only each other to turn to, Heidi and Clara become very close, which occasionally makes Peter jealous of Clara, although he still also cares greatly for Clara and goes to great lengths to help her. While in the original story it is Peter who destroys Clara's wheelchair, in the anime series it is Clara who accidentally wrecks it when she begins to have doubts about wanting to walk.


Heidi's grandfather's dog, a St. Bernard. Mostly lazying around the alm hut, he is nevertheless stout and reliable in an emergency, and has a habit of gobbling up any snail he encounters. This character was created exclusively for the series, and does not appear in Johanna Spyri's original story.
A kid goat ("Snow"; English name: "Snowflake") among the flock Peter cares for. She had taken an instant liking to Heidi upon first meeting her. Based on a kid goat named "Schneehöppli" from the book.
Brigette is Peter's mother.
Peter's Grandmother
Peter's grandmother lives with him and her daughter, Brigette. Blind for several years, her greatest dream is to have someone read her favorite songs from an old book in her possession.
Aunt Dete (デーテおばさん, Dete-obasan)
Aunt Dete is the sister of Heidi's mother, Adelheid. In the novel and the series, she is portrayed as a rather self-centered person, considering her own interests first and neglecting the opinions of others.
Fräulein Rottenmeier (ロッテンマイヤーさん, Rottenmeier-san)
Miss Rottenmeier is the governess and housekeeper of the Sesemann family.
Sebastian is the butler of the Sesemann family.
Tinette is the maid of the Sesemann family.
Johan is the carriage driver for the Sesemann family.
Mr. Sesemann (セセマンさん, Sesemann-san)
Mr. Sesemann is Clara's father and the head of the Sesemann household. Absent from his house most of the time, he leaves the daily proceedings to Fräulein Rottenmeier, though he occasionally returns home when pressing concerns are brought to his attention.
The Doctor (お医者さん, Oisha-san)
Clara's attending physician and an old friend of the Sesemann household, who also befriends Heidi when she first encounters him on an errand for Herr Sesemann. In the German version of the series, he is usually called "Herr Geheimrat" (in place of his actual "Medizinalrat" title).
Frau Sesemann
Clara's grandmother and Mr. Sesemann's mother, who lives in Wiesbaden and visits her son's household only infrequently. A lively and informal person despite her age, full of humor and fun, who strongly contrasts (and silently clashes) with Fräulein Rottenmeier and her strict adherence to discipline.

International broadcast

The Heidi, Girl of the Alps anime has been dubbed into about twenty languages. The TV series was able to reach major stardom in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Arab world, and South Africa.

Spanish versions

In Spain, the series debuted on TVE in 1975, simply titled Heidi.[2] An introduction to anime for many of that generation then, by some months it was already popular enough to have its merchandise include a comic book adaptation, and later continuation, of the series, published bi-weekly by Ediciones Recreativas and lasting over an hundred issues in total from that year to 1981. "Abuelito dime tu" became one of the best known children's songs in Spain[3] and Heidi herself became one of both Sélica Torcal and Marisa Marco's most famous roles.[4] The name "Rottenmeier" became synonymous with "uptight, straight-laced hag" among Spaniards[2] and has subsequently been used to describe multiple female politicians,[5] as well as the Spanish parliament, plus has the women been used as a bad type of 'potential' single (the suggestion coming from her first reference name "Fräulein" meaning "unmarried woman")[6] and even had an psychological book written about her, simply titled Rottenmeier: la novela by Roberto Carrasco Calvente.[7]

In Latin America, it has been popular since debuting on Mexican TV in 1978 and, much like Spain, Heidi herself become one of Cristina Camargo's most beloved roles, but now she shares famous role spots with dubbing director Francisco Colmenero (Heidi's grandfather), as well as fellow actors Diana "Ad" Santos (both Peter (Pedro) and Clara) and Eugenia Avendaño (Fraulein Rottenmeier).

German version

For the series' German dub, an entirely new soundtrack was composed; the in-episode compositions were created by Gert Wilden and the title song's music by Christian Bruhn. The lyrics for the title song, which was simply titled "Heidi", were performed by the Schlager folk duo Gitti und Erika, as written by member Erik Bruhn, Christian's wife with oftentime lyricist for Bruhn, Andrea Wagner, the last one who also made the script translations and dubbing direction. The German-language version of the series was first broadcast on ZDF from September 18, 1977 to September 24, 1978.

Italian version

Heidi, Girl of the Alps was also a huge success in Italy, where it is still one of the best known and loved anime of all time. Its first broadcast was from February 7 to June 6, 1978, and it had very successful yearly re-runs. A good amount of popularity is also enjoyed by the title song of the Italian version, sung by Elisabetta Viviani. The Italian dub was made from the German one, so it features the same soundtrack and dialogue adaptation.

In Italy, also, the series was summed up and reassembled in three feature films, released in cinemas from 1977 through to 1979. The first of the three, Heidi a scuola ("Heidi at school"), sums up the first part of the series, which includes the arrival of Heidi in the mountains and the meeting with her grandfather. The second, Heidi va in città ("Heidi goes to town"), summarizes the episodes in which the protagonist is brought to Frankfurt and befriends Clara, although the longing for her grandfather makes Heidi understand after many vicissitudes that she should go back to live in the mountains. The third feature, Heidi torna tra i monti ("Heidi goes back to the mountains"), summarizes the latest episodes of the television series. Heidi, finally back with her grandfather, continues to maintain the friendship at a distance with Clara. Who, precisely during a visit to the girl initially hampered by Mrs. Rottenmeier, will resume the use of her legs. All three titles were officially distributed in 16mm by Sampaolo Film.

Arabic version

The series was dubbed into Arabic and aired in the Arab world. It had an original Arabic opening theme, which was very different from the original Japanese opening theme.[8]

Afrikaans version

Dubbed for the SABC by Leephy Studios, the show was incredibly popular in South Africa during the 1980s and had a number of re-runs, its popularity coming from its setting appealing to the country's cultural roots along with the dub making it look like it was originally made in Afrikaans, but also due to the Eurocentrism of apartheid education making the Swiss-German setting resonate with apartheid Afrikaners.[9] While the (German) theme song wasn't actually dubbed into Afrikaans, multiple covers of it in the language exist, including by Carike Keuzenkamp and Kurt Darren, the latter released in 2012 and which makes brand new verses for the song. They describe his childhood memories of Heidi herself and current thoughts of her, including of potentially contacting her through telephone, as well as inviting her with him to somewhere, praising her as well.[10]

English versions

Despite this series' international popularity, it is less well known in the English language, due to the English-speaking market being mainly the United States at the time and anime having been faded there in the seventies, by moral crusaders of that time eventually crushing it out of American television, robbing Heidi of getting there (including as a comeback, after the Heidi Game incident). Plus, when the mid-eighties came and anime made a comeback there, later World Masterpiece Theater series had taken its place and Girl of the Alps' own new novelty buzz had faded out. But the entire series has been re-dubbed into English on two separate occasions — first in November, 1995, then in some rebroadcasts and again in 2001 for broadcast in India on Cartoon Network (along with in Hindi (under the name "Sweet Alfa") and Telugu). Although this English dub was done by Nippon Animation staff and actors for airing in India, they never included the English audio on subsequent DVD releases in Japan. None of the DVD releases around the world have English subtitles on them either.

The only version of the Heidi anime to have been commercially released in the United States and United Kingdom is a completely separate feature-length movie version of the TV series, created in 1975, but supposedly not released until 1979 according to various sources . It was later released to home video in both continents in 1985 by Pacific Arts under the title The Story of Heidi. This version was produced by Claudio Guzman and Charles Ver Halen, with the English translation and dialogue by Dick Strome and featured a voice cast including Randi Kiger as Heidi, Billy Whitaker as Peter, Michelle Laurita as Clara, Vic Perrin as the Alm Uncle, the Doctor and Postman, Alan Reed (who passed away in 1977) as Sebastian and Mr. Usher, and legendary voice talent Janet Waldo as Aunt Dete.[11] The version is distilled to only a small amount of central episodes, as well as so two of the sub-plots (of the adopted Pichi and Meow, respectively) were part of the main plot instead, as well as cutting many other scenes of the episodes, either by shortening them or, most often, removing them entirely. This dub also changes the name of the dog Josef to Bernard, ostensibly because he is a St. Bernard, as well as Pichi to Binky Bird. It aired on Nickelodeon's Special Delivery anthology series in the 1980s.

Indian versions

Heidi is being aired in Tamil,Malayalam and Telugu languages in Chutti TV, kochu TV and Kushi TV respectively, under the respective names "Sweet Alfa" "Lilly" and "Heidi".


Heidi, Girl of the Alps is still popular in Japan today — the love for Heidi has drawn thousands of Japanese tourists to the Swiss Alps.[12] Stamps featuring Heidi have been issued by Japan Post.[13] Japanese heavy metal rock band Animetal made a cover of the show's original theme song.

Episode list

  1. To the Mountain
  2. In Grandfather's House
  3. To the Pastures
  4. One More in the Family
  5. The Burnt Letter
  6. Whistle Louder
  7. The Fir's Whisper
  8. Where Has Pichi Gone?
  9. The Snowy Alps
  10. A Visit to Grandmother's House
  11. Snowstorm
  12. Sounds of Spring
  13. Return to the Meadows
  14. Sad News
  15. Snowflake
  16. Dorfli
  17. Unexpected Visitors
  18. The Departure
  19. On the Road to Frankfurt
  20. A New Life
  21. I Want to Fly
  22. Where Are the Mountains?
  23. The Great Commotion
  24. The Stray Cat
  25. The White Breads
  26. The Return of Herr Sesemann
  27. Another Grandmother
  28. A Tour to the Woods
  29. Two Hearts
  30. I Want to Catch the Sun
  31. Goodbye, Grandmamma
  32. A Rough Night
  33. Ghost Commotion
  34. To My Dear Mountains
  35. The Starry Sky of the Alps
  36. And To the Pastures
  37. Goat's Baby
  38. In a New House
  39. Don't Give Up, Peter!
  40. I Want To Go To the Alps
  41. The Doctor's Promise
  42. Reunion With Clara
  43. Clara's Wish
  44. A Little Plan
  45. Children of the Mountain
  46. Clara's Happiness
  47. Hello, Grandmother!
  48. A Small Hope
  49. A Promise
  50. Try to Stand
  51. Clara Walks
  52. Until We Meet Again


A feature-length film was edited from the series in 1979 by Zuiyo (which by then was a separate entity from Nippon Animation, which employed many of the TV series' animation staff). All cast were replaced excluding Heidi and the grandfather. This movie is also the only incarnation of the Heidi anime to have been released commercially in the United States in English (on home video in the 1980s). Isao Takahata remarked "Neither Hayao Miyazaki nor I are completely related to any shortening version" on this work.

See also


  1. "Arupusu no shôjo Haiji" (1974) The Internet Movie Database (Retrieved 3 October 2009)
  2. "Anime & Manga / Germans Love David Hasselhoff". TV Tropes.
  3. panchovilla mex (19 September 2006). "abuelito dime tu" via YouTube.
  4. Los Capitanes HD (21 June 2017). "Fallece Marisa Marco, actriz que dio voz a "Heidi"" via YouTube.
  5. "ABC SEVILLA (Sevilla) - 18/05/2008, p. 10 - ABC.es Hemeroteca". hemeroteca.abc.es.
  6. Sequí, Julia (22 May 2019). "Singles". Debolsillo via Google Books.
  7. es:Señorita Rottenmeier
  8. "Arabic opening song for popular Japanese anime confuses Japanese netizens". SoraNews24. December 16, 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  9. "Genre in Asian Film and Television: New Approaches, p. 187".
  10. "Kurt Darren - Heidi" via www.youtube.com.
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkB8HGRlapM&t=1h23m57s%7CThe end credits of the movie.
  12. Kirby, Emma Jane (25 September 2001). "BBC News: Heidi draws pilgrims from Japan". BBC. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
  13. "特殊切手「アルプスの少女ハイジ」の発行 - 日本郵便". www.post.japanpost.jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 13 May 2017.
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