academy museum hayao miyazaki exhibit

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the few anime filmmakers who can claim crossover success, with beloved classics like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away leaving an indelible mark on global pop culture (and the latter winning the director a much-deserved Oscar). But the Studio Ghibli filmmaker has never yet had a North American museum retrospective dedicated to his art and works. Until now.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures announced that its inaugural exhibition will be Hayao Miyazaki, a retrospective on the filmmaker that explores each of Miyazaki’s animated feature films through his six-decade career and features original art, character designs, storyboards, and more. It will be the first time these 300-or-so objects will be available for public view outside of Japan.

Japan gets a whole Ghibli Museum — and soon, a whole theme park — but us international Miyazaki fans have never gotten to see the wonderful art and sketches of favorite animated movies in person. But in the inaugural exhibition for The Academy Museum, we finally will. Hayao Miyazaki is a temporary exhibit curated by Academy Museum Exhibitions Curator Jessica Niebel and Assistant Curator J. Raúl Guzmán and organized in collaboration Studio Ghibli, which will open the museum to the public on April 30, 2021.

The exhibit features more than 300 objects — including original imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cels — of Miyazaki’s classic animated films, some of which you can see in the images provided above, of early character designs of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and the castle in Laputa: Castle in the Sky. And of course, because this is a museum dedicated to film, large-scale projections of film clips and immersive environments will also be on display.

Toshio Suzuki, longtime Studio Ghibli producer and co-founder of the animation studio alongside Miyazaki and Isao Takahata,  said in a statement:

“It is an immense honor that Hayao Miyazaki is the inaugural temporary exhibition at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Miyazaki’s genius is his power of remembering what he sees. He opens the drawers in his head to pull out these visual memories to create characters, landscapes, and structures that are bursting with originality. It is our hope that visitors will be able to experience the entire scope of Hayao Miyazaki’s creative process through this exhibition. I am deeply grateful to all those who have been instrumental in presenting this exhibition.”

Added Academy Museum Director Bill Kramer, “We could not be more excited to launch our new institution with the most comprehensive presentation of Hayao Miyazaki’s work to date,” said . “Honoring the masterful career of this international artist is a fitting way to open our doors, signifying the global scope of the Academy Museum.”

The exhibition will be thematically organized into seven sections, including a Tree Tunnel gallery mimicking the otherworldly journey of My Neighbor Totoro; a Creating Characters gallery, which features a multi-screen installation of Miyazaki’s main protagonists as well as artworks never seen outside of Japan; a Making Of gallery, which delves into Miyazaki’s long-term collaboration with the late Isao Takahata and exploration of his early works on TV and film; a Creating Worlds gallery, which “evokes Miyazaki’s fantastical worlds” in films like Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away; the Sky View installation, addressing the dream-like motifs of Miyazaki’s films;  the Transformations gallery, which shows some of Miyazaki’s most astonishing transformations, both physical and environmental; and finally, the Magical Forest, which features storyboards and mixed media of Princess Mononoke.

A 256-page catalogue will also accompany the exhibit, which includes a foreword by Toshio Suzuki, essays by Pete Docter, Daniel Kothenschulte, and Jessica Niebel, and an illustrated filmography. Film screenings in both English and Japanese will be shown at the museum’s theaters too.

It sounds like a wonderfully immersive and thorough exhibit that somewhat mimics what Japanese citizens have had access to for years with the Ghibli Museum (right down to the themed rooms and installations). But it’s still exciting that North American residents — though really, just LA residents, considering the difficulties of travel right now — will get to see it in person, finally. I only wish it wasn’t a temporary exhibit, because Miyazaki’s works deserve to be permanently on display for all to see.

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