Hayao Miyazaki Retrospective Will Be The Inaugural Exhibition at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

  • LOS ANGELES, California
  • /
  • September 11, 2020

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Background, Princess Mononoke (1997), © 1997 Studio Ghibli - ND

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles has announced details of Hayao Miyazaki, its inaugural temporary exhibition. The exhibition is curated by Academy Museum Exhibitions Curator Jessica Niebel and Assistant Curator J. Raúl Guzmán and organized in collaboration with Japan’s renowned Studio Ghibli, which Miyazaki co-founded in 1985. On view in the museum’s Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Gallery and unveiled for the first time when the museum opens to the public on April 30, 2021, Hayao Miyazaki marks the first North American museum retrospective dedicated to the acclaimed artist and his work. 

Hayao Miyazaki. Photo by Nicolas Guerin

With more than 300 objects, the exhibition will explore each of Miyazaki’s animated feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and the Academy Award®-winning Spirited Away (2001). Visitors will travel through the filmmaker’s six-decade career through a dynamic presentation of original imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cels, including pieces on public view outside of Japan for the first time, as well as large-scale projections of film clips and immersive environments. 

Producer and Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki said, “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.”  

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

“Hayao Miyazaki has a singular ability to capture how we perceive life, with all its ambiguities and complexities,” said Jessica Niebel. “It has been a privilege to collaborate with Studio Ghibli in creating an exhibition that will appeal to the most avid Miyazaki fans and those not yet familiar with his work.” 

Film Still, My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Director Hayao Miyazaki, © 1988 Studio Ghibli

Thematically organized in seven sections, the exhibition is designed as a journey. To enter, visitors follow four-year-old Mei, a character from My Neighbor Totoro, into the Tree Tunnel gallery, a transitional space that leads into Miyazaki’s enchanted worlds. Emerging from the Tree Tunnel, visitors will find themselves in the Creating Characters gallery, which features a multi-screen installation of short clips of Miyazaki’s main protagonists. This section highlights how his characters are developed from concept to creation and features original character design drawings from My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) and Princess Mononoke (1997). Some of these artworks have never before been seen outside of Japan. In the following Making Of gallery, visitors will learn more about Miyazaki’s long-term collaboration with the late Isao Takahata, with whom he founded Studio Ghibli. Visitors will view Miyazaki’s early works as an animator, including the groundbreaking TV series Heidi, Girl of the Alps, and his first feature film, Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979). A special tribute to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) emphasizes the importance of this beloved film for Miyazaki’s career and the founding of Studio Ghibli. 

From there, visitors move into the Creating Worlds gallery, a space that evokes Miyazaki’s fantastical worlds. The gallery will capture the contrast between beautiful, natural, and peaceful environments and the industrial settings dominated by labor and technology that are also often featured in Miyazaki’s movies. Visitors can view concept sketches and backgrounds that offer insight into Miyazaki’s imagination, including an original imageboard from his first Ghibli film Castle in the Sky (1986) and artworks from subsequent Ghibli features. Other areas explore Miyazaki’s fascination with complex vertical structures, such as the famous bathhouse in Spirited Away, and the underwater world of Ponyo (2008), as well as Miyazaki’s interest in flying, as seen in Porco Rosso (1992) and The Wind Rises (2013). As a highlight of the exhibition, visitors can enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation in the Sky View installation, addressing another frequent motif in Miyazaki’s films: the desire to slow down, reflect, and dream. 

Next, the Transformations gallery affords visitors the opportunity to explore the astonishing metamorphoses often experienced by both characters and settings in Miyazaki’s films. In Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), for example, the protagonists go through physical transformations that reflect their emotional states, while in other films, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki creates mysterious and imaginative ways to visualize the changes that humans impose on the natural world.

Visitors then enter the exhibition’s final gallery Magical Forest through its Mother Tree installation. Standing at the threshold between dream and reality, colossal, mystical trees in many of Miyazaki’s films represent a connection or gateway to another world. After passing through the installation, visitors encounter the spirits of the forest, such as the playful Kodama from Princess Mononoke, through an array of storyboards and mixed media. Visitors exit through another transitional corridor, which guides them from the imaginative worlds of Hayao Miyazaki back into the museum. 

Hayao Miyazaki will be accompanied by a 256-page catalogue that takes the reader on a richly illustrated journey through the filmmaker’s extraordinary cinematic worlds. Production materials from his early television work through all 11 of his feature films offer insight into Miyazaki’s creative process and masterful animation techniques. Published by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and DelMonico Books, the catalogue includes a foreword by Toshio Suzuki, essays by Pete Docter, Daniel Kothenschulte, and Jessica Niebel, and an illustrated filmography. Hayao Miyazaki will be available when the exhibition debuts in April 2021.

The exhibition will also be complemented with film screenings in both English and Japanese in the museum’s state-of-the-art theaters, public programs, and unique merchandise created with Studio Ghibli, available exclusively at the museum store.


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