When the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has its long-awaited grand opening on April 30, 2021, it will do so with the first North American museum retrospective dedicated to the legendary career of Hayao Miyazaki. The renowned Japanese animator and Studio Ghibli co-founder is the subject of the Academy Museum’s first exhibit, the initial details of which have been provided today by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Miyazaki exhibition is curated by the museum’s Jessica Niebel and J. Raúl Guzmán in collaboration with Studio Ghibli and features over 300 objects from the director’s career, from hand-drawn storyboards and character designs to posters and film clips. Many of the objects featured in the exhibit have never been seen outside of Japan.
“It is an immense honor that ‘Hayao Miyazaki’ is the inaugural temporary exhibition at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures,” said Ghibli co-founder and producer Toshio Suzuki in a statement. “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.”
Academy Museum director Bill Kramer added, “We could not be more excited to launch our new institution with the most comprehensive presentation of Hayao Miyazaki’s work to date. Honoring the masterful career of this international artist is a fitting way to open our doors, signifying the global scope of the Academy Museum.”
Accompanying the opening of the Academy Museum’s Miyazaki exhibit will be the publication of a 256-page catalogue that takes the reader on an “illustrated journey through the filmmaker’s extraordinary cinematic worlds.” The book includes production materials from Miyazaki’s early TV work and all 11 of his feature films.
Per an official release from the Academy Museum, the Miyazaki exhibit is organized into seven sections and is designed as an immersive journey through the director’s career. The following description provided by the Academy Museum offers readers a first look at how the exhibit unfolds:
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.
Check out a selection of first-look storyboards that will be featured in the Miyazaki exhibit below.