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Miyazaki Exhibition to Open New Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

More than 300 works have been curated into seven gallery sections that explore each of the legendary, Oscar-winning director’s films; the museum is scheduled to open April 30, 2021. 

Miyazaki is coming to L.A.! The Academy  Museum of Motion Pictures has just released details of its inaugural temporary exhibition, Hayao Miyazaki, which will be 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.

Curated by Academy Museum Exhibitions curator Jessica Niebel and assistant curator J. Raul Guzman and organized in collaboration with Miyazaki’s renowned Studio Ghibli, the exhibition will include more than 300 objects, exploring each of director’s animated feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away (2001). Visitors will witness 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.

According to producer and Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, "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," Niebel added. "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."

The exhibition is thematically organized into seven sections designed as a journey. To enter, visitors will 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 lsao 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 Nausicaa 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 Nausicaa 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 Magical Forest gallery 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 Toshia Suzuki, essays by Pete Docter, Daniel Kothenschulte, and 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.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is currently under construction by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, California.

Source: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.