On September 30, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open in L.A. after a Covid-induced delay, and so will its first temporary exhibition. “Hayao Miyazaki” will explore the works of the anime filmmaker and Studio Ghibli co-founder. It is billed as the first North American museum retrospective to do so.
Ahead of the exhibition’s launch, its curators have run through details of the event in an appearance on the Ghibliotheque podcast (listen here). The museum’s exhibitions curator Jessica Niebel and assistant curator J. Raúl Guzmán outline their vision for the retrospective, describing some of the 300-plus objects it will feature.
“Hayao Miyazaki” will unfold across seven sections, which range from the immersive to the informative. The former camp includes a passage inspired by the tree tunnel featured in My Neighbor Totoro and an installation featuring Ghibliesque clouds drifting across the ceiling. The clouds were designed by a Ghibli background artist who specializes in clouds, then animated in L.A.
On the more educational side, the exhibition will feature galleries focused on Ghibli’s production process and Miyazaki’s pre-Ghibli career. There will be image boards, character designs, layouts, backgrounds, and cels, as well as the kinds of exhibit usually confined to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, such as an animation desk from the studio.
The curators also tell the podcast of their experience working with Studio Ghibli, which is closely involved with the exhibition. They admit the studio was “skeptical” at first, having never greenlit an exhibition curated by a third party (let alone a museum that doesn’t exist yet), and asked many “hard, hard questions” about the vision for the exhibition.
In the end, Niebel and Guzmán won Ghibli round by vowing to present Miyazaki not just as an artist but also as a “great thinker” and a “craftsman.” The exhibition will stress the mix of complexity and simplicity in his films, they say. To convey something of his philosophical side, they will display poems Miyazaki wrote to help give directions to his crew on Princess Mononoke.
Located at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in L.A., the Academy Museum will be housed in the historic May Company Building, originally completed in 1939.
Launched in 2018, Ghibliotheque probes the works of Ghibli from all kinds of angles, featuring interviews with a range of current and former studio personnel, as well as industry artists, admirers, and critics (full disclosure: I have appeared on the podcast).