No.180 (1/28/11)

Report from Studio Ghibli's Layout Exhibition

By Chiho Tsukiashi
Staff Writer

Studio Ghibli Layout Exhibition at Aomori Museum of Art Since its opening in 2006, I have been a big fan of Aomori Museum of Art. They often hold interesting special exhibitions and seasonal exhibitions. I have been to almost all their exhibitions. One of the more popular ones was Studio Ghibli's Layout Exhibition opened from October 2010 through January 10, 2011. It gathered a whooping 120,000 patrons during the two months. Ghibli makes animation, mainly directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who is the leading animator of Japan.

Japanese in their 40's or under have grown up watching Miyazaki's TV series and/ or films. When they become parents, they share their favorites with their children and take them to movie theaters to see his new film. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Spirited Away (2001) are Miyazaki’s best known pieces to Americans. Spirited Away won Academy Award and Golden Bear Award in Berlin International Film Festival.

What exhibited at the museum were layouts. Layouts are blueprints of animation, depicting background, characters, where they should be situated in the screen, how they should move, camerawork, and everything else to be described in each cut. Grouped by titles, 1,300 layouts were displayed on the wall. All ages from elementary school children to elders were in lines moving slowly, gazing at each layout closely. Some were murmuring their amazement to company.

Miyazaki's layouts were meticulously drawn with pencils on A3 sized paper (two letter-sized paper). You can see his instructions jotted down on it as well. Some background layouts were long, multiple pieces of paper pasted together. Camera is supposed to move along on it, horizontally or vertically. When you compare his early work such as Heidi Mountain of the Alm (1974) and recent ones, it is obvious that his layouts have become more and more detailed and refined.

It was a special experience for me to closely look at Miyazaki's layouts from Warriors of the Wind (Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa), that moved me deeply when I saw it as a teenager. My excitement at that time came to me as a walk down the memory lane. Although my one-year-old girl is too little to appreciate his work, I had too much fun walking around the museum. I look forward to seeing Miyazaki's animation with her in a few years.

Here is a list of Miyazaki's animation that you might want to check out.
ルパン三世 カリオストロの城 The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
風の谷のナウシカ The Warriors of the Wind (1984)
天空の城ラピュタ Laputa: The Castle in the Sky (1986)
となりのトトロ My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
魔女の宅急便 Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
紅の豚 Crimson Pig (1992)
もののけ姫 Princess Mononoke (1997)
千と千尋の神隠し Spirited Away (2001)
ハウルの動く城 Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
崖の上のポニョ Ponyo (2008)
借り暮らしのアリエッティ The Borrowers (2010)

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