AT TOKYO'S STUDIO Ghibli Museum the giant robot gardener from Castle in the Sky guards a rooftop garden and is a favourite spot for photos.

Museum pays tribute to animation master

Visitors have a wonderful time at Tokyo's fascinating Ghibli Museum

Peter Neville-Hadley

Meridian Writers’ Group

TOKYO – Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki became a household name in North America only after writing and directing Spirited Away, which won the 2002 Oscar for best animated feature film. At a time when computers had been taking over Western animation, it introduced a new generation of fans to the traditional, handcrafted art.

Equally quaint were the worlds depicted in Miyazaki’s films: worlds of valves, steam and clockworks, of airships, trams and bi-planes, with a little magic and a lot of charm thrown in. Much of this nostalgia has been captured in three dimensions at the highly successful Ghibli Museum, in the Tokyo suburb of Mitaka, and which celebrates its 10th birthday in 2011.

The museum itself is a single building in bright cartoon colours intended to be the antithesis to the average movie studio theme park: cosy and intimate rather than grand or spectacular. There are no rides, but nor is this the dull and static collection of props and posters common to some TV or movie-derived touring exhibitions.

The museum’s motto is, “Let’s lose our way, together,” and a sequence of hands-on experiences specifically designed for children is tucked inside the dolls’ house of a building with its labyrinth of bridges, balconies and spiral staircases that recall the style of interiors seen in Miyazaki’s films without actually reproducing them. Even for children unfamiliar with Totoro or Ponyo this is a delight.

A giant Totoro (part-cat, part-bear guardian of forests) fills a ticket booth outside, but in fact the museum is so popular that tickets must be booked well in advance, and the real entrance is round one side.

Some of the displays present the various techniques historically used produce the illusion of movement in static objects, usually with peepholes to look through or a handle to crank to make pages flick past or feed celluloid through machines themselves nearly as Victorian in style as those in Miyazaki’s movies. The little girl May from Totoro skips, the Cat Bus flies through the sky, and the fire demon Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle wolfs down his coal.

There’s nothing in English, but that doesn’t matter here nor in a sequence of upstairs rooms that playfully recreate tiny studios where ideas are formed and developed into full-fledged animations. Shelves and desks lie piled with art reference books and original watercolour sketches for Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso and others.

Beyond, a room is filled with a near life-size version of the Cat Bus, at a perfect size for children to climb in and finally stroke the furry interior much as they have probably wanted to do since seeing it on film. A small cinema shows short animations unavailable anywhere else in any medium.

There’s much more, but perhaps the climax is the roof garden reached by a spiral staircase looking like a giant birdcage and protected by the five-metre-high guardian robot from Castle in the Sky, at whose feet almost every single visitor demands to be photographed.

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Cam Levins sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

The 29-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

Courtenay elects a new mayor: Bob Wells

Bob Wells defeats Larry Jangula

Leslie Baird re-elected in Cumberland

One change on council: Roger Kishi defeated

Shake-up in Area B of the Comox Valley Regional District

Arzeena Hamir defeats incumbent Rod Nichol

Steady stream of voters at Filberg

Voter turnout has been a steady stream Saturday at the Florence Filberg… Continue reading

Comox Valley gives back

A look at some of the organizations and individuals who help out in the community

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. Liberals’ hopes high as Nanaimo by-election approaches

Historically safe NDP seat vacated by long-time MLA Leonard Krog

Leaving B.C.’s electoral reform to a referendum is ‘ridiculous’: professor

B.C. voters getting ballots in the mail on proposal to change electoral system

Canada condemns killing of journalist in Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey

The Saudi government claimed Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a ‘fistfight’

One year to election: Trudeau Liberals gear up for tussles on climate, premiers

Analysts say that the Liberals have reason to be ‘fairly confident’

GUEST COLUMN: B.C.’s proportional representation vote is dishonest, misleading

Veteran of 2005 Citizens’ Assembly urges rejection of new voting systems

2018 municipal election: Few surprises on Vancouver Island

16 incumbent mayors will continue in their positions for four more years

Most Read