Ghibli museum

In japan, travelling on February 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Even though I was still full of cold, and only able to travel by train JR and metro, I’ve made the trek out to the Ghibli museum. Ghibli, creators of Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Laputa, Castle in the Sky, and others. A studio devoted to the enchantment of children and adults who are still children at heart. A magical moviemaking company, that has won the hearts of legions of people around the globe. And as the rain starts to fall, I exit the train station at Mitaka, with the clock ticking before I’m supposed to be there (you have to book in advance, and get a time slot, mine is at 14:00 and it’s a fifteen min walk which I’m not looking forward to as the rain descends, as its almost two right now), but I make the petite technicolour bus, which whisks me and the others, via a couple of quick stops, to the museum.

There’s no photography allowed inside, so find below my notes, trying to describe what its like inside there.

A big glass cube, like ten foot by ten foot containing all the hand drawn animation sheets thick envelopes/folders numbering over 950.

Kids all around excited by stuff, small sections of scenes which you can animate by flicking the pages. They really want you to get hands on with the animation, if your not flicking, your turning, or pushing, or holding gently one of the books which contain storyboards and scene breakdowns, each one brilliantly drawn, even if it is a rough sketch.

Different rooms show different films, one is like a study, desk sheets of paper, full ashtray, cup of coffee, presumably the desk of the creator, books all around on English and Japanese about lots of different topics, different aspects of the process, watercoloured locations for kiki’s delivery service, the creation of the city and the world she inhabits, all beautifully realised.

Another room full of models and diagrams of the vehicles and crafts used in the films, it’s like they have to build them to make them real, full of sketches and character designs pen and ink, watercolours, everything is hand drawn, there seem to be no computer realizations of anything, first and foremost is the imagination of the artist, and their ability to make it flesh with their own hands.

On another floor they have their research for everything that appears in their films, from food – pictures of bento boxes and what they contain, to mushrooms that grow on certain trees, fish that characters are trying to catch, games school kids play.

The building has a spiral staircase that is enclosed and are just slightly bigger than kid sized, but the kids they scream and yelp as they curve tightly around the interior up to the higher floors.

There’s a room at the top with a big furry Cheshire cat which has windows and doors like a car and kids are running and climbing all over it, with the tears inevitably flowing, parents coming to their rescue and console them, even as the kid is pulling away trying to get back in, and then having to be told that they will have to queue up again, because it is someone else’s turn this time round.

There are things to prod and to turn, to push and to pull all to keep the kids, both the young uns and the young at heart, entertained.

It’s still pissing it down as I follow others out to the rooftop garden, just like grey old London, its umbrellas at the ready, which makes seeing the robot on the roof, from Laputa, Castle in the Sky a trying experience, but it is huge, like what twenty feet tall and with the rain spitting in my face I take a couple of shots, not really caring how they come out, just wanting to show people that I was there.

The final viewing room has a tall zoetrope (revolving container which shows objects animating, powered by the eyes persistance of vision) robot (from Laputa) arms aloft as birds spiral upwards from it. A kind of advent calendar house for their films, which you can open the doors of and see stills or models behind the glass, boxes with different layers of images which when you look through them and move your head reveal different parts of the scene, new characters and features.

The cinema which will screen a short made exclusively for the museum, has low seats designed for children by the way, my knees feel like they are pressed up against my cheeks (exaggeration for comic effect) and your ticket for the cinema is 3 frames of celluloid from ghibli, I will be keeping it as a souvenir.

Apologies for the first blurred photo, it was cold and rainy, and I just wanted to take the photo to give you a sense of how big the sculpture is.

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