If the films “My Neighbour Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” or “Howl’s Moving Castle” mean nothing to you, you probably won’t be interested in our day at the Ghibli Museum, Tokyo. Studio Ghibli, and its brainchild Hayao Miyazki, has produced some of the highest grossing films in Japan, all animated, and their 2001 film “Spirited Away” was the first anime movie to win an Academy Award. Ghibli films are for children and adults alike, and unlike American cinema which is laid out neatly for the audience, and usually tied up with a pretty bow of an ending, these films require flexible thinking, give you space to ease into a story and watch for beautiful, quiet moments. There are often strong independent girls at the fore, mythical creatures, wild scenarios, and stunning backdrops. And the artwork is breath taking.
The Ghibli museum pays homage not to only to these films and their creators, but also to the art of animation. It is set in a large Gaudi-esque building, with hints to the studio’s love of all things European. Little architectural highlights like French taps, a German-inspired clock tower and Italian botanical prints scattered throughout. But everything is given a Ghibli twist. There’s a little window with Totoro’s soot sprites peaking through, and stained glass windows feature character from their films.
No photos were allowed inside, but the girls’ favourite room was the enormous fluffy climbable cat-bus, with stuffed soot sprites. In place of a dreary museum, there were work rooms set up with walls covered in some of the studio’s influences…old mechanical diagrams of aeroplanes; sketches of faces, animals and flowers; and old European family photographs.
The animation room was so emotional, with a nostalgic soundtrack playing, lights dimmed, and various pre-film animation gadgets like the zootrope on show. They really want to teach you about their art and the art of animation. A private theatre, shows an exclusive museum-only Ghibli short and we got to see one about sumo-wrestling rats!
All in all, a beautiful dedication to the magic and wonder of animation.