The Academy Museum finally opens with the Hayao Miyazaki retrospective as the inaugural temporary exhibit

“From their inception, movies have captured our collective imagination by showing us the reality of our world or by transporting us to another dimension. Movies allow us to experience other points of view and, by doing so, connect us through our shared humanity.” Bill Kramer—Director and President of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures—shares his thoughts and excitement at the long awaited opening of the museum this past month. The idea of founding a film museum was first brought forward in Los Angeles in 1927, shortly after the founding of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Now—in 2021—the dream of a space dedicated to championing cinema as a transformative art form has come to fruition. 

With a magical forest of Ghibli goodness, Hayao Miyazaki graces the museum walls with his first-ever North American retrospective. Curated by the museum’s Exhibitions Curator Jessica Niebel and Assistant Curator J. Raúl Guzmán and organized in collaboration with Japan’s Studio Ghibli, which Miyazaki co-founded in 1985, Hayao Miyazaki features more than 300 objects, including original image boards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cells from Studio Ghibli’s archives—including pieces on public view outside of Japan for the first time.

“Magical Forest”

Visitors enter Miyazaki's enchanted world through an tunnel made of green fabric. It's meant to evoke a magical "tree tunnel" inhabited by mystical wood spirits, a portal featured in his animated film My Neighbor Totoro (1988). The tunnel leads to the first gallery room, where scenes from his 11 animated features are projected on the walls.

The "Mother Tree"
A giant tree stands between two of the Miyazaki galleries, with a fabricated wooden trunk that takes four people to hug. Strings and fiberglass strands hang from the ceiling, lit from above in neon green, giving it a magic glow from within where the character Totoro is supposed to be hiding. Painted on the museum walls are depictions of Miyazaki's kodama tree spirits from the film Princess Mononoke. They appear and disappear with light, making them appear as if they are floating.

Trees play an important role in many of Miyazaki's movies: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, among others. Niebel says the the exhibition's designers wanted to include a tree in the exhibition to introduce the idea of the magical forest, "where we can come for purification, to find balance in our lives again and to get energized.”

In the middle of another room of the Miyazaki exhibition, there is a sloped platform, covered with green carpeting that resembles a grassy knoll. Visitors are invited to lie down and look up at a round screen projecting a video of clouds drifting past.

Skyview, as the installation is called, was inspired by a scene in Kiki's Delivery Service, during which the protagonist Kiki is laying on the grass, looking up at the sky, watching the clouds. "It's just a peaceful moment where she is immersed in nature, but she makes a very important decision: to leave her parents that night after her 13th birthday and become a witch in training.," says curator Niebel. "These moments where everything slows down and nothing much happens, are very typical of Hayao Miyazaki's films.”

Niebel says the installation offers visitors their own moment of quiet and solitude, to contemplate nature.

You can get your tickets to the Academy Museum here