This lunch hour, I had the very special pleasure of attending the opening of “Studio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata/Miyazaki Animation” at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. Like many of my fellow Japan-loving foreigners, the animation film studio has been a source of inspiration years before I was able to move to Japan. For Studio Ghibli fans, this exhibition is a wonderland to explore, and I suggest putting aside an entire afternoon if you want to take it all in.
The exhibition includes 1,300 original Studio Ghibli layouts by world famous co-founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata – including all 130 films from Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind (1984) to the latest release. It’s the first time to show this number of Studio Ghibli layout designs together at one time, making it a rare opportunity.
After the opening ceremony, which featured a ribbon cutting with special guest Kaonashi (“No Face” from Spirited Away), the exhibition was opened to the press and invited audience.
The “Studio Ghibli Layout Designs” exhibition allows you to glimpse into the illustration and planning process behind the animated films through their layout designs – including Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, Porco Rosso, Laputa Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Totoro, Spirited Away to name a few. Layout designs are described as “blueprints” in the animation-making process. An introduction to the exhibition explains, “A layout is an individual piece of paper onto which all the relevant information of a scene is written – such as the relative positions of the backgrounds and characters, directions on action, indications on whether or not there will be camera movement, if so at what speed, and any other camerawork effects.”
The exhibition is spread across many rooms, some dedicated entirely to one film, some covered from ceiling to floor with incredibly detailed and familiar scenes in their layout designs. It strikes you that although it is just pencil to paper, the layouts reveal the unbridled imagination of the creator in a very real sense. Video interviews with Takahata and Miyazaki are free to watch, and headphones/audio guides are available in both Korean and Japanese, but English speakers are left to explore and immerse themselves in the exhibition alone.
As you leave the exhibition, there’s a photo corner, Totoro corner and some very tempting Studio Ghibli souvenirs on sale. The exhibition runs until January 26, so there’s no excuse to miss it. I know I’ll be making a return visit after it opens to the public tomorrow!
Studio Ghibli Layout Designs
• 10/12 ~ 1/26 (Sun.) 10:00 ~ 20:00 (last entry 19:30)
• Fukuoka Asian Art Museum 7th Floor
• General ¥1,200, Uni and high school student ¥900, ES and JHS ¥600
• 3-1 Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata-ku
Report by Ellery Herbert, Fukuoka Now