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Here’s what you’ll find inside the Hayao Miyazaki retrospective coming to L.A.

The Academy Museum announced the details of its inaugural exhibition.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

We could all use something to look forward to right now, so thankfully the Catbus has arrived with a pretty good pick-me-up: the details of a whimsical exhibition dedicated to Japan’s most celebrated animation legend at a brand-new museum.

The Academy Museum is slated to open in Los Angeles on April 30, 2021 (UPDATE: The opening has been pushed back to September 30), and on Thursday the Miracle Mile institution detailed what we can expect in its previously announced inaugural exhibition, a Hayao Miyazaki retrospective.

“Hayao Miyazaki” will feature more than 300 storyboards, concept images and pieces of still and moving artwork from the director’s prolific career, including objects from My Neighbor TotoroSpirited AwayPrincess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. The exhibition, which has been put together by Academy Museum exhibitions curator Jessica Niebel and assistant curator J. Raúl Guzmán, was organized in collaboration with Miyazaki’s storied studio, Studio Ghibli—and it’ll be the first time many pieces are being shown outside of the studio, and the first North American museum retrospective dedicated to the director.

Like the classic Totoro, your whimsical journey starts in a tree tunnel—though this one branches off into themed galleries, not the den of a big furry cat-raccoon. In Creating Characters, you’ll find short clips of Miyazaki’s main protagonists paired with original character design drawings from My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, among others.

Imageboard, My Neighbor Totoro (1988).
Imageboard, My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Hayao Miyazaki, © 1988 Studio Ghibli
Layout, Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).
Layout, Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989). Hayao Miyazaki, © 1989 Studio Ghibli
Imageboard, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984).
Imageboard, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). Hayao Miyazaki, © 1984 Studio Ghibli - H

Next, you’ll get some glimpses of Miyazaki’s early work and his collaborations with the late Studio Ghibli cofounder Isao Takahata. Then it’s onto galleries devoted to the films’ fantastical worlds, with objects that exhibit Miyazaki’s fascination with the balance between nature and industry (an imageboard from Castle in the Sky), vertical structures (the bathhouse in Spirited Away) and life underwater (the opening scene from Ponyo). And in a particularly Miyazaki-inspired setting dubbed the Sky Room, you’ll be able to slow down and take in a moment of quiet contemplation. After that, it’s into a gallery dedicated to the physical and emotional metamorphoses that the films’ characters and settings undergo.

Imageboard, Castle in the Sky (1986).
Hayao Miyazaki, © 1986 Studio Ghibli
Background, Spirited Away (2001).
Background, Spirited Away (2001). © 2001 Studio Ghibli - NDDTM
Production Imageboard, Howl’s moving Castle (2004).
© 2004 Studio Ghibli - NDDMT
Production Imageboard, Ponyo (2008).
© 2008 Studio Ghibli - NDHDMT

Finally, the exhibition wraps up in the Magical Forest gallery and its centerpiece Mother Tree installation. In here, you’ll find storyboards and mixed media that pulls from Miyazaki’s dreamy, mystical forests, plus some encounters with forest spirits (the release specifically calls out the head-turning Kodama from Princess Mononoke).

Background, Princess Mononoke (1997).
© 1997 Studio Ghibli - ND
Hayao Miyazaki.
Hayao Miyazaki. Photograph: Courtesy Nicolas Guerin

If you want to take a little bit of the exhibition home with you, there’ll be a 256-page catalog available with its debut. And, of course, you can expect limited-edition merch and film screenings—in both Japanese and the English dubs—throughout the exhibition’s run.

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