Who did not fell in love with the movie “Up” or “Finding Nemo”? These movies produced by giant cinema houses like Pixar are visually energizing and can definitely bring humane emotion from that rotten heart of yours. Sometimes, we adult are far more excited to go to the cinema than the kids and most of the time, we prefer to watch these kind of movies than the latest Ashton Kutcher rom-com. Over the course of years where technology has invaded the cinema with CGI, I feel like there has been a considerable decline of “authentic” cartoon movies- a) which rely on good stories and not Hollywood star voice over b) which rely on natural cartoon drawings than those that are requiring us to wear dizzying 3D eyeglasses.
I like my cartoon characters to have red circles on their cheeks as if they are blushing all the time. I don’t care about the color of their eyes, sometimes I even prefer if they are just a line who goes up and down to differentiate between happy and sad emotion. Does this kind of animation still exist? I wonder. I’m afraid that my cousins will not be able to appreciate cartoon the same way as I do.
My quest brings me to Ghibli Musuem at Mitaka, Tokyo. To be honest, I really don’t know what to expect. Just the mere fact that in order to get a chance to enter the museum is you have to book minimum 1 month in advance and only Lawson can sell the ticket (1,000 yen only) are good enough reasons to trigger my curiosity. All I know by far is the name of the man behind the museum – Hayao Miyazaki. Who is he? According to Wkipedia, he is often compared to the likes of Walt Disney, has been named as one of the most influential people by Time magazine and together with Isao Takahata, he co-founded Studio Ghibli which has been the most prominent animation studio in Japan. So far, the only cartoon series that I know which he created is that son of a gone “Lupin III”. I haven’t seen his most celebrated work “Spirited Away”, which toppled Titanic in box office record in Japan.
What makes his brand of animation different? He believes that “hand drawing on paper is the fundamental of animation”. His works are created mainly by using water colors, producing a “poetic/romantic” cartoon that no CGI can replicate. He believes in using computer only to enhance the quality or in order to meet the deadline but still most of the works are done by hand and not the other way around. He never felt comfortable with CGI that he decided to dissolve the computer animation department of Studio Ghibli and stick to the traditional way.
So what is Ghibli Musuem? For starter, don’t compare it to Disneyland. You will not see any parades, fireworks and there will be no mascot to greet you. It is a museum that celebrates the process of hand drawn animation and the hard work that comes with it. With replica of Miyazaki’s work desk, sketch pads, raw drawings and variety of water colors, it showcase an individual or a team pure talent and desire to create something bona fide, something that is a product of both imagination and heart, something that is created not to be a certified box office but produce with the intention of bringing joy to anyone.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all serious stuff. There are still plenty of things for kids to enjoy like playing inside the Cat Bus, small stairways to squeeze into and a 9-minute movie viewing of some of the animation works from Studio Ghibli (I was clapping so hard at the end of the movie “Treasure Hunting”). There is the usual display of the characters from different series like that life-size statue robot in the rooftop (from Lupin III) on which you have to fall in line for a photo opportunity. The museum interior and façade are colorful even the trash can, toilet and lockers. Stop looking for an arrow to point you to the direction, there is no order of viewing. The museum is created for anyone to explore as she or he pleases, as the museum motto goes- “Let’s lose our way together”. By the way, picture-taking inside the museum is not allowed and there is a jam packed Straw Hat Cafe for a coffee break.
Ghibli Museum is located at the southwest end of Inokashira Park.
You don’t bring your kid to Ghibli museum to be fascinated with a character, you bring them there because you want them to appreciate the magic of cartoons and maybe along the way develop that talent from color books to drawings to something in life.
(This post is a shout-out to my high school friend Antonio Totto Jr. who has a gifted hands for illustrations/drawings. I admire him and envy him at the same time back then. He was creating award winning masterpieces during those days when all I can draw is “Taong Stik”.)