Disney characters and films are incredibly popular in Japan, with Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea being some of the most visited locations for both Japanese and tourists alike. However, if you want a more in-depth, behind the scenes peek at Disney animation, look no further than the Disney art exhibit in Tokyo.
The exhibit includes 500 pieces of original Disney art including concept art, storyboards, and sketches. The museum chronicles Disney’s entire history, and it offers a wonderful backstage look at the work that goes into creating an animated film. It is a great reminder of how innovative and creative these films are, and you will come out of it an even bigger Disney fan than when you entered.
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As soon as you enter, it becomes clear you are in for something magical. The first room contains a series of screens that show a static sketch of a Disney character that then comes to life; it’s a unique look at the animating process and allows you to really appreciate the talent of the artists. You then progress through a series of rooms, each themed and decorated according to the films it highlights; the first room has a Mickey-shaped entrance and The Little Mermaid exhibit is bathed in green and blue lights to give you a sense of being underwater. The Alice in Wonderland room features a Cheshire cat that disappears and reappears. The exhibit is laid out in chronological order, starting from Steamboat Willie and other early shorts and ending with Moana.
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Detailed English and Japanese information is included and well worth the read; they offer fascinating explanations on the technology that Disney helped pioneer. One particularly interesting room included sections on early Disney films like Bambi, Dumbo, Fantasia, and Pinocchio. Here you can learn about things like the groundbreaking Fantasound technology of Fantasia and the multiplane camera of Pinocchio that allowed the movie to look more three-dimensional. While these may not be Disney’s most popular films, it is a wonderful reminder of their importance in the history of animation, and I came out with a new appreciation for these early films. While we may take animated movies for granted now, we have to thank the hard work of Disney for allowing animated films to be considered a serious type of art and film genre.
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Of course, you can also find plenty of art from the more recent Disney films, including Zootopia, Wreck it Ralph, and Big Hero 6 as well as the 90s classics. While the exhibit doesn’t feature pieces from every Disney film, a surprising number is covered, and you are likely to find many, if not all your favorites. I was especially delighted to find a section on Mulan, a movie that is beloved in the US but relatively unknown in Japan.
The latter half of the exhibit also chronicles the creation and rise of computer animation and details how this made scenes like the stampede in The Lion King possible. It is interesting to read about the technological side of animation, and many sections also include videos as well to allow you to see the final product alongside the earlier art. One of my favorite features of the exhibit was the concept art, and it’s fascinating to see how characters were originally imagined, especially as some look completely different from their final counterparts. There is also some truly stunning concept art focusing on locations and settings, with the art from Bambi being especially noteworthy.
The exhibit is in Tokyo until September 24th 2017, after which it moves to Osaka (October 14th to January 21st), Niigata (February 17th to May 13th), and finally Sendai (June 16th to September 30th). It is held at the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, a 4-minute walk from Telecom Center Station on the Yurikamome Line or 15 minutes from Tokyo Teleport Station on the Rinkai Line.
Tickets cost 1800 yen at the door or 1,600 yen in advance, and that includes access to the rest of Miraikan’s permanent exhibits. It is open from 10:00am until 5:00pm with extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Do come early as you can easily spend an hour or two at the exhibit; it is surprisingly extensive so you want to ensure you have enough time to fully appreciate the amazing artwork. I left the museum with even more respect for the talented animators and artists at Disney, and the exhibit is sure to inspire and delight any Disney fan.