September 21, 2007
Last year, the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art (also just known as Museum of Tokyo or MOT) held a notable exhibition, The Art of Disney. A beautiful catalogue was also published for the exhibit featuring works that were once thought lost. This summer, the DVD catalogue of the exhibit was released in Japan as well.

I decided I was going to see whatever exhibit was showing at the museum when I was in Tokyo, as I like to do in any new city I visit. It ended up the major exhibit was also animation-related this year: a retrospective of work by Art Director Kazuo Oga.

Kazuo Oga worked on a diverse animation projects such as Barefoot Gen, Dagger of Kamui and Wicked City before creating the background art for My Neighbor Totoro at Studio Ghibli. He went on to work on all of the subsequent features for the studio, and last year, directed his own film for the studio, Taneyamagahara no Yoru.

The lush scenery he creates with his brush is truly breathtaking, and the museum selection was as dense as an of the green forest background he is known for. The sheer number of pieces was more than I have seen for comparatively-sized art exhibitions of any type, and I have never seen its like for animation artwork, mostly from the Studio Ghibli archives. He captures the spirit of the countryside, but also of everyday Japan with a balance of love and accuracy.

Almost all of the art is unphotographable. Near the end of the exhibit, after a room of multiplane setups, there are a number of backgrounds that are blown up so that people can pose in front of them, but most people just step back in wonder to take a whole new look at the art. (I couldn't help posing with Totoro, though.)

Afterward, everyone was invited to fold an origami Totoro in an open room, with mini-backgrounds. Here's mine.

Like the Art of Disney catalogue, a catalogue has been published for this exhibit as well. A DVD is forthcoming for the end of the year. The exhibit has been extended until September 30. If you find yourself in Tokyo, you won't want to miss it.

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