Studio Ghibli Layout Design Exhibition

Currently showing at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, this exhibition from Studio Ghibli is touring Asia, previously at Seoul Arts Center in Korea. If you don’t have enough air miles to get you there though, you can check out some of the work right here. It’s unlikely given your worldly experience and cultural knowledge, that you’re unfamiliar with the studio. In animation there are three big players on a global scale: Walt Disney, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli. While us westerners watch film from either of the first two, while we might be transported to more enchanted or magical world, we are still comfortably in our own culture, whether it be through the retelling of stories we’ve grown up with, or familiar voices, or familiar plot devices; with an animated Disney film we know what to expect. Studio Ghibli is anime, Japanese, rooted in a very different culture, and that is half of the magic, akin to the difference between visiting a city in America that you’ve never been to, or visiting a city in Asia you’ve never been to. It’s unfamiliar, and exciting, full of unusual characters and stories.

The exhibition explores the power and fascination of the Ghibli’s anime movies including works but studio founders and directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata through some 1,300 layouts for films. Layouts are like the blueprints for the animation film containing information to make a cut like camera work, camera speed and the position relation of characters and backgrounds. The system used at Studio Ghibli was developed by Takahata and Miyazaki during their work on Alps no Shōjo Heidi (1974). “Layout is the key-point of producing animation,” explains Takahata. “It’s unique and secret.”

This exhibition is a glimpse at that secret.