Road test: Studio Ghibli's animated film set designs captivate children

Drawn to the magic of Studio Ghibli

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 10:49am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 10:49am

The animated films of Studio Ghibli have legions of fans in Hong Kong, so it's no wonder that the exhibition of layout designs by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, the studio's founding directors, at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum has been so well received.

My three-year-old son and I traipsed to Sha Tin to check out the exhibition on a recent steamy Sunday and realised that several parents had a similar strategy for beating the heat.

Our error was to queue outside the room on the ground floor which, after a 15-minute wait, we realised was set up for taking photos in front of blow-ups of layouts from the films. Given the general population's love of photography, this was a popular activity.

The drawings themselves are works of art that would attract those interested in the technique of sketching

Parents with young children might consider giving this a miss, or saving it for after viewing the actual exhibition on the first floor. There are plenty of film scene blow-ups to pose with in the corridor upstairs.

The exhibition features 1,300 layout designs, which are a blueprint of the animation film used to illustrate the directors' vision of the scenes, including notes on the sketches by the filmmakers themselves.

The display covers the entire span of the studio's productions, from films such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind to The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which will be released in Hong Kong this summer.

Perusing these original hand-drawn sketches, some of which are the only surviving ones, and watching video clips of the directors will no doubt be a thrill for fans, who will gain an insight into the production process of the films. This also is well explained in a handout.

The drawings themselves are works of art that would attract those interested in the technique of sketching. Clips from the films enliven the rooms and the mirrored Hallway of Infinity from Spirited Away is an effective demonstration of set construction.

Since photography is prohibited within the exhibition, one has a better chance of focusing on the exhibits without having to dodge posers.

Despite the many young children at the exhibition, it will probably only come alive for those older than 10. For small children, the main attraction appeared to be the opportunity to draw a soot-sprite on a sticker and paste it on a wall.

The Heritage Museum, while off the beaten track, is in a pretty location. My son thoroughly enjoyed the five-minute walk from Che Kung Temple station, spotting birds and fish.

Verdict: A wonderful insight into the world of the greats of animation filmmaking, best suited to tweens and above.

Studio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata and Miyazaki Animation, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Sha Tin, until Aug 31, HK$20 for adults, HK$10 for children