Rochelle Stops By The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

First opening up in the Fall of 2021, the Academy Museum is a work of art in itself. It’s the first large-scale museum of its kind in the U.S. Just a minute’s walk from LACMA and across from the Petersen Automotive Museum, you will see this 5-story edifice that houses the history, science, and cultural impact of the film industry. Its mission is to both celebrate the power and influence of cinema, as well as be truthful and accountable in its history, to correct damaging stereotypes through a more empathetic and equitable lens moving forward.

Let me preface this to say that this museum far exceeded my expectations. Being a former animation student myself, and currently working in the animation industry, our little niche community often feels left out or not as important as our live-action counterparts. So coming here and seeing just how many animated projects they feature here was astounding. I was indeed nerding out over it all!

Before we get into the museum though, we have a promise to keep. When dealing with in-person events, we have to remind people that COVID-19 has not gone away. So you should probably check out article “If You Should Go Out” Here. This is a public museum with a lot of attendees. Masks are required indoors, even though California is backing down on keeping people safe this convention doesn’t want to be responsible for a superspreader event. In addition, attendees will have to prove they are vaccinated to enter.

The main exhibits include Stories of Cinema, The Oscars Experience, Backdrop, and The Path to Cinema. Stories of Cinema is a multi-level exhibition that celebrates the diverse complexity of international stories and movie makers. Here you’ll see tributes to Citizen Kane, Bruce Lee, Spike Lee, and the Wizard of Oz to name a few on the 2nd floor. The 3rd floor left me in awe by many depictions of my childhood animated favorites. From Disney classics like Bambi and Frozen to Looney Tunes, Pixar movies, and Laika, nostalgia and that feeling of fascination flooded over me. I’ve always been a sucker for beautiful paintings and magical storytelling. Old cells and storyboards, modeled busts, and concept art. Even an old wooden animation desk complete with a pegboard brought me back to my days in animation school. Bring it into the modern-day and see a turnaround of one of the characters from Inside Out. I couldn’t get enough.

Photograph provided courtesy of The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | The Path to Cinema: Highlights from the Richard Balzer Collection, ©Academy Museum Foundation/Image by WHY Architecture

But then advance to the next room and you’re in a science-fiction world! This is a sci-fi lover’s dream! See costumes/set pieces from your favorites like Star Wars, Batman, The Dark Crystal. The amount of imagination you see around you is incredible here. You definitely don’t want to miss this room!

The Oscars Experience is meant to simulate excitement around this award ceremony. From showcasing the actual concrete statue award and replaying acceptance speeches, to displaying stunning costume pieces to gawk at, this exhibition will make you feel like part of the red carpet. A separate ticket is required for this experience.

Backdrop: An Invisible Art is an exhibition that spotlights an often forgotten-about art. While displaying the iconic Mt. Rushmore from Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, you can see how this production design art form has evolved over time.

The Path to Cinema was another remarkable exhibit, once again exploring the roots of cinema (and animation for that matter!) It definitely brought me back to my History of Animation classes! From shadow theatre, magic lanterns, and Zoetropes to film projectors, these spectacular inventions were the pioneers for cinema today. I’ve never before seen a Magic Lantern show but they have one here you can watch! This room will surely show you an appreciation for the marvelous science of light.

Photograph provided courtesy of The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Bull’s Eye Magic Lantern, Steel, paint, and glass, c. 18th century, Great Britain, from the Richard Balzer Collection, gift of Patricia Bellinger Balzer, Photo by Joshua White/JW Pictures, ©Academy Museum Foundation

On the 5th floor is a Tea Room. Don’t be fooled by the name; they will not serve you tea here, which I had been hoping for. The Tea Room is a private space you can rent out, which makes sense when you walk over the bridge to the Dolby Family Terrace, an outdoor space that gives you a broad view of Hollywood and the many construction sites around. Yes, they are really revitalizing this area! I didn’t inquire about this space, but I can definitely see special events, like weddings and intimate concerts happening here.

You won’t want to miss the Pixar Toy Story 3D Zoetrope, next to the Miyazaki exhibition on the 4th! It is a giant zoetrope inspired by a similar one they have in Japan of Miyazaki’s Totoro. It demonstrates how the zoetrope – and essentially animation – works! This was such a fun and mesmerizing experience.

Photograph provided courtesy of The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Photo by Nicolas Guerin

What drew me to this Museum in the first place was the Hayao Myazaki exhibition, which celebrates Miyazaki’s work as an acclaimed artist and filmmaker, in collaboration with Studio Ghibli. You are invited to explore numerous conceptual designs, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, poster, cels, clips, and miniature models. There are also the little lambs from Heidi, and several sets you can interact with, like laying on a green hilly landscape and looking up at the animated clouds in the sky as they do in so many of his movies. You can also see the little forest sprites from Princess Mononoke, the Kodama, glowing near the green illuminated tree, and the Dosojin, the smiling stone giant from Spirited Away. The beauty and attention to details of every piece is truly remarkable. It’s no wonder why he and his studio is one of the leading inspirations of anime. His ability to capture that childlike wonder and express it in his characters is a marvel.

Photograph provided courtesy of The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Layout, Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), © 1989 Eiko Kadono – Studio Ghibli – N

While the exhibition is truly impressive and magical, it felt like a dream, much like his tales. I wish I could have taken photos and videos to capture the moment and commemorate Miyazaki and all of his iconic work, but it was at his request to not allow photography or video of any kind inside his exhibit. That said, you just have to go see it for yourself, take in the dream, and walk out of the exhibit back to reality. The exhibit runs now through June 5th, 2022, and admission for this covers the other exhibits at the museum.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
6067 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

I recommend parking in the LACMA or Petersen Automotive Museum lots, valet, or metered street parking.

The Museum store itself is also quite impressive and there is plenty of Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli merch to purchase, as well as other museum-relevant memorabilia.

For more information and to reserve your tickets head Here!

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