Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

PIXAR Exhibition Museum of Contemporary Art

Photo: Terry Chay on Flickr

PIXAR Exhibition Museum of Contemporary Art

Patrick Jack

The world-famous PIXAR Exhibition is in town and there's a little over one week left to go see it. Originating at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2005 (to celebrate the 20th anniversary), this exhibit has toured the world since to rapturous reviews. Here in Tokyo it will mark PIXAR's 30th year and therefore features some never-before-seen pieces. Currently being held at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOT) in Koto-ku, the legendary exhibit is in its final days here in Tokyo so go now before it's too late.


Photo: yossie_asym on Flickr

Founded in California in 1986 by John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs (yes, that Steve Jobs), PIXAR Animations Studios was originally a branch of 'Lucasfilm' owned by George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas). However, despite the input of these (now) big-name founding members, few could have imagined just how much success the fledgling company would achieve. Sixteen films, fifteen Academy Awards and almost $10 billion in the box office later, PIXAR is the most successful animation studio in the world. A commercial juggernaut and a critical darling, the films produced by this company are among the most cherished works of art in the world, by children and adults alike.


Beginning with the now-iconic shorts 'Luxo Jr.' and 'The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.', encompassing global phenomenons such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc., and culminating most recently with 'The Good Dinosaur', PIXAR productions have a tangible quality of their own, unlike any other. Since their inception 30 years ago, they have been mimicked countless times by rival studios but none can match their consistently awe-inspiring output. These 30 years make for a unique history and at the PIXAR Exhibition you get a fascinating peek behind the curtain.


Since opening in 1995, the MOT has hosted some incredibly celebrated exhibitions but never before has it been host to one of such mass appeal. Located inside Kiba Park, the museum is best accessed from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station, on either the Hanzomon or Toei Oedo line. The PIXAR Exhibit will remain until Sunday May 29th and while it is usually closed on Mondays, it will be open on the 23rd. At ¥1,500, entrance may be a little steeper than many other museums in the city but this is a small price to pay for an inside peek at the studio that has created such iconic images. Furthermore, you can also enter the MOT's ongoing collection; with current installations by contemporary artists like Andy Warhol, it is an excellent addition to the tour.


While no photos are allowed during the tour, there is a suitably expansive (and expensive) gift shop at the end that will satisfy your need to bring home a lasting memory. The history of the company itself is dealt with at the beginning of the tour before it moves onto several different themes; mainly concerning the artistic process that the studio undergoes with each film. Incorporating the different elements of 'Story', 'Characters' and 'World' into the crafting of the Toy Story movies allows a look at the birth of one of film's most successful trilogies. The highlight of the Toy Story segment is the 'Zoetrope'; an indescribable piece of early cinematic apparatus that is used to animate these beloved characters in a way you never thought possible.

The 'Pipeline' section is an in-depth examination at how an original idea is slowly transitioned, through years of dedication and hard-work, into a final product that is cherished by millions. Each step is meticulously detailed and you can spend hours noticing the different concept designs for some of your favourite characters. Another highlight is the large screen installation known as 'Artscape'; a 15 minute loop film on an IMAX-like screen that weaves its way through all the various worlds that comprise the PIXAR universe; merging drawings, concept art and animated sections into one unforgettable sequence.


Make sure and budget enough time in your tour for the short films towards the end. With two separate screening rooms on a constant loop one showing original shorts from the company's conception, one showing contemporary works it's the perfect end to a magical day. Due to the lack of translation on the short films, you may be surprised to see so many people of different nationalities watching these films. This in essence, proves why the company has been so popular; the images they create are so perfectly relatable and lasting that they need almost no-words to translate.