Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Akira at the Toonseum

Toonseum is a new museum of cartoon art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is currently hosting an exhibition of art from the animated film Akira.

Akira, set in twenty-first-century post-World War III Japan, was directed by comic artist Katsuhiro Otomo. Released in the USA in 1990, Akira was one of the last feature films created with traditional hand-painted cel and painted background technique.

On display are stunning perspective layout drawings and renderings of science fiction cityscapes, as well as effects animation cels and character designs. All of the art comes from the collection of Joe Peacock.

Toonseum is one of only two museums in the USA dedicated exclusively to art from the comic strip, graphic novel, comic book, and animated film. Earlier museums in Rye, New York; Boca Raton, Florida; and Northampton, Massachusetts are sadly no longer in operation.

Toonseum is very small—the size of a gallery or shopfront, but it’s fun to visit because it’s run by artists. They encourage you to sit down and draw on an actual worktable from one of Disney’s early animators.

They even granted me the geek dream of holding an original drawing from “Gertie the Dinosaur” by Winsor McCay.

And they talked me into doodling on the hall-of-fame group sketch.

Toonseum is located at 945 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. It’s open from 9 to 3 on most days, Wednesday through Sunday. The Akira exhibit will be on view through July 18.


Hours and admission

YouTube interview with Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo


Shane White said...

Wow...that's crazy.

When I first moved to Pittsburgh in '88 that was one of the first movies I saw at the theater on sixth street.
I was one of two people in the theater.

It blew my mind.

Odd how things come full circle.


Don Cox said...

The film is a stunner. I think the graphic novel version is better - six volumes in the English edition. The full story makes more sense than the shortened version in the film, and Otomo's drawings are superb.

There is also a volume called "Akira Club" which contains a good quantity of additional artwork, much of it in colour.

Another treasure for Otomo fans is the story board book for the film "Sream Boy". This contains around 4000 little drawings (reproduced at about 3x6 cm). Some real gems here.

Don Cox said...

"Steam Boy"

aqws said...

I love Akira, but that's eclipsed by Gertie. You held Gertie! WOW!

Jake said...

That's awesome! Akira was really huge with a lot of my friends and me around '89 just before I started at art school. We had a copy in Japanese that someone's dad brought back from Japan. Then my buddy and I picked up a bootleg English dub before it was really available.

I doubt I can make it out to Pittsburgh from Delaware before this show ends, but I would love to see that exhibit.

Otomo has always impressed me. I went to a little tiny theater called The Roxy in Philadelphia (the little tiny one around 21st and Sansom) to see Robot Carnival, some time in '90 or '91. It's a collection of shorts, and Otomo did the opening and closing sequences. Brilliant stuff, even shown on a screen the size of a mattress.

Thanks for kicking up the memories!


Unknown said...

I hope to visit that museum some day. The Museum of Cartoon and Comic art in NYC is small, but very interesting.

Pearce said...

If I walked into a gallery that had original Akira artwork hanging on the walls and James Gurney was there holding a Winsor McCay illustration I would just... well, I would be very happy.

JP said...

Awwwww man. Akira is one of my top five of all time...too bad the show will be over next month. I might have flown out to see it!

*To add to the list, the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco sometimes has some great shows.

Unknown said...

If any of you go bonkers for Akira, check out pencil tests from it:


Really showcases the fantastic draftsmanship that went into this film. Now I just gotta figure how to make my way over to Pittsburgh...

Also, Winsor McCay is mah hero! =D

Tami Traylor said...

Oh wow, I have great memories from Art School, when a bunch of us piled into a caravan of beat-up cars and pick-ups (art student specials!)and drove from Richmond, VA to the Biograph Theater in DC to see Akira dubbed in English for the first time! Needless to say, it blew our minds and it continues to do so even today. It ranks on the top of all anime films in my opinion. Second to none. Thanks for sharing.

Don Cox said...

You can get the Akira film on Blu-Ray now. It looks very good on a big TV.

Ryan Yee said...

Awww I would of loved to show you around pittsburgh. There are so many great places to paint. I'm glad you saw the Toonseum. Pittsburgh is a great city for the arts :)