You might think that with the number of museums, concert halls and exhibition spaces in Paris, there wouldn't be room for any more. But you'd be wrong. New, large-scale projects are still popping up all over, like the recently opened Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Philharmonie de Paris (neither of which I've visited yet). Also relatively new is Les Docks, la cité de la mode et du design.
Situated riverside at the quai d'Austerlitz in southeastern Paris, the complex features cafés, restaurants as well as the French Fashion Institute and the Musée Ludique, a small museum devoted to 'entertainment' (by which I think they mean pop culture entertainment such as movies, video games, animation and comic books). This month they are hosting an exhibit about the Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation house best know in the US for "Princess Mononoke" and "Ponyo".
In France, Studio Ghibli (and its best-known director, Hayao Miyazaki) are revered as much as, if not more than, Pixar/Disney. New Ghibli movies are major events and older ones are regularly broadcast on Arté, the European PBS-style channel. I'm always surprised how much my kids like their movies, given they are often slow and filled with specific Japanese cultural references and a layering of Shinto-ism. But the movies reach a level of poetry and artistry that they clearly respond to.
So one rainy Wednesday, I drove them down to the docks to check out Les Docks. The Ghibli exhibit concentrates on the art of the layout, ie the design and arrangement of each scene. Miyazaki got his start doing layout and his subtle, detailed drawings were very different from what came before. I would definitely say this is an exhibit for older kids, since while the drawings are beautiful, the explanations are quite technical and the visuals are less than splashy. I also would recommend NOT going on a Wednesday during the school vacations, as the small space was very crowded and the staff kind of grumpy. (Despite the museum's name, 'playful' is not something the French do real well). The most fun the kids had was in the museum bookstore, which was chock-full of Ghibli collectibles difficult to find elsewhere. (Alexander picked out a Totoro pencil case and Julia got a small stuffed Jiji cat from "Kiki the Witch").
You would think that a museum devoted to entertainment would be right up my alley, but I can't say I'm bubbling over with enthusiasm about the Musée Ludique. The next exhibit is on Aardman, the animation studio behind "Wallace and Gromit", which I would love to see. Hopefully, by then, the museum will have found a better way to capture the spirit of the art it displays.