Toei Animation is a long-established anime studio which has been consistently producing many anime for TV, cinemas, and advertisements.
The studio began life as Nihon Doga Eiga in 1948 and was purchased by Toei in 1956, becoming Toei Doga and relocating to Toei’s Tokyo film studio in Nerima Ward a year later. The studio then made its debut in 1958 with the release of the animated feature film Panda and the White Serpent. The studio’s first TV anime, Wolf Boy Ken, was released later in 1963. The studio has been tirelessly producing new anime works every year since The company officially took on its current name, Toei Animation, in 1998.
The studio has also been home to many famous animators who played an active role during the early days of anime (Taiji Yabushita, Yasuji Mori and Sadao Tsukioka) and animators who moved anime onto the global stage (Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Yasuo Otsuka, Rintaro, Gisaburo Sugii and Mamoru Hosoda). The studio has been pro-actively studying and introducing new technologies such as the use of CG in anime. It has also developed an overseas anime production system utilizing high-speed networks. Extensive renovations were recently carried out at the studio and it now has an adjoining museum. MANGA.TOKYO paid a visit to the museum and was kindly allow to visit the studio for this photo report.
Toei Animation is near Oizumi-gakuen station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line. At the station terrace, you can find Oizumi Anime Gate, which features various statues from famous anime. The gate was created to proclaim Oizumi as the birthplace of anime as there are many anime studios in the area.
You can also read more about the Nerima area and its relation to the history of Japanese anime here:
Let’s Visit Nerima Ward, the Birthplace of Anime
Toei Animation is a 15-minute walk from Oizumi-gakuen station. After walking through a residential neighborhood, a four-story building will come into sight. This is the headquarters of Toei Animation and the museum is located at the front on the ground level. The rest of the building is the anime studio.
Admission to the museum is free. There is a gift shop beside the entrance which sells merchandise from various Toei Anime shows. After walking through the entrance, visitors are greeted by the statue of Pero, Toei’s official representative. Pero is also the protagonist of Toei’s anime adaptation of Charles Perrault’s Puss in Boots. The movie was released with the title The Wonderful World of Puss ‘n Boots in 1969 and is regarded as one of the greatest works of the Toei Doga era. Hayao Miyazaki was part of the anime’s staff and drew manga to promote it. Pero occupies a special place at Toei; he is both the mascot and the symbol at the heart of the company. Pero stands on top of a fountain which plays a little show with music once an hour.
Before entering the museum, it’s worth spending some time in the courtyard. There is a blackboard and colored chalks for visitors to draw colorful pictures of their own. There are also several statues dotted around, so you can try looking for them all.
I followed these mysterious footsteps and encountered Agumon from Digimon Adventure!
I also found Nurikabe from GeGeGe no Kitaro.
Near the entrance to the museum, I noticed a Japanese screen with a picture of a tiger in a bamboo forest. After entering the museum, I saw the back of the screen. The tiger from the picture has disappeared and instead a stuffed tiger with a rope draped around it was sitting on the top of the frame. Some anime fans will surely realize that this is a reference to a famous episode from the anime Ikkyu-san. Visitors could hold the rope and pose for the camera. According to the museum, it’s a popular photography spot even for visitors from overseas.
On the day of my visit, the space had been transformed into the Pretty Cure Playground. PreCure fans could take photos with the life-size cut-outs of PreCure All Stars and play a large puzzle here. There was an interactive screen with AR technology where fans could see themselves wearing PreCure accessories. I’m afraid it was a bit difficult to show on camera, so I wasn’t able to get any photos of the AR installation.
Model sheets and original illustrations of more recent series were displayed in the exhibition area. There were several flip-books on the wall to explain how animated scenes are created. Visitors could easily understand the technique by flipping the pages and watching the same scenes on monitors above the books.
The most popular installation in the museum was a giant touch screen display. Visitors could see thumbnails of every anime Toei Animation has created so far floating around. By touching the titles or years, information about related anime works came up on the screen. I touched One Piece and Dragon Ball and thumbnails from the TV anime and movies appeared in front of me. By touching them, even more detailed information was revealed. Some of the thumbnails played theme songs or animations when touched.
There were exhibits for One Piece and Butt Detective. The contents of the exhibitions change regularly, so visitors can enjoy something new each visit.
MANGA.TOKYO got to speak with the museum’s curator, Kaoru Tsuchida. ‘The museum opened on 28 July 2018 and we are still in a trial-and-error phase. About 10 to 20% of our visitors come from overseas. The display of the Ikkyu-san screen is popular even with our overseas visitors. They seem to know the story behind it. We are going to continue to improve our exhibitions, especially the touch screen display.’
After spending some time in the museum, I visited the new studio in the headquarters. The security is quite tight as they aren’t open to the public. The elevator halls on each floor are decorated with a Pero symbol.
I started my tour by visiting the workplace for animators. They use a special desk with a built-in lightbox. In-between animators place a blank sheet over a previous frame on the lightbox and draw the next frame. The desks in the new studio have all been upgraded with adjustable LED lights which are easy on eyes. An animators’ job is predominantly solo work, so each desk is well divided with partitions as if it were a separate room. Surely they are able to concentrate on their work in the new studio.
The sunny office on the third floor is where filming and editing takes place. The office on the second floor shown in the second picture below is occupied by the digital imaging division, so it’s kept rather dark to prevent the lighting from interfering with monitors. There are tables on each floor for meetings and taking short breaks.
The new headquarters also has a screening room with state-of-art equipment and a conference room with an elaborate design as well as a multi-purpose area for relaxation.
The new studio has been in full operation since January 2018. Some anime they are currently producing include One Piece, GeGeGe no Kitaro, Star Twinkle PreCure, and Butt Detective. There are also theatrical anime movies in production and other anime series which haven’t yet been revealed to the public.
I hope you enjoyed this mini tour at the Toei studios!