Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs Exhibition | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Exhibition

Comment Editor Kat Smith enjoyed the immersive Wes Anderson exhibition that allowed her to delve into the world of his recent animated film Isle of Dogs

After watching the renowned director’s latest stop-frame animation film, I was lucky enough to stumble across an advert for Wes Anderson’s exhibition, displaying sets and puppets from the brilliant Isle of Dogs. The Guardian claimed 40,000 fans visited the exhibition at the time of this article being written, with so many fans wanting to discover the unique creative process behind Anderson's latest film. I think I speak for most visitors when I say the exhibition was engaging, beautiful and quite simply breath-taking.

We were pretty lucky that, on a Wednesday morning, the queue was minimal. Considering the magnitude of Anderson’s popularity and the fact that the exhibition was completely free to access, it probably would have been swarmed at the weekends. Even while you’re waiting there’s plenty to look at, with Japanese inspired art of dogs on the wall and a synopsis to remind, or inform, of the film’s plot.

The exhibition was engaging, beautiful and quite simply breath-taking

Walking in, a perfect recreation of the noodle bar frequented by Bill Murray’s character, Boss, welcomed us to the mini Wes Anderson world. Unfortunately I didn’t fancy ramen at 10:30am but I can confirm they smelled pretty amazing. The amount of detail, even in the noodle bar and the surrounding ‘street’, demonstrated the efforts that had gone into creating this immersive experience. I almost felt bad because I didn’t have to pay to get in, when it must’ve cost so much to create.

Music from the movie, composed by Oscar-winning Alexander Desplat, played as guests walked around. I loved this element, as it felt like being back in the cinema watching Isle of Dogs, but better. The exhibition had clearly been well-thought out by Anderson, with it being immersive yet also allowing visitors to move round at their own pace and experience the exhibition in whatever order they wished. I never felt rushed to look at a piece, except for maybe the Sake Bar which had its own queue due to the popularity of it.

The minute detail was a theme carried on throughout the exhibition, with the puppets and sets alike

The first set as one walked in was the City of Megasaki, where the attention to detail and the time is would have taken to create is immediately apparent. The depth created, from the small blossom trees at the front to the skyscrapers and volcano at the back make it seem like real city… just if it had been shrunken to a thousandth of the size, of course.

The minute detail was a theme carried on throughout the exhibition, with the puppets and sets alike. Each of the hairs for the animal fur and humans was individually punched into the puppets and the detail of Atari’s plane crash, with each mini newspaper stuck individually, was also a display of the care taken to make this animation as perfect as possible. The sets and puppets on show were from a diverse range of scenes from the film. I was particularly impressed by the Temple, Sake Bar and Mayor Kobayashi’s Bath-House, but they were all fantastic.

The film is a piece of art in its own right

I absolutely loved the exhibition. However, there seemed to be a few things missing. There could have been a few videos or photos showing the process of animation or creating the sets. These are readily available on YouTube but I think it could have added to the experience and really demonstrated the prowess of both Anderson and the animators. The puppets for the people in the film also had replacement pieces for their mouth etc. in order for them to be more expressive when manipulating the puppet features could only do so much. However, these are not displayed in Anderson's exhibition. It gave me a feeling that it was showing the final shiny and polished version of the sets, rather than exhibiting the process or the hard graft gone into forming such perfection.

But all in all, it was amazing. With news that Wes Anderson will be curating an exhibition alongside his partner, designer and illustrator Juman Malouf in Vienna, I hope to see Anderson’s creative genius extend further beyond the screen. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, I thoroughly recommend it. Even though the exhibition was a short-lived pop-up, the film is a piece of art in its own right.

Opinionated second-year Philosophy student and houmous enthusiast. (@katlouiise)


10th May 2018 at 9:00 am