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Mickey, Bart and Bugs invade Detroit art museum for large-scale animation exhibition

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DETROIT - The 128-year-old Detroit Institute of Arts has gained a reputation as a home for some of the world's most hallowed masterpieces: Paintings by Van Gogh and Picasso, the Diego Rivera industry murals.

Things will look a bit different, though, over the next few months.

Vincent, Pablo and Diego will have company in the form of Mickey, Bart and Bugs.

"Watch Me Move: The Animation Show," which organizers call the "most extensive animation show ever mounted," has both iconic clips — featuring the aforementioned Mouse, Simpson and Bunny — as well as lesser-known works that span the past 100-plus years. The show brings together industry pioneers, independent filmmakers and contemporary artists, including William Kentridge and Nathalie Djurberg, alongside commercial studios such as Walt Disney, Aardman and Pixar.

The exhibit takes its name from American cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay's century-old short film "Little Nemo," which displays an on-screen message inviting viewers to "Watch Me Move."

Visitors can peruse more than 100 animated film segments — nearly 12 hours' worth of footage.

Time-lapse, stop-motion, hand-drawn and computer-generated animation. It's all there in a six-section configuration designed to attract art lovers and pop-culture fanboys alike.

"Animation is art and is just as worthy as our Van Goghs or our (Pieter) Bruegels to hang inside a museum," said Jane Dini, one of the show's curators.

"Hang" is the operative word.

Plush couches and other seating areas are placed throughout the show, along with headphones and built-in audio sources. It's designed to allow visitors to take a load off and absorb the animated content at their own pace.

"One of the things we tried to think about was how somebody could easily get through the exhibition in a half an hour, 40 minutes and feel that they had been immersed in the history of animation," Dini said. "And then for those real connoisseurs of animation, that they could sit here and really" take it in.

For that latter group, the DIA is offering a $75 pass that allows for unlimited visits to the exhibit and to the related movies and lectures.

One lecture will be delivered by Leslie Iwerks, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker whose grandfather, Ub Iwerks, was a pioneering Disney animator. A clip from Ub Iwerks' "Silly Symphonies" is shown not far from "Little Nemo" in the show's "Beginnings" section, which kicks off the show and is devoted to the emergence of the animated image.

Dini's brother, Paul, a longtime animation writer, also will give a talk.

"My brother used to say, if he really wanted to get my goat, that more people knew around the world who Batman was than the 'Mona Lisa,'" Jane Dini said.

The exhibition presents more than a lengthy succession of moving images.

Visitors are encouraged to try an interactive video game that begins its journey in London's Underground.

The show concludes on a futuristic high note — the projection mapping room. Projection mapping uses software to manipulate projected images and help them to fit on irregularly shaped surfaces.

In the exhibition's projection mapping room, light splashes across jagged-edge formations that at one point give the appearance that spiders are crawling all around.

"The thing that we wanted to do with the show that we thought was really important was to have a unifying introductory experience and a unifying conclusion experience," said Holly Harmon, an interpretive specialist at the DIA. "This is where the technology is now. When you walk into this room, you really don't know how it's done."

"Watch Me Move," which initially was shown at the Barbican Centre in London, runs in Detroit through Jan. 5, before heading to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee.


Mike Householder can be reached at and


If You Go ...

The Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., is in Detroit's midtown section. Tickets for "Watch Me Move: The Animation Show" are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6-17, $15 for groups of 15-plus, and include a pass to one exhibition-related program at the Detroit Film Theatre. Tickets for those who see the exhibition by Nov. 17 are $14 for adults and $8 for ages 6-17. Tickets for DIA members are free. A $75 Super Fan pass allows unlimited visits to the exhibition and to related movies and lectures. Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

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