'Art of Akira' exhibit blows anime fans’ minds around the world
A cel from "Akira" featuring the character Kaisuke.
September 3rd, 2011
11:50 AM ET

'Art of Akira' exhibit blows anime fans’ minds around the world

Joe Peacock probably owns more singular pieces of art from "Akira" – including production cels and layout sketches – than any other person on the planet.

His collection includes more than 15,000 of the ballpark 300,000 pieces of art that comprised Katsuhiro Otomo's 1988 film. And lucky for you, he's not hording them for his solitary viewing pleasure. Peacock organized his collection into the "Art of Akira" exhibit, and this weekend he has set up shop at Dragon*Con.

Peacock has crisscrossed the globe with his exhibit, learning firsthand how the movie that influenced him (not only does he collect Akira cels, he chooses to tattoo the art of Akira on his own body) has influenced people everywhere.

"Art of Akira" features roughly 120 pieces, 30 of which are debuting at Dragon*Con. Peacock's devotion to the film has made him into an expert on the topic: He's also on the "Western invasion of Anime!" panel and is hosting a screening and commentary of "Akira," both happening Saturday evening.

As excited as this makes Peacock, it’s a big deal for people who come to see the show as well.

“By far, the most common comment we get is "Thank you for bringing this here!" Peacock said.

“The people who come to the exhibit fall into one of three categories: Passers-by who are curious about all this brightly-colored paint on clear film, the artistic community, and hardcore Akira / animation fans and artists. The artists are of course completely enthralled with the art - it's truly a technical marvel of artistic ability.”

“Akira fans, almost invariably, come to our information table and begin talking in gleeful tones about how wonderful it was to see the original art from their favorite scenes from the movie, along with "I had no idea how much work went into making that!"

So many people leave his exhibit asking where they can buy a copy of “Akira” that he’s even considered carrying copies of the DVD to shows so people can leave with the movie in their hands, he said.

That feeling seems to go both ways. Often fans of “Akira” bring Peacock gifts.

Fans have brought figurines (gachopan) and toys to the exhibit in a show of mutual admiration. Peacock has received folders full of “Akira” cels from other fans’ personal collections. He said that rather than eBay them, fans send him their cels because they know he archive and care for them.

“The comics and animation world have been so generous,” Peacock said. “I’ve received illustrations that I can sell as prints to raise funds from a good number of artists, including Mark Brooks, Cat Staggs, Tariq Hassan, Tom Feister and John Tyler Christopher, and there are more lined up for Dragon*Con and beyond.”

But the gifts that truly humble Peacock are the donations he gets to keep the show going.

“This whole endeavor comes out of my pocket, and we operate at a loss each and every show,” Peacock said. “So the donations really help offset that loss. People are so sweet and give out of the passion they have for the film and the art.”

Peacock calls “Akira” a, “once-in-a-lifetime achievement.” He doesn’t see any current anime franchises as being the heir-apparent to Otomo’s masterpiece.

“No other animated feature film has even come close to the 24 frames of original hand-painted animation per second, with such attention paid to lip syncing, technical detail in architecture and mechanical elements, color palette. The list goes on. It's truly a unique film,” he said.

That opinion is reflected in the different fans he meets through the exhibit. “Older anime fans who come to the exhibit and talk to us about the state of animation today tend to disparage today's anime culture, while young adults or teens who are into 'Akira' tend to also be into modern animation as well,” he said.

“I liken it to music - in the 90's, you had adults poo-pooing Nirvana and claiming nothing could beat Zeppelin or Floyd, while the teens just loved both bands equally. I think it's that way with every generation. We're born ready to accept and appreciate that what we know, see and love now was built upon some foundation, and we can, in some way, appreciate that foundation - Provided someone shows us! But as we age we tend to become locked into the art and culture we grew up with,” he said.

This year, aside from the new range of cels on display at “Art of Akira,” fans can also see the ongoing refinement of Peacock’s personal canvas.

“The great (tattoo artist) Todo has retouched the colors and textures from my elbow to my wrist, getting us closer to the finished piece. So far, 65 hours have been put into the sleeve, and we estimate we have another 20 or so to go to finalize everything above the elbow,” Peacock said.

And he dropped a bonus for anime fans: “There is a new “Ghost in the Shell” Major Kusanagi piece on my right bicep, illustrated by the amazing Stephanie Buscema,” he said.

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Filed under: Dragon*Con • Otaku
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Sarah

    Ralph Bakshi Cels are by far the most amazing pieces of art I have seen to this date!

    September 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  2. Cameron

    Akira fans: check out my faux Live Action trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40KW9Qu0uyE

    September 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  3. Jenn

    Akria? Is that a Pokeman?

    September 6, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • Jay P

      No, its a anime comic and one of the most classic, highly-regarded anime films of all time

      September 7, 2011 at 8:15 am |
      • Magyari

        DO NOT READ THIS MESSAGE IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS FROM THE BOOKS.Very simply i love the books AND I love the sriees too. I do have some issues as a big fan of the books (I had already read all of them prior to the sriees actually got the first one when stone of tears was only released so have always been madly waiting on the next release .)I had no issues with the finale (which some have mentioned) while it differed i thought it added alot to the sriees and made for an exciting finish.- Sisters of Light Why oh why did they misuse like they did int he first season. I am now greatly concerned we won't see Ann, Nathan, Verna and Nicci among others. And of course there is Jagang. (yes that is the spelling for someone up higher) He may not appear in the next sriees because if you have read the books he doesn't really get involved until the 3rd book the order is around in the 2nd, but most of the 2nd book revolves around the sisters of light / palace of the prophets and richard finding out a lot more about his magic ability.There are lot of hints that there are storylines from the 2nd book (whether it follow it much at all i'm not sure. I am sure we will find out that darken rahl is his father (there's a scene in the short for the 2nd season that incicates the d'haran's bowing to him.) Screelings + the stone of tears will appear also. Also on the boxes of orden zedd only mentioned they are gone / safe the real question is .. what did he do.. are they hidden (which is what i actually suspect).the other thing that concerned me was the boxes of orden itself they are supposed to be a gateway to BIG SPOILER FOR THOSE READING THE FINALE TRILOGY OF BOOKS (CHAINFIRE TRILOGY)save someone caught in a chainfire spell. and the key to using the boxes correctly is in fact the sword of truth. on the gore bit, yes the books certainly contained a lot more (and how i'd love to see regan ride a horse around naked painted in white when fighting the order (See: 2nd book)), this was the only way the sriees could be brough to the screen. if it contained more gore.. i suspect the ratings may not be as strong a lot easier sell initially i think.The other changes i'm not to worried about.. i think they helped the sriees the above mentioned though has made it hard to come even close to the books the sriees could potentially diverge substatially from the books which would be a real shame.- Jajang

        May 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Hammerheart

      lol, someone doesn't understand sarcasm.

      September 8, 2011 at 5:43 am |
    • Hellsing Fan

      You should be impaled.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  4. Alyssa

    I saw this exhibit when it was in Pittsburgh a couple years ago! Excellent work no matter if you are or aren't an anime fan! (That of which I am not actually...)

    September 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  5. Mandie

    Nice to see CNN give a shot out to the cel collectors.

    It's a shame that Japanese animation studios no longer create animation using cels. While the advent of CG animation has improved the quality of animation, there's something to be said about holding the completed cel.

    Of course, Akira cels aren't the only ones out there to collect. There's production artwork from all sorts of anime (Dragonball, Sailor Moon, Inuyasha, Naruto, etc.) and a lot of people who collect it. A good site to reference is http://www.rubberslug.com – lots of anime eye candy!

    September 4, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • Philip Hades

      I don't know that it's improved the quality of animation or not. I like Toy Story and all but Pinochio is GORGEOUS.

      September 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Philip Hades

      I've got a few nice Gundam and Brainpowered and other cells. Fave in my collection is Derek and Venture on the same cell from Starblazers (Yamato)

      September 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
      • Andrew

        true though, they could be sanivg that info for a future episode. Or it could be one of the ways they strayed from the books too Rahl doesn't exactly look old enough to be his father uncle maybe? lolI don't care personally, I think they're doing a wonderful job with the show that last one took my breath away like six different times lol I rather enjoy these little differences, you never know what's coming next!Oh! Since I've finally watched the whole thing, one right after the other, I can finally say what my gripe about the show is yes the boundary being a physical block is a bit annoying but seriously they need a new phrase for when things get tense. I'm thinking about going back and counting all the times they say powerful magic in the show it drives me bonkers! Goodkind is a wizard of words and it irks me that they keep reusing those. I realize that they weren't filmed back to back and they probably aren't aware of it but OMG lol~ * No spoilers about Pillars of Creation or beyond please! * ~Or if you must PLEASE warn me, I've been doing really well about not looking at the spoilers so far lol VERY hard with all the excitement about the Law of Nines. Were any of you lucky enough to get an autographed copy?

        May 24, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Hellsing Fan

      I want Evangelion ones.

      September 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  6. Robin

    gachopan should be gachapon.

    September 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm |