Wako’s department store in Ginza is one of Tokyo’s most iconic buildings in the heart of the city. Located in the city’s shopping district, the art deco building’s most iconic feature is the clock tower sitting above it. From its construction in 1932 it has been known for selling watches, jewellery, and other related goods, as well as being a fixture in the 1954 film ‘Godzilla’.
Pentagram was commissioned by Wako, in collaboration with Seiko, to design their Christmas shop window displays. In an effort to subvert the local surroundings of large, digital advertising screens used all around Tokyo, the team focused on using traditional, analogue animations to bring their stories to life.
The team undertook technical research into various animation techniques that did not require modern technology – all of the three animation formats the team utilised predate the 19th century. Zoetropes consist of a spinning wheel containing a strip of pictures – at the correct speed and calibration, they trick the eye into seeing smooth transitions. Praxinoscopes function on the same principals, with the addition of mirrors used to amplify the images. Moiré discs are a visual illusion caused by overlaying patterns that become visible depending on the viewer’s perspective.
After comprehensive prototyping the technology within the studio, the team set to work creating the stories within the animations. Each animation format presented its own set of challenges and restrictions, each of which could be creatively reinterpreted. Using the clock tower above the building as inspiration, various narratives were crafted in the holiday spirit. In one scenario, star characters forge the numbers of the clocks, and pass them upwards towards the clock face. Within the moiré discs, we see various characters and objects moving between states – there are families walking towards the store, stars shooting across the clock tower, and many others.
The simplest movements in these analogue forms create wonder and give the animations a different dimension, one seldom seen in our current era. A bespoke musical theme for the window was composed by the team, utilising recordings of the bell melody from the clock tower, and played back through transducers on the window surface.
The installations have attracted many visitors to the store, providing a magical backdrop to their Christmas shopping trips.
Video and images by Daisuke Ohki