For sheer, unadulterated fun, there’s no museum in town that can beat this one. The first museum anywhere to look at TV, film, and video games together (a heretical concept when the museum was opened in 1988), it’s not simply an archive of past shows. Instead, it explores the craft and technology behind these arts with startlingly imaginative interactive exhibits, commissioned art works, video sequences, and, of course, artifacts. Just how much fun is all this? Well, Citysearch ranked it the best place in the city for a family outing, and Time Out magazine called the museum the number-one place to go when you’re "baked" (and if that doesn’t hit all the bases, I don’t know what does).
Start your visit with the museum’s core exhibit, "Behind the Screen," which explores the many technical issues behind moving images, from explanations of how the eye is tricked into seeing movement in rapidly repeating images, to the intricacies of sound and film editing. You’ll have a chance to dub your own voice into such classics as My Fair Lady, create original computer animation, transmute the musical score of a famous film scene, and more. Several times a day, working editors, animators, and educators give demonstrations of how these techniques are used on actual productions.
Next, the focus shifts from technical issues to design issues, with exhibits devoted to the make-up, costumes, sets, and publicity stills that help create the image the director (or studio) is looking for. And if you’ve been harboring a secret yen to play Galactica just one more time, you’ll have your chance in the playable video games exhibit. Likely you’ll want to take in whatever blockbuster special exhibit is on; recent ones have covered the TV show Mad Men and the artistry of cartoon voiceover icon Mel Blanc. In 2016, the museum opened a permanent exhibition on the oeuvre of Jim Hanson.
On the first floor is the museum’s full-sized movie theater, which offers included screenings of feature films from around the world, often followed by discussions with the artists involved, including such big names as Glenn Close, Tim Burton, David Cronenberg, and Jennifer Connelly.
The 98,000-square-foot museum is built on the site of Astoria Studio, and this part of Queens was where many of the early American films were made. The overall experience is to see how far we’ve come in so brief a span of time, and just how powerful is the human imagination.
- Pauline Frommer