Nestled in Old Town Temecula, California, just 43 minutes south of Riverside, is the Temecula Valley Museum. The parking is free and it’s suggested that individual guests donate $5 to enter and families $10. Before entering one encounters several banners showcasing an exhibit on the second floor and the reason I and my family took the drive.
The Art of Stan Sakai is accessible by an elevator found through the door to the left once entering the foyer. Inside this room is the history of the city of Temecula. I recommend that all who enter explore this room to get some background on the city before venturing upstairs.
Once on the second floor the doors part revealing a large wall that proclaims The Art of Stan Sakai and gives the origin and a brief overview of Usagi Yojimbo. To the right of this are the two earliest images of Usagi. To see these two drawings in person was more than enough reason to go to this exhibit. Turning to the left one will see a projection of Usagi’s recent meeting with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Turning even more to the left one will see several pages of Usagi on the wall. This features some key moments from Usagi’s life and they are wonderful. One of my favorites is a side by side comparison of Usagi’s memorable arrival at a home in the snow next to Chibi Usagi’s entrance at the same location. I’m purposely not stating what the other pages are so that one can be surprised at what is being shown. Also in this room is a video presentation showing Stan and Julie Fujii Sakai at home working with Stan narrating. There’s a handy bench one can use to sit and watch the entire presentation. A glass case shows some of the items that have inspired Stan as he’s worked on his iconic character. This space is the photograph that accompanies this article.
Moving left one can find other creators’ interpretations and greetings to Stan, including works by Sergio Aragonés and Frank Miller and a letter from Stan Lee. Other works beside Usagi are also on display, but I won’t spoil what they are. Continuing forward one will find awards and accolades Stan has received, including an Eisner Award. As a long time comic book fan, I’ve never seen such an award in person and it was impressive. Additionally some of the merchandise that’s been produced for Usagi is on display. Among the many items on display are some statues, action figures, a watch, and some items that will make fans wish that they had been Boy Scouts in 2013 and 2015.
Before one gets in the elevator to go back down, be sure you enter the Art and Education Room found just before the awards and merchandise displays. Within this room young fans can color Usagi drawings, create origami creatures, and make Usagi ears. Additionally, one should look on the walls for additional Usagi Yojimbo work. My favorite in here was a piece by Eric Carle whose fame was solidified by writing about a very hungry caterpillar.
Downstairs, do not rush out! Be sure to go into the gift shop on the left where exhibit tee shirts can be purchased! These are available in children and adult sizes. Additionally there are collected versions of the ronin’s exploits and copies of The Sakai Project. I was lucky enough to discover that Stan had autographed several of the books on display, so I picked up a copy of The Sakai Project.
This is definitely an exhibit worth seeing. Anyone who is a fan of Sakai would enjoy seeing what he’s created. Anyone who is a fan of comic books would enjoy seeing this. Anyone who enjoys art would enjoy seeing this. This exhibit will remain on display until October 22. I recommend you check this out.
Here’s a link to the Temecula Valley Museum for information about the facilities and the exhibit: http://www.temeculavalleymuseum.org/