What?: We’d been meaning to check out the Little Russell Street home of The Cartoon Museum for months, possibly years, with no success, so when it reopened in a larger Fitzrovia location back in July promising a wider appeal and more immersive experience it was the kick up the arse we needed to get ourselves down there.
Aesthetically this place is incredible, and while it might not look like much from the street since the museum is laid out across the basement level, the moment you’ve been spat out by the world’s slowest lift onto floor LG you’re immediately hit in the face by the amazing primary-hued entrance hall where a pair of faceless, fish-and-chip scoffing Dandy characters stand poised for your posing pleasure. This jolly couple sets the tone for the rest of the space, which comes complete with comedy wall cracks, floor splats and bright yellow pipes snaking light-heartedly across the huge ceiling.
Here we were very warmly greeted by two of the silly-lovely staff, who directed us to the baby changing and showed me where I could leave the buggy without me even having to ask. The brilliant museum shop with its piles of specialist books and cool and quirky gifts for cartoon fans both young and old can also be found in the main entrance area.
The ticketed part of the museum, meanwhile, is split into two areas – each containing a temporary exhibition that at the time of visiting consisted of “The Cartoon Museum – Drawing Life” and “Comic Creators, the Famous and the Forgotten”. I’m not a comic reader per se but I found both exhibitions quite interesting and really nicely displayed. Sadly the same couldn’t really be said for Babu, who loved the Dennis the Menace and Rupert cardboard cutouts but didn’t want to know about the hundreds of smaller, framed cartoons that filled the walls – but then in fairness the meaning of a cartoon is probably somewhat lost when you can’t actually read.
Thankfully we were saved by a little side room filled with cartoon tablecloth-clad tables where you could create your own comic strip with the aid of a worksheet and a big box of pens. I’d probably say this and the entrance space were the highlights of our visit, but don’t let that discourage you: there’s at lease one brand new exhibition set to open in January and I’m really hopeful that they fulfil their promise to be “much more immersive and relevant and attract new audiences”, and create something that appeals to young children. And if not you can always pop down and check out the shop and take a photo with the faceless seaside people… maybe use the nice toilets.
Where and When?: The Cartoon Museum can be found at 63 Wells Street, W1A 3AE, and is a five-minute walk from Oxford Circus Underground.
Best Bits: The entrance hall is so cool.
Worst Bits: I know we expect everything to be immersive now, but immersive stuff is just so much easier to get kids interested in, so it would be great if they went there with their next exhibition.
Facilities: Step-free access, baby changing, space to leave a buggy in reception, gift/book shop.
Cost: £8.50 per adult, free for under-18s
Would We Come Back?: Definitely. I’m excited to see what’s next.
Babu poses with the cardboard cutouts (because she was a bit too small to poke her head through the hole) at The Cartoon Museum, Fitzrovia.