DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition, Melbourne

“Prepare for awesomeness!”

So says Po from Kung Fu Panda and that’s what you should be ready for if you visit the DreamWorks Animation exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) at Federation Square in Melbourne. Celebrating 20 years of DreamWorks, this exhibition is sub-titled Journey from Sketch to Screen and demonstrates the creative process of making an animated movie from start to finish. As huge fans of Shrek, the aforementioned Kung Fu Panda and pretty much all of DreamWorks’ filmography, my sister and I were desperate to check out this exhibition on our recent trip to Melbourne.

Scenes from Shrek

Scenes from Shrek

The interactive exhibition is divided into three sections – Character, Story and World, featuring original hand-drawn sketches, storyboard sequences and character maquettes that give you great insight into the intensive process that is required before a good idea makes it to theatres. Just seeing the stunning amount of detail and work that goes into developing all aspects of an animation is fascinating.

Maquettes and sketches

Maquettes and sketches

I really enjoyed the various video installations; the projection of an animator mapping out the Gingerbread Man interrogation scene in Shrek using a combination of sketched storyboard frames and scenes from the movie was hilarious. As was another video of DreamWorks staff acting out planned scenes from movies to get a sense of the movements they would need to animate.

Gingy's Interrogation

Gingerbread Man’s Interrogation

Also impressive was the tabletop projection that recreated the storyboarding process for Over The Hedge, which was so life-like that as you watched the story progression unfold, it was difficult to believe that it was only a video projection.

Over The Hedge storyboard process

Over The Hedge storyboard process

The most breathtaking experience of the exhibition was the How to Train Your Dragon short film which was viewed in a dark room on a 60-foot (about 18m), 180-degree curved panoramic screen and really made you feel like you were soaring through the skies and over oceans and lands, astride your very own dragon. This presentation took you through the film-making process of a scene from this movie, showing the transition from sketches to simple models to the finished product in an awe-inspiring, almost 3D-like movie experience.

A number of interactive digital kiosks were set up to give visitors a small taste of what it is like to be a DreamWorks animator – allowing you to use touch screens to adjust characters’ facial expressions, scene lighting and ocean movements.

Ocean Simulator and Lighting Designer (both photos from Digital Fish)

Ocean Simulator and Lighting Designer kiosks (both photos from Digital Fish)

Another popular interactive feature allowed you the opportunity to unleash your inner animator and create a short animated sequence using a simple computer program. You are given a brief tutorial in how to use the animation tools and five minutes to create your masterpiece. Who knows, you may come up with the next Shrek!

My sister, as a budding animator herself, found this exhibition incredibly inspiring. As a mere fan, I loved being able to peek behind the scenes of some of my favourite movies and appreciate the artistry and skill required to produce them. The DreamWorks Animation: Journey from Sketch to Screen exhibition is a seriously fun and entertaining way to spend an afternoon in Melbourne and is a must for all fans of animated movies.

Po from Kung Fu Panda

Po from Kung Fu Panda

DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition – Journey from Sketch to Screen
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Federation Square, corner Flinders Street and Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8663 2583
W: DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition

Exhibition runs Thursday 10 April – Sunday 5 October 2014
Open daily 10am – 5pm (Thursdays until 9pm)
Tickets: Adults ($22.50), Concession ($16), Child 4-15 years ($10)
Discounted tickets for ACMI members and family passes are also available


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