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Review: ACMI’s DreamWorks Animation – The Exhibition

THE new ACMI exhibit, ‘DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition –  Journey from Sketch to Screen’ starts its world tour right here in Melbourne’s Federation Square. There’s plenty on display to draw you into the world of animation, writes Priscilla Pho.

For those who love behind the scenes extras and commentary as much as the animated movies themselves, the new DreamWorks Animation exhibit at ACMI is the stuff hyperventilations are made of. Demonstrating exactly how the studio has successfully made 29 of its “dreams work”, it is easily one of the most engaging exhibitions to join this year’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces line-up.

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibiton is broken into the animation process’ three stages: story, character and world – each giving fans new insight into the 29 blockbuster hits including its earliest, Ants, to its highly anticipated sequel How To Train Your Dragon 2 set to release later this year.

Just before heading down to the gallery, you'll encounter one of the dragons from How To Train Your Dragon. Photo: Julian Tay

Just before heading down to the gallery, you’ll encounter one of the dragons from How To Train Your Dragon. Photo: Julian Tay

With many toys and original artwork for adults and kids to enjoy, only one clear highlight stood out for this fan: ‘Dragon Flight: a Dragon’s-Eye View of Berk’. As the name suggests, the 180-degree screen loops a simulated dragon ride on the back of Toothless across Berk, the small Viking village from the How To Train Your Dragon franchise.

Sitting cross-legged with the children in the centre of the room was great albeit slightly embarrassing. The screen wraps around the room, projecting the video in crazy high definition so sitting dead centre gives you the full experience of being How To Train Your Dragon‘s hero, Hiccup. Not only was it cool (there really is no articulate way to describe it!), but it also succinctly wrapped up the animation process in just a few short minutes;  beginning with a partial script being typed out to the cliffs and oceans being sketched in pencil to the entire world being built in all its three-dimensional glory.

One of DreamWorks Animations' most popular series is Kung Fu Panda. Photo: Priscilla Pho

One of DreamWorks Animations’ most popular series is Kung Fu Panda which is proudly displayed throughout the exhibition. Photo: Julian Tay

Other must-sees include interactive tablets that let you manipulate your favourite characters’ facial movements and some scenery, clay sculptures used as references, dozens of colour boards, videos of various contributors talking about their creative processes, and everything in between.

It was great to join the huge Shrek fans, among them a few knee-high children, as they mouthed along the dialogue of the famous Gingerbread Man interrogation scene as the storyboard artist pitched it. Also, don’t forget to stop by the drawing room at the very end where you can try your hand at drawing and animating.

Featured towards the end of the exhibition is the section, 'Worlds', which outlines the universe of each DreamWorks Animation film. Photo: Julian Tay

Featured towards the end of the exhibition is the section, ‘Worlds’, which outlines the process of creating the universe of each DreamWorks Animation film. Photo: Julian Tay

Also at the launch was Christophe Lautrette, a production designer, who had some words of encouragement for would-be artists getting into professional animation.

“If you just draw and paint and animate – just do your craft on a daily basis and be truthful to it – it will make its way naturally [into your work].”

This neat installation from simulates what the writers and storyboarders would have had to deal with in conceptualising the film, Over the Hedge at the pre-production stage. Photo: Priscilla Pho

This neat installation from simulates what the writers and storyboarders would have had to deal with in conceptualising the film Over the Hedge at the pre-production stage. Photo: Priscilla Pho

Speaking about his work on films such as The Prince of Egypt (1998), Shark Tale (2004), Kung Fu Panda (2008) and, most recently, The Croods (2013)Laurette insisted that his mentality was something he developed early.

“Whether at work or anywhere else, I start with a blank page. There’s nothing on it. I have to cover it with ideas and sometimes I fail. Even at DreamWorks, even after eighteen years, it’s the same as when I was a twelve year old. I’m at my desk, imagining things. Just draw and be creative.”

Much like its movies, the production of each picture has its own stories and lessons. The amount of thought and effort that each department puts into every aspect is astounding and definitely worth the entrance fee, especially if you consider that all this information is given to you in the most interactive way possible. So be sure to catch the exhibition before it leaves our shores for its international tour.

The DreamWorks Exhibition is on in Federation Square’s ACMI until October 5 with tickets going at $22.50 for adults and $16 for concessions. For more information, visit the ACMI website.

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