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Creating a world of dreams

Since releasing Antz in 1998, DreamWorks Animation have gone from strength to strength as they’ve built a pantheon of classic children’s animation pictures that famously include the likes of Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar.

In that time they’ve enchanted global audiences with their nuanced storytelling, inspired voice acting, ground-breaking animation, and their ability to back it all up film after film for over 20 years.

And while their big hitters are certainly all given their dues, the National Museum of Australia’s (NMA) summer blockbuster exhibition DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition showcases the studio’s overarching creative legacy by way of 400 items of behind-the-scenes ephemera from 33 of the studio’s feature films.

DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition offers a peek behind the curtain as to how one of the world’s most respected animation studios has conceived and developed their cinematic canon, taking visitors on a journey from sketch to screen.

A lot of the fun in perusing the display is recognising the films many non-diehard DreamWorks fans wouldn’t necessarily pick as one of theirs; works like Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and their co-productions with Aardman Animations like Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Wandering through the NMA’s densely packed temporary exhibition space, you’ll spot some gorgeous inclusions like Claymation sets and character models from Chicken Run, fully three-dimensional scale models of iconic locations from Shrek, and handmade tribal masks of Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria from Madagascar; alongside countless hand-drawn behind-the-scenes sketches, models, and other concept artwork.

There are also a host of interactive elements to DreamWorks that allow visitors to get a taste of what it’s like to work with cutting-edge software to animate a scene, design their own characters or even play with digital water.

DreamWorks Animation Supervising Animator Marek Kochout said the exhibition is an amazing showcase of how animation technology has come so far in the past two decades.

Technology is what dictates how big your vision can be, so as the technology gets better, the dreams of the filmmakers get bigger and bigger.

Marek Kochout

“The artwork is fantastic, and even having worked on some of this stuff for years and years, I’m blown away by the exhibition.”

Kochout, who grew up in Mount Isa, Queensland, has worked for DreamWorks in Los Angeles for 21 years, and says walking through the exhibition fills him with memories from his career.

“I see various things and I remember the film, what it was like to work on, I remember which films my kids were born on, so it really is a big walk down memory lane.

“It’s been an amazing journey from outback to Hollywood … hopefully people are really inspired by this.”

NMA Director Dr Mathew Trinca said fans of animation and filmmaking, nostalgic adults and families, will all love this show.

The exhibition unfolds over four main sections — Character, Story, World and Drawing Room.

Character traces the evolution of iconic DreamWorks characters from original concept drawings and sketches to fully developed personalities.

Story explores the process of constructing feature-length narratives, from original inspiration to final storyline, with examples of original story pitches from Shrek and Madagascar.

Magical environments come to life in the World section with Dragon Flight, a specially created 180-degree spine-tingling adventure through Berk on the back of Toothless the dragon.

The final section, Drawing Room, invites visitors to create their own drawing and short animated movie sequences.

DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition is on display at the NMA until 2 February 2020; nma.gov.au

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