Inside DreamWorks Animation's Anniversary Exhibit in Australia (Photos)

11:00 AM PST 04/23/2014 by Ed Gibbs
Paul Jeffers

As the powerhouse animation studio celebrates its 20th anniversary, an exhibit at Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image offers an interactive look inside the creative process behind "Shrek," "The Croods" and "Kung Fu Panda."

This story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

More than 40 original, lovingly crafted small-scale character figures -- plus a towering sculpture of the Madagascar giraffe Melman -- greet visitors to Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), where DreamWorks Animation and the museum have debuted a fascinating and imaginative exhibit celebrating the studio's 20th anniversary. Titled "DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition" (through Oct. 5), the show offers an interactive look inside the creative process behind the likes of Shrek, The Croods and Kung Fu Panda. Led by company CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, the opening-day festivities April 9 were attended by animators and execs who have contributed to DWA's success. In its two decades, the studio has released 28 feature films, grossed more than $11 billion in global box office, scored three Oscars and now includes a television division, publishing and live themed entertainment experiences.

PHOTOS: DreamWorks' Animation Hits Australia

Back in 2010, DWA's chief creative officer Bill Damaschke visited ACMI and was impressed by one of their exhibits, which began a conversation about collaborating on a show. Says Damaschke: "Three years ago, when I was here, I went to see the Game Master exhibition they had here [at ACMI], and I thought it was an amazing way of looking at video games, the evolution of video games, the people who make video games, and every aspect of it. And it led to a very organic conversation with Tony Sweeney, about had there ever been an exhibition about DreamWorks. And there hadn’t been."

The new exhibition's centerpiece features How to Train Your Dragon, with a 180-degree immersive short illustrating the creative process from concept to screen of the sequel, due out June 13. (The studio also will celebrate with two Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performances of film scores at the famed L.A. venue July 18 and 19.)

Lively, interactive set pieces coexist with drawings, models and installations, including one that re-creates animator-writer Conrad Vernon's original pitch for Shrek's Gingerbread Man sequence. With the aid of projectors, a giant screen shows Vernon working his way through his initial illustrations, pitching the story they tell, while on the museum's floor, a workstation's notebooks and reference materials come to life at will.

"It's an interactive, state-of-the-art experience for people to come in and part the curtain and get a peek inside into how we make these things and bring these characters to life. And [the curators] do it in an incredibly innovative and creative way," says Katzenberg. Looking back over the two-decade run, he recalls starting out as a mostly 2D animated studio, then moving fully to CG and now releasing everything in 3D: "It's a big tectonic shift when those things occur. We're constantly having to adapt to the challenges that we face. And we've never been busier."

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