Walking into the world of Shrek and Kung Fu Panda

Bai Xu and Yue Dongxing

CANBERRA (Xinhua) – Wish to see Berk on the back of a high-flying dragon, or make Po smile and interact with the Kung Fu Panda? A new exhibition in the National Museum of Australia (NMA) will give visitors a chance to get closer to their childhood idols.

NMA launched the DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition yesterday. Running until February 2, 2020, it features more than 400 items from 33 DreamWorks Animation films, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, Prince of Egypt and How to Train Your Dragon.

On display there are concept drawings, storyboards, masks, maps, photographs, posters, paintings and other original artworks, which could take visitors on a journey from sketch to screen.

“Fans of animation and filmmaking, nostalgic adults and families will all love this show,” said Director of NMA Mathew Trinca.

“What’s fabulous about this show is that it takes you behind the scenes of these films, and explains how those films were made and how creative people behind them really thought and felt when they were making the films,” he told Xinhua on Wednesday.

A visitor poses with the character in ‘Kung Fu Panda’, at an exhibition on DreamWorks Animation. PHOTOS: XINHUA
Photos above and below show 3D models made and used for the DreamWorks movies at an exhibition on DreamWorks Animation at the National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra, Australia

Created by Australian Center for Moving Image in partnership with DreamWorks Animation, the exhibition has toured the world since 2014 as the first ever large-scale, behind-the-scenes exhibition created to celebrate 20 years of DreamWorks Animation’s movies and the artists behind them.

Trinca said that he loved the models of the characters at the beginning of the show, which were 3D sculptures of the characters from the movies.

“When we first thought to take the exhibition, I imagined that it would be mainly screens and pictures,” he said. “I was delighted to find out there are actually these 3D objects and they show you how people who made these films need to think about those characters as real characters, characters in the space, not just on the page.”

“They were made and used by the artists in DreamWorks Animation to really understand the characters, how they look and feel in real life,” Curator of the exhibition Kate Morschel told Xinhua. “And then they used them as reference and translate them into animated films that we’ve all seen, known and loved.”

Talking about the models of characters in Antz, one of the earliest films of DreamWorks made in 1998, she said, “you can see all the pencil lines on them, and they really looked like they have just emerged from the art studio.”

Morschel said another highlight of the exhibition are some exquisite artworks from films like The Croods, which were concept sketches telling audiences how the world was set for all the characters in the movie. “They have got beautiful sketches of some of the earliest trees and they really resemble coral. And you get the sense that it is really a hostile place and difficult place to live in,” she said.

Chinese audiences might be familiar with three hand-painted figures: Mei Mei, Li Shan and Mr Ping. On the wall there hang six fabric scrolls like the Chinese traditional painting. In Kung Fu Panda 3, DreamWorks production designers created the scroll vision, inspired by the Chinese scroll dated back to several thousands years ago.

The exhibition also encouraged interactivity of visitors, who could create rich and subtle bodies of water by controlling effect layers, do animated performance in the face so as to change characters’ emotion, and even get a dragon’s eye-view on a big screen, pretending to be taking flight on a dragon.

People could also become an animator in a drawing room, where they could use the same technology and software DreamWorks artists use to create their own drawing and short animated movie sequences.

Appearing at the media call was also Supervising Animator Marek Kochout at DreamWorks Animation, who was from Queensland and fascinated by movies while young.

The exhibition could also be inspirational for young people, said Mathew Trinca.

“At the heart of these works are great stories,” he said. “Two hundred years ago we might have told stories through magazines or books published weekly. This is a different kind of storytelling, but storytelling nonetheless. So I think the stories are inspiring, and they will inspire the next generation.”