Monday, July 20, 2015

Dreamworks Animation - The Exhibition: Diva Took A Peek Into What Happens Behind the Scenes

As a fan of many of Dreamworks' animated movies, like "Shrek", "Puss in Boots", "Kung Fu Panda" and "How To Train Your Dragon", Red Dot Diva was eager to step inside the special exhibition that is held at the ArtSci Museum.

So once her calendar was available on Hari Raya Puasa, she made her way to the museum together with her Evil Twin. Not surprisingly, there was a long line for tickets because it was a public holiday, but the queue moved quickly enough and they did not have to wait too long to buy their passes.

The exhibition, which is curated by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in collaboration with DreamWorks Animation, showed the flow of the film-making process in a logical sequence through three different galleries called Character, Story and World.

The first main hall showed exhibits of very interesting sketches of the various character designs. Some of the initial concept art of the characters seemed very different from the final ones seen in the movie, but some seemed to have taken shape almost at the start of the production process, like these ones of Po from "Kung Fu Panda"....

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Within this section were also several gorgeously hand-carved maquettes or sculptures, like this one of Shifu, one of Red Dot Diva's favourite characters!

Here's another set of Shrek and Donkey:

Projected on the wall was a series of how rough pencil sketches were fleshed out through shading and colouring:

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Don't miss heading to the other two galleries (which Red Dot Diva nearly did!), as they could only be found via a narrow, dimly lit and almost hidden passageway that had drawings of the Penguins from "Madagascar" on one side of the wall. In fact, these two sections were even more colourful and interactive!

The "Story" part of the exhibition had displays on how the movies' storylines were pitched, developed and how the characters should move and talk. Lined on the walls were even more displays of character drawings, many of which were already taking the more recognizable shapes as in those shown in the final movies. What was most interesting to read were the highly detailed remarks and notes highlighting changes that were to be made to the illustrations, like this one for Alex, the lion from "Madagascar".

Accompanying the process of storybuilding were several videos focusing on the different parts of the process.

There was a section paying tribute to "Wallace and Gromit", with a lovely diorama and two TV screens showing a similar segment - the one which involved the painting of Mona Lisa. One of the screens showed a vintage episode of the British stop-motion series and the other was the one from the 2005 movie "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit". It was so surreal!

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Both Red Dot Diva and her Evil Twin adore Toothless from "How To Train Your Dragon" to bits, so they couldn't help tarrying a little longer at the section about how the artists and animators took pains to draw and animate Toothless as a teenager-dragon.

One of the more amusing things to watch was Conrad Vernon going through the storyboards and performing his pitch for that nail-biting 'Interrogating Gingy' scene in "Shrek". Conrad Vernon not only voiced Gingerbread Man in the movie ("NO! Not the buttons! Not my gumdrop buttons!"), he is also a writer, director and storyboard artist.

However, Red Dot Diva thought the funniest video was the one on animators acting out certain scenes and dialogue from the movie so that they could note the angles, expression and timing of the various movements and in turn, animate the scenes more realistically. It was hilarious watching grown men and women pretending to be aliens, animals and re-creating comedic action-filled scenes. Most of the time, the animators could not help but break into laughter too.

At the centre of the "Story" exhibit was a marvellous interactive display of what a workstation for the animation team would look like. Moving images were projected on the different parts of the desk to make it seem as if the production work was happening right there and then. You have to see it to admire genius of this display.

The last segment of the exhibition was all about creating and building landscapes and worlds. Again, there were concept drawings of these vivid and fantastical backdrops that depicted compass orientation and elevation plans, as well as detailed 3D sculptures, like this one of Berk from  "How To Train Your Dragon"....

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.... and a beautiful one of Far Far Away from "Shrek".

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The highlight of the entire exhibition though has got to be a 180-degree 3D film called the "Dragon Flight: A Dragon's-Eye View of Berk". The line to watch the short film may be long, but Red Dot Diva think it's worth the wait. To be able to visually experience what it might be like riding on Toothless as he swoops around Berk and flies across the ocean waves is like WHOA!

In both the "Story" and "World" galleries, there were a number of computers with programs that allowed one to have a hand in the animation process. There was a program that gave an idea on how faces could be animated with different expressions. There was also an Ocean Simulator, where one could create various effects on the height and intensity of the waves, or change the lighting to a vibrant sunset. Over in the Drawing Room, budding animators can create their own short sequence with the same software that animators working in Dreamworks use.

Unfortunately, these computers were all taken up by a large crowd of curious children, so Red Dot Diva did not get a chance to play with any of them.

If you are not only just a fan of Dreamworks' animated movies but also want to take a peek into how ideas evolve into their wonderful and entertaining final versions shown on screen, then visiting Dreamworks Animated - The Exhibition is a must. (Although, Red Dot Diva thinks most children below the age of about 10 may not fully understand some of the concepts and processes.)

Not only is it a delightful and informative exhibition, fans will come away from it appreciating the sheer talent and painstaking work involved in making a successful animated movie even more than ever.

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