“DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition” opened last month at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Clearly inspired by “Pixar: 20 Years of Animation,” which was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York back in 2005, the DreamWorks show includes over 400 items, and covers the studio’s twenty-year history right up to the present—there are displays about Mr. Peabody & Sherman and How to Train Your Dragon 2, which will be released next month. It is the largest exhibition in the twelve-year history of the ACMI.
The show, organized by the ACMI and DreamWorks Animation, came about when Bill Damaschke, DreamWorks’ chief creative officer, visited the ACMI in 2010. Discussions followed and an exhibition took shape. In addition to standard gallery fare, the show includes installations such as a filmed recreation of a story pitch by writer/director Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2, Monsters vs. Aliens) and “Dragon Flight: A Dragon’s-Eye View of Berk,” which is described as an “exhilarating panoramic dragon ride on the back of Toothless, as the Isle of Berk builds around them.”
In the Brisbane Times, critic Robert Nelson was generally positive about the show, though he lamented the lost opportunity for a “big curatorial statement.” Said Nelson, “The one pity is that the show seems to have been handed over to DreamWorks Animation without an independent curatorial synthesis.” This is a common pitfall when working with a company on its own works, one that the Pixar retrospective largely avoided.