A truly magical exhibition

Published on March 2 2018

Who doesn’t like settling in to watch a good movie? Squeezed onto the couch with the kids, eating popcorn, laughing together, crying together—that’s my idea of perfect happiness. Many of the movies we’ve enjoyed have come from the DreamWorks studio. Watching Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar or Kung Fu Panda, I never felt as if I’d wasted two hours of my life on a dud. The writing, direction and animation are all great.

That’s why I was really looking forward to taking my kids to the DreamWorks Animation exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The exhibition promises a “journey from sketch to screen.” Developing a story and making it into a movie requires lots of hard work by screenwriters, storyboarders, directors and animators, who all do their best to amaze us.

Sometimes these “making of” projects can put you off your favourite movie, or they can be dull. That’s definitely not the case here!

As you enter the first gallery, you’re blown away by the sheer number of different artifacts. Sketches, drawings, maquettes—you hardly know where to look, there’s so much to see! A clay statue of Master Shifu, African masks of the characters from Madagascar, a scale model of Wallace and Gromit’s garden—I’m like an eight-year-old trying to take it all in at once.



Speaking of eight-year-olds, my son is fascinated by … a tablet. But this is no ordinary tablet: this one lets you fool around with the faces of your favourite characters. Want to see Po with wide open mouth and angry eyes? Done! Want to see Astrid looking scared? Done!

But things went downhill fast.

Which was actually pretty funny.


For each movie, there’s a description of the particular challenges the movie-makers had to deal with. It’s really fascinating. For Kung Fu Panda, they had to deconstruct the moves of five different martial arts; in Madagascar, the main characters are based on different geometric shapes. I’ll be sure to pay attention next time I watch those movies.

My sons are mesmerized by a wall grid with a different drawing in each square. A video overlaid on the grid starts playing. The grid is a storyboard, and the video shows the storyboarder explaining the concept to the animators who will be working on the movie. It gives you a really good sense of how they build the action, the rhythm, the tone and the dialogue. What a lot of work! And what a great storyteller you have to be to bring it all to life!


We glance (a little too quickly) at the many sketches. My eldest examines the Shrek models. Here again, the work is amazing! The castle and Shrek’s lair are incredibly detailed. The more I see, the more I’m in awe.

We end our visit in a room full of digital drawing boards, where my son is in his element.


I have to drag him away from the exhibition and his masterpiece. As for me, I’ll definitely be back for a longer visit before the exhibition closes on April 8!

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