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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

MAC lands DreamWorks exhibit next year that offers creative glimpse behind ‘Shrek,’ ‘Madagascar’ and others

After visiting a string of major international cities during the past five years, “DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition, Journey From Sketch to Screen” will come to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in March.

It will be the exhibit’s first appearance in the United States, immersing visitors in the creative process behind 25 years of DreamWorks animation. Think “Shrek,” “Madagascar,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and many others.

Created by ACMI, the museum of screen culture in Melbourne, Australia, the exhibit is a multimedia exploration of DreamWorks’ approach to animation, art, technology and storytelling and opens at the MAC on March 19. It will run through Sept. 5.

Through the lens of four major sections – character, story, world and the drawing room – visitors explore the “journey from sketch to screen,” while the “drawing room” offers visitors a chance to make their own hand-drawn, animated movie sequences using software developed for DreamWorks animators on the exhibit’s digital animation desk kiosks.

Since its opening in Melbourne, Australia, the DreamWorks exhibition has visited Singapore, New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

But next spring, Spokane – after Wellington, New Zealand, the smallest city that the exhibit has visited – will mark its first stop in the U.S. but also its longest stay in any one location.

So, how did we get it? And before any other U.S. cities?

MAC executive director Wes Jessup said the MAC had a great deal of luck by landing the exhibition.

As impressive a get for Spokane as it is for the MAC, “DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition” could be the best show the museum has ever had the chance to host, Jessup said.

“I think we’ve got something that could really generate more interest in attendance and excitement in a way that we haven’t seen here,” Jessup said. “The museum (will) reach the community in a way that we haven’t in the past.”

Jessup said if it hadn’t been for pandemic restrictions forcing several museums in larger cities to abandon their bids to host, it’s likely that the DreamWorks exhibit never would have made it to Spokane.

“COVID has presented many challenges to our organizations, it’s been a real struggle,” Jessup said, mentioning layoffs and budget cuts among other difficulties. “We’ve had to rethink how we do business.

“But there’s also been another side … new opportunities … and I would put the DreamWorks opportunity into that category.”

Scheduling was one barrier, and the cost of shipping required for the extensive installation might have been a higher one.

But as venues began to drop out, clearing the exhibit’s touring schedule – usually booked out years in advance – organizers at the MAC realized the extra time would allow them to forgo the costly (albeit much faster) airfare and opt for “the slow boat from Melbourne.”

Due to gallery space limitations, the immersive 180-degree Dragon Flight experience featured elsewhere will not be included in the MAC exhibition. But the rest of the exhibition – more than 400 original objects and props and more than 30 moving images and interactive exhibits – will be displayed in its entirety.

Coming all the way from Australia, this exhibit could bring anywhere from $15 million-$20 million into Spokane’s economy, Visit Spokane president and CEO Meg Winchester said.

“Everybody’s going to be interested in this,” Winchester said, mentioning how Visit Spokane has been able to start marketing more aggressively to audiences in Portland and Seattle after winning a $2.5 million CARES grant as part of their “Room to Roam” campaign in 2020.

“People became aware of Spokane that hadn’t really thought about it … people that had a bad or no perception of it … started coming in from there like, ‘I had no idea. This is fabulous.’ So we’re seeing a lot more traffic,” Winchester said.

And with the added draw of such a show that “hits all demographics,” Winchester expects that traffic to increase.

“It’s great to have the out-of-town people here, but what an amazing attraction, an amazing benefit this is for our residents,” Winchester said. “We’re so excited.”