How to Make a Monster - the art and technology of animatronics

Topic: Technology

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Julie Anderson

Published on September 04, 2011

  • Description and goals

    ‘How to Make a Monster – the art and technology of animatronics’ is a fascinating ‘behind the scenes’ look at skills and processes involved in bringing a creature from the written page to the silver screen.

    This 5,000 sq ft exhibition engages people of all ages through their leisure, hobby, school and work interests. It reveals how monsters and creatures are designed and story-boarded, maquettes made, then how the full size creatures are sculpted, moulded, and finished. Visitors see how animatronic components are designed and installed to create the bones and muscles that bring monsters to life. 11 Interactive exhibits allow the visitor to engage with the exhibition and become an animatronics puppeteers, a lighting technician, monster builder and more.

    ‘How to Make a Monster’ features the work of 1995 Visual Effects Academy Award winner for the movie ‘Babe’, John Cox and his company John Cox’s Creature Workshop. It features real creatures created for movies including Pitch Black, Inspector Gadget 2 and Peter Pan.

    2011 we commenced our first Regional Tour. Creating a 2000 sq ft (1 truck) version of ‘Monsters’ means that smaller venues can now host this popular exhibition.

    Host Venues Include:
    Queensland Museum South Bank Brisbane AUS 2005
    Australian Museum Sydney AUS 2005/6
    Western Australian Museum Perth AUS 2006
    Science Alive! Christchurch NZ 2006
    Te Manawa Palmerston North NZ 2006/7
    Scienceworks Melbourne AUS 2007
    St Louis Science Center St Louis USA 2008
    Discovery Museum Bridgeport USA 2008
    Muzeo Anaheim USA 2009
    Exploration Place Wichita USA 2009/10
    Ipswich Art Gallery Ipswich AUS 2011
    Museum of Tropical Queensland Townsville AUS 2011

  • Development process and challenges

    We contracted Sam Taylor (now Director, Carnegie Museum of Natural History) and visited 7 major US museums for feedback on the concept and components of the exhibition to ensure items were relevant to museums, science centres and audiences. We meet with Labels guru Beverly Serrell and got valuable direction. We also attended our first AAM and ASTC meetings to understand the market. All feedback helped to ensure ‘Monsters’ is the fabulous hit it has proven to be.

    We launched at the Queensland Museum and quickly became their second most successful exhibition ever staged, after Tutankhamun, so we knew we had a winner.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    We printed way too many blue girls T’shirts and sold out of black boys T’shirts.

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