Dreamworks Dragon Flight Theatre

Renowned for their educational, innovative, and engaging exhibitions, it was no surprise The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa teamed up with the Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI) to host DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition.


The Project

The four-month exhibition takes visitors on an interactive journey from sketch to screen showcasing over two decades of DreamWorks animations including feature films such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.  With over 400 items on display the exhibition focused on the processes DreamWorks go through to bring the characters and their stories to life.  The highlight of this exhibition was the Dragon Flight Theatre, a 180-degree panoramic screening experience where participants were taken on a ride on the back of ‘Toothless’ the dragon, a central character from the DreamWorks animated movie How to Train Your Dragon.

Autex worked closely with Te Papa to develop a cinema that would enhance the experience for the participants, without affecting the experience for other visitors in the exhibition space.  Te Papa’s brief required an acoustic absorbing solution that also kept visitors excited on their way in and out of the cinema.  By working collaboratively with Te Papa’s design team, Autex was able to deliver an innovative and effective solution that incorporated a unique design element to the theatre.


The Solution

Great care was taken to mathematically model the acoustic performance within the space, which informed the acoustic absorption required and the boundaries of the design aesthetics.  It was crucial that the space upheld the perfect sound profile to make it conducive to the cinematic experience.  Both Quietspace® Panel and custom Quietspace® 3D Tiles were employed to deliver a superior acoustic dynamic.

While designing the interior solution for the Dragon Flight Theatre a number of areas were considered:

  • That the materials of the design could be reused multiple times, meaning a non-adhesive fixing solution must be implemented
  • That the design represented Te Papa’s innovative nature
  • That Autex’s philosophy of sustainability, using recycled and recyclable non-toxic products was upheld
  • That the design embodied the true nature of Toothless the dragon including his colour palette

It was an important focus for Autex to capture the exciting essence of the film and bring it to life within the theatre; by drawing on the ‘real life’ dragons of this world, the mood board included snakes, lizards and other reptiles.  Four types of scales were selected in different dimensions to provide to broad concept selection which were then refined down to one style by a select committee.  Employing custom made Quietspace 3D Tiles, Autex developed a technical solution that mimicked the natural form of snake scales and then enlarged it for visual and acoustic quality.  Each individual scale was custom cut using a water cutter to ensure the end result was immaculate.


The Result

The “return to flat” style dragon scale tiles overlapped, creating an additional absorbing surface.  This multiplied the acoustic performance without employing thicker denser materials.  Having the ‘return to flat’ style dragon tiles allowed the tiles to be invisibly fixed to the wall without adhesive, which would allow future use in other exhibitions and locations.

Due to the fact that the Dragon Flight Theatre was placed in the centre of the exhibition, there was a lot of potential for sound spill out into the other areas of the exhibition so Quietspace Panel was also fixed to the ceiling as a secondary precaution to ensure the sound was confined within the theatre.  Head of Exhibitions and Collections for the ACMI, Russell Briggs commented “the acoustic experience within the theatre was superior to the one we had [in Melbourne] and the experience of having the sound fill the room and not have that reverberation, I thought created a superior viewing experience in the theatre […] If you combine that with the fact that Autex had gone the extra mile to create this really themed look and feel, it was a fantastic outcome for Te Papa”.