In typical Melbourne-in-July style, we woke to another freezing winter’s morning day. We were determined not to let our spirits be dampened by the cold, even as we all scraped ice off the windscreen before we could leave! Heater now blaring with hot tea in hand, we began our journey into the city for a day of Aardman goodness. We had all been looking forward to this event at ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Images) for quite some time, especially my husband and I, as we had been fans of Aardman creations well before the kids were born. ACMI is fast becoming one of our favourite city destinations for good quality family entertainment. Not only is it an all-weather venue, but there is so much on offer. During the school holiday’s there is a huge range of things to see and do, and many offer a really different and unique experience, without the ‘unique’ price tag.

Today we were lucky enough to be reviewing ACMI’s Wallace & Gromit and Friends Exhibition – The Magic of Aardman. For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past few decades, Wallace & Gromit are the inventor (Wallace)/ Furbaby companion (Gromit) team that feature in a number of short films and a television series. The films and episodes are done with clay animation and sure to spark awe and a giggle in people of all ages. They also have lots of friends, including Shaun the Sheep, Morph and the lovely ladies from Chicken Run, which I am sure you are familiar with.

Our experience began with a tour of the Aardman exhibition. We were enthralled with the young beginnings of the clay animation that we all know today, and all 4 of us were gobsmacked that the creators started their career at just 12 years old. We were taken on a beautiful journey of photographs, drawings, storyboards, stills and best of all – clay samples and sets from some of the infamous films of Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Arthur Christmas. We watched clips of some of the films, we listened to podcasts, and saw up-close some of the sets and props used in making these claymation spectaculars. With a childhood obsession with anything miniature – I was in heaven.

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We then spent the next hour making clay figurines, and creating our own stop motion films. Wow! We had so much fun. Taking about 20-30 stills of the figurines set against the variety of backgrounds on offer, we put together films that were truly amazing. We watched each other’s films and then emailed them to ourselves for future viewing, and bragging!!

We then stopped for lunch in the ACMI Cafe & Bar (located on level one of ACMI) to refuel. The meals were all reasonably priced and we were certainly not disappointed with their size! The varied menu suited our fussy family – two meat eaters, one vegetarian and one just-generally-fussy eater. I would definitely recommend stopping by for a cuppa or a meal if you are in the vicinity. It was also nice to see more interesting meals on the kid’s menu than the usual nuggets and chips. With our tummies full, we headed downstairs to the meet and greet (and get an autograph) with David Sproxton, one of the creators of Aardman Animations Studio, along with a cheeky photo with Wallace & Gromit outside.
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It was lovely to listen to David Sproxton speak, who told us about how he got started in animation, and what motivated them to use clay. He gave us an insight into the time it takes to create a short film, not to mention the full-length feature films that they have also done. He showed us how to easily turn your phone into a mobile still motion studio, and introduced us to an App to use to make creating still motion films really easy. We were then lucky enough to meet him, and have him sign our posters. David Sproxton and Peter Lord (co-founder of Aardman Animation Studio) are in Melbourne at the moment, doing various appearances alongside the exhibition. They are lovely, down to earth people just bursting with creativity and enthusiasm. I highly recommend you hear one or both of then talk over the next few weeks.

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What a fantastic day at ACMI! We had so much to see, so much to do, and all in a beautiful, warm hub of moving image goodness. Admission was very reasonable, and there are lots of free activities inside ACMI and in and around Federation Square, once we had finished in the exhibition. We spent 4 hours at ACMI, and you could easily spend another couple wandering around the other areas (and the shop!) inside. We were home not 10 minutes before the kids had opened their packet of modelling clay, had begun creating characters, designed backdrops and starting their own still motion films. At the start of school holidays, this is a godsend for my Miss 12 and Master 14 who are very prone to the brain-dead act of swiping iPads. Getting creative with clay, coupled with screen-time magic is a combination from heaven, that I am sure will keep them going for the next two weeks and beyond.

The Wallace & Gromit  and Friends: The Magic of Aardman Exhibition will run until the 29th October.

In Summary

Target Audience: Aardman has something to offer to everyone. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it all, as did our kids. There were kids from all ages enjoying the exhibition, so age does not matter. From toddlers to teens, and adults alike. The exhibition and activities throughout ACMI had everyone involved, so a fun day out for the whole family.

Amenities: There were plenty of clean toilets on each level and within the exhibition itself.

Tickets to the exhibition: $24 adults, $20 concession, $15 child, $19 member, $65 family, this included the model making and still motion sections. The Wallace & Gromit Exhibition is on between June 29 and October 29, 2017. 10am – 5pm daily. There was also a hands-on room with colouring, drawing and mask making that was free to participate in.

Food: ACMI Café and Bar is located on Level 1, and boasts a wonderful menu of snacks, light lunches, main meals and a great kids selection. The Bar is fully licensed with a full Barista menu. Menu and opening hours can be found: https://www.acmi.net.au/visit/cafe-bar/

Parking: There is parking at Federation Square ($16 on a Sunday, more during the week). There is also cheaper parking near Alexandra Gardens, but it is a bit of a walk.

Public Transport: Federation Square is opposite Flinders Street station which is an easy transport option. There are plenty of trams that stop outside, as well.

Highlight: Non-mainstream entertainment that is set to enthral and inspire the whole family. There are also free exhibitions and all-day screening of Aardman classics in the foyer.

Hot Tip: Catching the train will mean less stress in finding parking in the centre of the city. Check out what other great things there are to do at ACMI on the day, as you may need to plan for extra time!