There's something fundamental about the idea of storytelling.
As National Museum of Australia director Mathew Trinca says, "so much of what being a human is about is our capacity for storytelling. We tell ourselves stories about ourselves. We tell other people stories and try to express something about our emotion to them in the process of telling them those stories."
It's this act of storytelling that is at the heart of the museum's summer blockbuster.
It could be said that DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition - Journey from Sketch to Screen is more than 20 years in the making.
Winding back time to the studio's first animated release, Antz in 1998, the exhibition goes behind the scenes of films such as Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar, through the more than 400 original artworks, storyboards and scale-models taken from the studio's archives.
"There's a kind of quality in these characters and films that have become bywords of our life and times," Trinca says.
"Whenever you get the chance to look at those things - things that we've almost come to take for granted - you see them anew. Frankly they are astonishing pieces of work. They're the great cultural forms of our age, I think."
The exhibition is a rare glimpse into the collaborative artistic and visionary approach to animation, as well as the transition the studio made from two-dimensional to three-dimensional artwork in the early 2000s.
It's a transition that Australian Marek Kochout knows all too well.
It was 1998 when the animator first walked through the doors of DreamWorks to start "the world's coolest job". However, animation was not his original career goal.
Kochout, now the supervising animator for DreamWorks Animation, had originally wanted to get into stop motion, inspired by the special effects needed to create the Tauntauns and the AT-ATs in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. But growing up in Brisbane, the closest course he could find was animation at the Queensland College of Arts.
From there, he went to work at Disney's Sydney animation studio and then at Fox's Phoenix studio before finding his way to DreamWorks, where he began working on films such as Road to El Dorado, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.
Then came the introduction of 3D animation and when Shrek hit the big screen, animation suddenly seemed more lifelike than ever.
Facial muscle rendering meant that not only could Shrek move his mouth more realistically, but audiences could also see the double chin appearing and disappearing as he did so. You could see individual strands of Donkey's fur, and how they flowed naturally as he moved. And as for the landscape, Donkey - voiced by Eddie Murphy - said it best when he said, "I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder".
Sitting in the cinema watching Shrek come to life for the first time, everything about the animation seemed new and advanced. But Kochout says the change to 3D was not as dramatic as one would think.
"The principals of the animation are the same," he says.
"Obviously, the tool changed from pencil to computer and there was a transition there of not being able to just rub something out and make the character exactly the way you want, as well as needing to think in three-dimensions.
"[But] the way characters were used, emotions, performance - those sort of things - stayed the same. A great performance in 2D is a great performance in 3D.
"The acting is the same - trying to make the inanimate object believable. So that process of giving them life, giving them character and trying to make the audience believe, stayed the same. The tools on how you achieve it are just different."
When it comes to animation, it's all about the details, so it's not surprising that when Kochout sits down to watch a DreamWorks film he doesn't just watch a story play out. He sees all the different elements he worked on for the years leading up to the film's release.
Each film has its own world that has been carefully considered, and while technology has allowed animators to give a more lifelike appearance to the films, Kochout points out it's not always suitable.
Take Trolls, for example - it's not as realistic as, say, How to Train Your Dragon.
"In the troll world, their whole world is made of felt and quilted things and the trees look like they're cut out of paper and that's the world that they live in and you animate that way," Kochout says.
"They hop around, they have massive heads, they have these huge arms and so they're limited by themselves and you come up with a way to move them which is unique to them.
"The dragons' world is more richer and the lighting is more realistic, the characters are more human and you animate to keep that look."
But an animated film's details are not just about the visual - it's also in the research that happens before anything is even put on the screen.
"A lot of the times the characters are conceived and worked through and then they find the character actors to portray them, so there is a lot of research which goes into them," Kochout says.
"But you know a lot about [the characters] and you have these backstories that you create. You have to kind of approach them like real actors in a way, so that you can understand how they move, what they will think, how they will react in certain situations.
"I wouldn't go as far as to say that I'm directing them because obviously, the director has the single vision so they know the characters that they want, but ... because there is a lot of us who will be working on [the characters] - for example there could be 10 different people who work on a particular character over the course of a show, maybe more - you have to really understand it so that it looks like it's all animated by the same person."
Perhaps it is this intimate knowledge of the characters and the world they live in that has helped the success of DreamWorks' releases. The fact there is a team of animators dedicated to crafting a character's performance means people can buy into the characters and identify with them on a more personal level.
Or maybe there is more to what makes these films successful than what's in the detail of the images themselves. Maybe it has more to do with how well these films act as a reflection of today's society and culture.
Last summer saw the National Museum of Australia bring Rome: City and Empire to Canberra from the British Museum. Some would argue such an exhibition is more at home in a museum than the work on display from DreamWorks Animation, but Trinca believes this exhibit showcases the culture of the now.
"I think that's what's important for a museum like this is to range across time and to look at what are the forms - if you like - what are the things that have literally animated a culture at any given time," he says.
"In the show last year you got a sense of Rome 2000 years ago but in DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition, you have a sense of us now and that's just as important for us to know and learn about and think about."
Trinca says the DreamWorks films offer a "very contemporary way of exploring something that is deeply human".
The themes offered up are in no way new, with concepts such as good versus evil, love, friendship and redemption present in storytelling since the beginning of time. Some things are everlasting and the appeal of such concepts is one such thing.
What is present in the DreamWorks productions, Trinca says, is the quality of executing such themes for a modern audience.
"They're executed in a way that speaks so much about the present that we live in now," he says.
"What we see in these films is a way of executing those stories, of bringing them to the screen and as a result to the public. That's wholly new and based around state-of-the-art technology that really allows you to create animated works that feel so lifelike in the way that they reveal emotion and challenge - very human conditions.
"It feels so of the popular culture of this moment and yet some of those things are eternal. A lot of the themes that you will see in a DreamWorks show are present in Shakespeare. But in these works, kids - and their parents too, it has to be said - read these enduring human emotions or conditions or experiences in the context of the films which are so visually delightful and so different from other theatrical or dramatic forms.
"If they can do that, and still be so delighted and entranced by something in the way that people are by these films, then that's quite a special thing, isn't it?"
Part of what DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition aims to showcase is exactly what makes these films special. Perhaps, says Trinca, it comes from a certain type of wonder. The type of wonder that comes from realising how extensive someone's creative capabilities can be.
"You feel a bit naive in the face of this work," Trinca says.
"Someone has had to sit down and imagine it and that is something quite special, and that's when you touch on the common human spirit around invention, imagination, play and story.
"All of those things come together in work like this and you can't see these films and then learn about them through this show and not be struck again at the sheer ingenuity and invention of other human beings that have made these films."
- DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition - Journey from Sketch to Screen is at the National Museum of Australia from September 12 to February 2, 2020. Tickets are $12 for children and $20 for adults. For bookings or more information go to nma.gov.au.