Real Multimedia

"Wonambi Fossil Centre"
A World Heritage Site,
South Australia

View of swamp and cave entrance.Two hundred thousand years ago, in the Pleistocene age, many strange animals grazed, rummaged and foraged through a cool, temperate rain forest area now known as Naracoorte, in the South East of South Australia.

Some of these animals were similar to contemporary species, but larger, and others were completely different, confined to their time in the evolution of life on this planet.  Over many years, for many reasons,  these animals found their way into limestone caves in the area.  There, their bones accumulated, tumbled, tossed and turned by predators and the movement of soil and water,  to rest undisturbed until, in 1969, they were discovered, and the long process of scientific investigation began.

Robotic gorilla for Ghost Train RideIn 1985 a new business was born in Adelaide, South Australia.  Fright is the name given to the partnership of Leigh Milne and Steve Hayter.  This new business focused on designing and producing the very best of the world of theatrical illusion to tantalize, titillate and educate the minds of visitors to museums, interpretative centres,  expos, public events, science centres, in fact any place where people meet ideas.

Ghost Train Ride Attraction.Over the following years Fright designed and produced many products for the travelling Amusement Operators of Australia, many figures were robotic, using low voltage electric motors and pneumatics, often controlled by custom computer hardware and software.  These product had to perform reliably for up to 12 hours per day, 7 days a week with little (or no) maintenance.

Albert's head, 10 feet high.Before long Fright was getting better and better at producing exciting figures, and becoming ever more interested in thorough research and exacting attention to detail.

Kookaburra, twice as big as noprmal.This is a robotic kookaburra which could throw back its head and give a hearty laugh, its beak clacking in time to a sound track.  Twice normal size, it is extremely lifelike.

Fibreglass half from human model.What shapes Fright can't sculpt in exact detail, we cast.  We then produce figures in many materials, including soft foam where flesh-like robotic movements are required.

In fact Fright has spent a lot of money and time researching the suitability of a wide range of materials for robotic movements, a long life under various light conditions, and fire retardant considerations.  We now have a wide range of solutions to suit most situations.  Of course, the research continues.

Computer control of pneumatics.Fright has used industry control systems, but prefers to use our own developed PC hardware and custom software control.  We also use embedded controllers which can be networked together, or provide stand-alone control of movements, lights and sounds.

Our philosophy when designing movements, sound and lights is that we are not just building a program, but are in fact choreographing pour products.  This concept begins in the making of the figures, and continues through the design of the mechanical and power aspects of the figures, and, finally, is brought to fruition through our software.

Procoptodon goliah, the giant kangaroo.Fright always sort to expand its skills in producing robotic figures, and often coupled this pursuit with a love and fascination for all things pre-colonial Australian.  We believe that contemporary Australians deserve  to know about the fabulous natural history of their continent.  Eventually we introduced ourselves to Associate Professor Rod Wells of Flinders University's paleontology department.  He was one of the team that first discovered the fossilized bones of the lost record of the ancient animals.

Fright asked hard questions of  Professor (Rod) Wells .  He gave sound answers.  Together they put together the pieces of a replica of Procoptodon goliah, a giant kangaroo, and considered how it would stand, graze and move.

A model of the terrain of the display.As we became fascinated with the story of the fossils in the Victoria Fossil Cave at Naracoorte, in South Australia, Rod Wells told us the story of the Megafauna of the Pleistocene.

Fright had impressed Rod with the ability to design and build figures and environments to house them.  He  understood that we would go to great lengths to understand our subjects, and produce them in a way that would withstand rigorous scientific investigation.  Together, we saw that a large display that showed the terrain of the time of the source of the fossils, and animals that inhabited that terrain, would not only be possible, but would entertain and educate visitors, inspiring them to an understanding and respect for Australia's distant past.

Skeleton of the building.In 1994 the fossil site at the Naracoorte Caves Conservation Park was added to the list of sites of World Heritage (along with the sites at Riversleigh and Murgon in Queensland).  Allocation of funds from all tiers of government followed, and allowed for the eventual realisation of the Wonambi Fossil Centre.

As construction of the building began, Fright was making the robotic animals that would bring a full scale reproduction of a rain-forested limestone swampy valley to artificial life.  There would be many robotic recreations, each with multiple movements, most with a voice of their own.

The valley being meshed.As the building neared completion, Fright, by now utilising the skills of many artists and technicians, was building the valley.  The sky, painted on a curved ceiling the size of many opera stages, was finished.

Artificial limestone cliffs, and the reconstructed foliage of the ancient rain forest environment were made to dress the cliffs of the valley.

Procotodon goliah trying its new home.The animals, as they were completed by Fright, under the watchful eyes of Rod Wells, were installed in their places within the rain forested terrain.  There were many animals to install, with their pneumatic movements, voices, and evocative lighting.

Diprotodon australia, browsing.Diprotodon australia browses at the edge of the swamp.  Dwarfing a human, he is an imposing figure as he snuffles, chews and looks around, aware of the roars of the distant carnivores.

Model of Zygomaturus trilobus.Zygomaturus trilobus, with a joey in her backwards opening pouch, grunts and chews in the safety of the swamp near a reedy bank.

Stenurus occidentalis on the cliffside.Stenurus occidentalis siuts on the cliffside, rocking back and forth, wary of the tension being played out.

Thylacoleo carnifex in the foreground, Thylacinus cynocephalus behind.Thylacoleo carnifex in the foreground, and Thylacinus cynocephalus on higher ground roar and bark at each other.  This confrontation greets visitors as they enter the interpretive space of the now completed Wonambi Fossil Centre at Naracoorte, South Australia.

A view from the ramp into the swamp and cave entrance.In December 1998 the Wonambi Fossil Centre opened.  Fright understands that approaching the first year since opening, attendances at the Park have exceeded projections, being more than double the twelve months prior to opening.

A view of the Gallery end of the Centre, with a megafun Megafauna wall and interactive computer kiosks provided by Flinders University.The Gallery following the walk-through megafauna display for fun with the playful Megafauna Menagerie, and graphic/text panels and computer kiosks provided by Flinders University.  Fright designed the space, and the Megafauna Menagerie.

N.B. All photographs inside the finished Centre are copyright to Steve Bourne of The Wonambi Fossil Centre, Naracoorte, South Australia.
All other photographs, and the text, are copyright to Fright, Adelaide, South Australia.

Fright claims the mantle of designer and manufacturer of the most reliable, authentic, artistically and technically integrated figures, static and animated in Australia.  Our work is of International standard, and is often featured in journal, newspaper, radio and television reports and documentaries.

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