"Wonambi Fossil Centre"
A World Heritage Site,
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.
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.
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)
long Fright was getting better and better at producing exciting
figures, and becoming ever more interested in thorough research and exacting
attention to detail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
trilobus, with a joey in her backwards opening pouch, grunts and chews
in the safety of the swamp near a reedy bank.
occidentalis siuts on the cliffside, rocking back and forth, wary of
the tension being played out.
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.
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.
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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