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NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

Entering The Museum
At the heart of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM is an imagination-tickling dream that anyone who's ever wandered through a museum in wide-eyed awe has secretly harbored: that outrageous fantasy in which the stuffed beasts and molded statues of the ancient past suddenly burst their seams and bust out of their exhibits to come fully to life in the here and now.

"I think most of us have had that experience where you walk by a statue in a museum and you could swear that you saw its eyes follow you,” says the film's director Shawn Levy. "It's a little spooky and it's also very cool to imagine what would really happen if that came true – and, as a filmmaker, it's exactly the kind of wild, incredible ‘what if' that is completely impossible to resist.”

Right from the beginning, the idea behind NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM proved impossible to resist. It was all sparked when Croatian illustrator Milan Trenc first drew a children's storybook in which a brand new night guard at the Natural History Museum in New York dozes off only to discover that one of the towering dinosaur skeletons he's supposed to be protecting has mysteriously wandered away! Suddenly, the guard discovers he is surrounded by talking, growling and prowling statues, which turn the place upside down. With its spirited humor and enchanting tale of an ordinary man faced with wrangling the greatest legends of the past, the story became a family favorite.

It also seemed destined for the movies -- and the book was soon optioned by Fox, with Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan of 1492 Pictures attached to produce, and 1492's Mark Radcliffe attached to executive produce. The trio of filmmakers, who would later merge contemporary humor and cutting-edge effects into modern adventure classics with the Harry Potter series of films, envisioned an expanded story for NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM.

When Fox executives showed the book to screenwriters Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant – who came to the fore as partners with the runaway television hit "Reno 911” (and the upcoming film version Reno 911!: Miami) -- the duo could barely contain themselves. "We literally leapt from our seats,” says Lennon. "I mean, we're both from New York and we basically spent our boyhoods roaming the Natural History Museum. We could draw you a map from memory, that's how much we loved spending time there. It was simply the coolest place on earth.”

Adds Garant: "The thing that really grabbed us is that we both had the same dream as kids of hiding out in the museum and getting a chance to see what happens in there after it closes. I think lots of kids, not to mention plenty of adults, have had that same dream. To be there alone in the dark with all those legends of history and all those humongous creatures would be the ultimate adventure.”

Inspired by these boyhood memories, the ideas came fast and furious to Lennon & Garant. "The first thing we needed to figure out is where this spell has come from that is bringing all the museum's exhibits to life,” recalls Lennon. "We were both in complete awe of the Egyptian Hall at the Met in New York and since Egyptians were very into keeping things alive forever, it suddenly made sense that it all began with an ancient Egyptian slate and the age-old wish for eternal youth.”

As they wrote, the core of the story became the character of Larry Daley, who developed into an inveterate dreamer and schemer, unable to get even one of his endless slate of overly ambitious projects off the ground. More importantly, Larry is also a wanna-be stellar dad who takes the night guard job in the hopes of never disappointing his son again. "Larry is that guy I think we all know who believes in his dreams but doesn't entirely believe in himself,” Garant explains. "He's got these colossal ideas in his head all the time, but he's never had the opportunity t

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