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Bigger Museum, Grander Adventure
The smash hit Night at the Museum raised a burning question that anyone who has ever entered a museum has wondered: what happens to all the displays in a museum when the lights go out and the visitors go home? The delightfully imaginative answer brought to life a host of irreverently funny, endearing and clever characters straight from history in an adventure that featured Neanderthals, Cowboys, U.S. Presidents, Dinosaurs and Easter Island statues. All came together with a night guard who was able to triumph for the first time in his life after discovering the power of knowledge and the pleasures of unexpected friendships.

But where could Larry Daley possibly go from there? For the filmmakers of Night at the Museum, if Larry was going to take another amazing journey they knew it had to be a big step up – in size, in adventure and in the stakes Larry would face. How do you get any more gargantuan than New York's Museum of Natural History? Where could they find an even bigger museum, one that was teeming with an even more astonishing array of exhibits – from prehistoric creatures to medieval artworks to Space Age rockets – and where the potential for thrills, comedy and the ultimate test of Larry's loyalty and courage would be off the charts if it all suddenly came to life?

There was only one answer. And it led straight to the capital of the United States and the only museum funded by we the taxpayers: the magnificent Smithsonian Institution. "We wanted everything we did in the first movie to be not only bigger but better in the second,” explains returning director Shawn Levy. "We wanted a journey for Larry that would be even more captivating, that would help him find his way back to the better self he got a glimpse of in Night at the Museum. Ben Stiller and I had always agreed that we wouldn't continue this tale unless we had a great new story – so when the idea came up of taking Larry and his friends to the Smithsonian, we knew this was it. We couldn't have been more excited.”

The Smithsonian upped the scale because its own scale is so marvelously massive.

Considered a beacon of culture, education and exploration the world over, the Smithsonian was founded in 1846 with a mysterious $500,000 bequest from the British scientist James Smithson who, though he never stepped foot in the U.S., wanted the country to have a special place devoted to the "increase and diffusion of knowledge.” More than 150 years later, the Smithsonian Institution is a centerpiece in our nation's capital, the largest museum complex on earth and a repository for everything from ancient bones to vital U.S. historical documents to such cultural artifacts as Archie Bunker's chair. Some 25 million visitors each year are dazzled and excited by all that lies within, from the awe-inspiring paintings in the National Gallery to the vintage planes in the National Air & Space Museum.

For the filmmakers, the very notion of using the Smithsonian not just as the backdrop but also as the very core of a grand comic adventure was like letting hungry kids loose in a candy shop. It reignited the collective passion of the entire original team, including screenwriters Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, who adapted the beloved children's book by Milan Trenc, infusing it with their own spirited humor to create the first Night at the Museum.

As far as Lennon and Garant were concerned, the larger the museum, the greater the opportunities for magical encounters, surprise battles and irresistible storytelling. "Unlike the Museum of Natural History, which is all under one roof, the Smithsonian is spread out all over the National Mall,” muses Garant. "We were faced with the extraordinary challenge of figuring out how to tell a story that would move through the entire complex without it being one non-stop chase.”

Ultimately, the wri

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