Raising the bar in creative design: Encore creates an enchanted wonderland The Million Dollar Lunch

Encore transformed the Palladium at Crown Melbourne into a mystical wonderland experience for guests at The Million Dollar Lunch – the AFL’s annual fundraiser for Children’s Cancer Council.

Encore has partnered AFL to deliver the annual fundraiser for more than 10 years. For the recent event, the brief was to transform the gala into an elegant, immersive and never before seen experience for 600 guests.

From the beginning of the process, Encore’s event designers and creative project managers focused on the overall creative strategy. More than 100 hours went into the creative design phase with even more given to creative production, setup, client walk-throughs and show-day production. The Encore team then produced life-like 3D render illustrations, and technical illustrations to demonstrate their creative vision.

The theme of ‘Enchanted wonderland’, called for custom design/bespoke decals, décor, props, that all had to be designed, fabricated and installed within a tight timeframe.

Atrium Entrance Concept: Million Dollar Lunch at Crown Melbourne
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Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_Atrium entrance reality
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Photo credits: Jonathan DiMaggio; Graham Denholm

Additionally, audio-visual technology and lighting scenes were masterfully developed to create and compliment the magical experience.

The storybook inspired décor elegantly-designed themed areas, cutting-edge audio-visual and lighting technology including LED Cubes displays were all integrated with the luxury venue to elevate the event into a never seen experience – certainly worthy of the name ‘Million Dollar’ lunch.

The Encore creative team paid particular focus on the guests’ journey through the magical experience. Guests arrived at the Atrium greeted by a custom floor decal reminiscent of a ‘rabbit hole’, signaling the start of a magical journey. As the guests made their way through the Atrium to the Palladium, they encountered checkered floor and vortex decals accompanied by oversized ‘this way – that way’ themed signage protruding out of whimsical floral bases. ‘Drink me’ carts with signature cocktails were serviced by storybook inspired characters.

At the end of the pre-function area, guests continued their adventure up the escalators where they were greeted by more storybook-inspired characters, inviting them to travel further through and entrance feature doors constructed as a giant book– like a literary portal to an enchanting world of fantasy and intrigue.

Photo credits: Jonathan DiMaggio; Graham Denholm

As guests turned through the pages of the storybook tunnel, they entered the ‘Queens Court’ – a lusciously red-lit, velvet-draped room, decorated with chess-piece themed cocktail tables leading to a red and white floral-embellished throne set in front of an illuminated backdrop. The Queen sat on an all-white throne greeting guests in character.

Guests had a photo opportunity at the Queen’s Court before finding their allocated seats on the digital display kiosk before walking into the main room and the adventures within.

Following the red-lit, heart shaped themed Queen’s Court, guests entered into a lush green scenery – a wonderland garden complete with giant plants, forest ferns, décor mushrooms and wildlife; including an ornate, oversized candelabra – flanking a Neon arch entrance drawing guests into a spinning world of a ‘Topsy turvy tea party’.

Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_Palladium Pre Function Queens Palace
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Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_Palladium Pre Function Queens Palace reality
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Photo credits: Jonathan DiMaggio; Graham Denholm
Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_Tea Party Entrance Candelabra
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Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_Mad Hatter Tea Party entrance
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The main room was themed as a whimsical and lush garden tea party and featured a central main stage for formalities and a satellite stage hosting the live band. Encore paid special attention to radial sound dispersion from a centralised audio cluster given its flown location and guests being seated around the central stage.

Lighting was precisely designed to perfectly complement the event theme with both intelligent beam fixtures, custom designed GOBO’s and a series of colour wash across the venue. The lighting effects were stunning as the light shimmered and sparkled against the silver sequin drapes that lined the perimeter of the room.

Encore utilised the latest in LED display technology constructing six giant LED cubes suspended from the ceiling, running customised content. These innovative displays were used to create hype moments with custom animations produced by Encore featuring live tally of funds raised as record donations poured in.

Pocket watches hung from the ceiling with themed animations showcasing each auction item and show the formalities, while also showing live to camera shots of the entertainment, MC and speeches.

Their creativity and technology solutions are just simply mind blowing. They are the best in the business when it comes to creating immersive themed events”

Tables draped in green velvet overlays and custom printed doily bases created a unique tea party style including enchanted florals, teacups, glass candlesticks, butterflies, and tall candelabras.

Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_LED CUBE
Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_main room wide shot
Photo credits: Jonathan DiMaggio; Graham Denholm
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Million Dollar Lunch - enchanted wonderland by Encore_Table treatment detail
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“The entire creative process and overall outcome was simply fantastic – every detail was meticulously created and delivered by Encore to create the most stunning and surreal experience for guests"
AFL Children's Cancer Council

Once the formalities were complete, VIP guests were surprised to find the seamless sequin drapes peel open up to reveal a speakeasy afterparty!

The creative for this room was inspired by the key and the bronze and checker elements. The magic continued with an infinity, LED checkered dance floor and ‘Key hole’ DJ stage. The attention to detail extended to an enchanted floating desert table offering yummy treats.

The Million Dollar Lunch event raised more than $2.9 million in much needed funds for the Children’s Cancer Council.

Photo credits: Jonathan DiMaggio; Graham Denholm
“The Million Dollar Lunch was a huge success and the enchanted wonderland experience delivered by the team was simply phenomenal. Not only did we bring the illustrative renders to life, but we managed to do so in the tightest of timeframes. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved in terms of integrating creative, technology and production elements into a unified theme"
Julz Parlington
Creative Director, Encore APAC
Photo credits: Jonathan DiMaggio; Graham Denholm