When the sun sets on Friday, the Sydney Opera House will light up with imaginary animals inspired by both nature and science-fiction.

The colourful motion graphics will illuminate the iconic building’s sails to help launch the Vivid Sydney light festival.

“Each creature represents a different emotion,” says Ash Bolland, a music video and TV advert director who conceived the display.

“It’s based on the idea of turning the opera house into a living, breathing entity.”

Bolland’s mesmerising spectacle, Audio Creatures, will be set to electronic music by a Brazilian producer, Amon Tobin.

As with previous years, crowds are expected to pack the harbour-side setting and other locations for the popular winter festival.

To create the artwork, Bolland sketched his ideas and concept art on a computer. The motion graphics were then completed by an animation company.

“I’ve got friends who are mixed up in the world of image projection,” the New Zealand-raised Australian says.

“The stuff that is successful for me is when you modify or transform the building. My plan with the Audio Creatures is to tell a story that is thrilling, exciting and feels like an old ’80s sci-fi film.”

When the festival began nine years ago, it drew 200,000 people. Last year there were 2.3 million attendees, injecting A$110m (£63m; $82m) into the local economy.

Event organisers also credit it with attracting interstate and international tourists.

This year, other installations include a street art mural in the city centre and sculptures of giant sunflowers in the Royal Botanic Garden.

At Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, oversized lanterns shaped like Tasmanian devils and crocodiles will entertain visitors, as will a 20m (65ft) walk-through shark.

Elsewhere, an optical illusion featuring a giant sinkhole will mimic the Aurora Australis.

“For me, it’s just bringing people together. I can bring my kids down and be amazed by the nightlife,” Bolland says.

“In a city that is well known for its summer, it’s an event that lights up the night during winter.”

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