Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular is returning to the United States with a $20 million show that is geared to entertain audiences of all ages. Including 20 dinosaurs built to full scale as well as the territories in which they lived, the purpose of the show is to highlight the most enduring species to live on this planet. After a 200 million year run and extinction at the hands of a famous meteor, the spectacle returns and promises that they will be roaming America once again.
In 2007, the show opened in the United States and in three years traveled 144 cities and tallied more than 1,000 live performances to over 4 million people. Overall in the four years since they started, they have completed 1,746 shows around the world in 206 cities to a total of 7.3 million gaping mouths.
The experience is existential, since the entire purpose of the show reaches far beyond scientific study, and even the most jaded intellectuals turn into children again at the sight of what seems to be a dream come to life. To hear them roar and stand in awe of their size makes everyone forget that they are looking at very well-crafted and carefully engineered puppets that require up to three people to control, the largest being a 36 foot tall Brachiosaur that measures 56 feet from tail to nose and weighs up to 1.6 tons. Created by a team of 50 engineers and costume designers, the animatronic monsters can even blink and roar.
In an attempt to keep the show up to date with recent evidence that predatory dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex are ancestors of modern birds, some artistic liberties were taken that depict the reptiles with feathers. Realism noted, they plan to postulate that the baby Rex may have had “dinofuzz,” as well as some of the raptor species, but whether or not their plans to wheel out the full-sized mother Rex as a gigantic chicken and refer to it as one of the largest predators to ever walk the earth and have it warmly accepted by the audience remains to be seen. Certainly, though plenty may gasp in wonder, it tends to demystify the ferocity of it when paleontologists liken it to far-flung genetic descendants like sparrows.
Tim Haines, who has a degree in Applied Zoology from Bangor University, is the creator and producer of science shows for the BBC. The outlook he adopted for his own Walking With Dinosaurs experience was quite simple, to show them doing what they would in nature, and the idea came in 1996 shortly after the movie Jurassic Park amazed everyone with the welcomed thrill of seeing the animals alive. He wanted the background to be realistic as well and traveled to find ancient trees such as the redwood forests in northern California, the Labyrinth in Tasmania, the beech gap in New Zealand, and the araucaria forests in southern Chile.
Many children grew up admiring paintings and elaborate depictions of the world these creatures lived in and wanted deeply to see them in the flesh, so the appeal of the experience goes beyond scientific inquiry and takes a place in our nostalgic youth as being one of the few wishes we can say actually came true. The arena spectacular is produced by an Australian company called Global Creations, and they expect to perform on 22 dates in the US and Canada, starting in Cleveland on July 9 and followed by New York City. They plan on completing their tour in California around Christmas and ending the show in Salt Lake City in January 2015.
By Elijah Stephens