"Walking With Dinosaurs: The Experience"

Event date: April 26th, 2008 - Review by Eric Renderking Fisk.

 

Ren's RantsI have two sons, ages 3 and 5 (who'll be turning 4 and 6 this summer...) and anyone who has spent time with boys know that giant reptiles is a part of their lives, whether we're talking about dragons that populate fantasy books and movies, or real dinosaurs who dominate museums and documentaries long after they were the masters of their domain millions of years ago.

If we're flipping through the channels and we stumble upon a show about these creatures, there will be a scream loud enough to frighten the scariest beast, demanding that I stop there so my boys can camp out with their favorite stuffed replicas and mimic what they see on the screen. If you have boys, part of their childhood will be dominated by these creatures - which means your lives will be, too. My oldest has a text-book quality tome and will ask me constantly to help him pronounce even the most obscure beasts... when he isn't building rocket-ships out of Legos that will take him to "Pangea" - the lost continent world where they still live to this day in their imaginations.

They've seen replica's of some dinosaurs at a few museums, but it's just isn't the same as hearing them and seeing them move.  For the longest time, the closest thing to that was the BBC Special "Walking With Dinasaurs" that aired almost a decade ago and our VHS copy wore out and might have been responsible for the eventual break down of our player... What a blast it would be to take them back through time and see these creatures up close so they get some idea of scale and size.

 

About a month ago my wife came home and mentioned that there was a show called "Walking With Dinosaurs," and we had to go. There was some hemming and hawing about the cost, the price was pretty steep and for all 4 of us to go the final price tag would be tipped well over $100 dollars. Via Ticketmaster, my wife was prepared to buy only two - meaning that our oldest would go with one of his parents.

My wife insisted that I take him, it would be a memory that would last a life time and he should go with his dad since he might become frightened. I insisted that she be the one who went since she isn't able to do as much with our oldest as she would like. After some debate back and forth and the realization that we would be getting a rebate check back from Uncle Sam, we bought four tickets and positioned ourselves in the stadium that would be close enough to see all the action but far away as to insure our three year old wouldn't be too frightened.

Even all the up towards the rafters, though... I still feel as if we actually saw Dinasaurs who were left out to run wild in The Verizion Stadium in Manchester New Hamphire.

 

I'm not even sure I can describe what I saw with out spoiling it or doing this justice...

In the same space that is usually taken up by the hockey ring, there was the stage where the dinosaurs and the narrator interact... and sometimes chase each other away. Covering the area was texture meant to look like a rough rock surface like slate or granite, but if you looked closely enough it was flat with painted shadows to give the rustic effect.

Off to one side of the arena, there was a large black curtains surrounding the opening of a giant maul, a complete set of teeth from some beast like a Tyrannosaur Rex. Along the inside and out of the large mouth were moving screens for the video projections and stage curtains that the dinosaurs used to enter and exit the arena.

The smaller beasts themselves  had a person inside the elaborate costumes with their legs camouflaged just enough so you could only see the legs of the beasts (Dinosaurs had legs that were the reverse of ours, bending at the knee in the opposite direction of our own.) The movements were totally non-human and were at times ranged from scary to playful.

The larger beasts where large mechanical puppets on long flat carts that rolled while the legs moved accordingly. I can only imagine that inside the largest of the beasts there must have been people controlling other aspects of the beasts, such as the head, mouth and tale.

All of this might sound very fake by my descriptions, but the color and texture of the dinosaurs skin made these things look incredibly realistic. Couple that with the correct lighting and use of theater smoke it's easy to forget that what you're looking at isn't real. There are those "Jurassic Park" like moments when my family and I were looking at these things with total awe... we silently wondered where did they find these real living beasts and how did they get them here with out making news on all the major networks.

I'm not even sure if I should use the word "choreography" - because the way the creatures moved it looked like organized chaos. There were moments when I thought they beasts would actually hit each other intentionally and inflict wounds on each other, then there were the moments when they showed a range of motion just enough to display emotions and feelings.

 

 

Is this worth around $100 for a family of four to see this for about 2 hours of entertainment? [I'm not including the compulsory souvenirs and the almost mandatory refreshments we were actually able to avoid since we were going out to dinner afterwards...] Let me just answer this question by making this observation...

... after we got home early enough in the evening, my son went and grabbed his books on Dinosaurs and started flipping through the pages looking for the ones that he saw, and then started talking about the ones that were featured in the show but weren't. Then he started to ask about what happened to them and what did the narrator mean when he said that some were killed off during a meteor storm, where The Gulf Of Mexico is, and what does it mean that some of them may have evolved into birds.

Even though he kept asking the same questions (and I tried to answer them differently each time to make sure he got it...) he and our youngest son actually played together with their new dinasours they got Saturday night with the old toys they were either given or bought with their own money they earned after doing chores around the house.

Because of the possible connection between the death of the dinasaurs and comet, my sons both sat down with me and watched most of this weeks episode of "The Universe" on The History Channel.

How can any parent put a price tag on a child's interest in science and history?

If you have the chance go to to "Walking With Dinosaurs: The Experience," then absolutely go and be prepared - the pictures I took and posted here just don't do this event justice. If you have the chance to go to any other event similar to this, go to that too. Be warned though, because your kids just might surprise you with the tough questions they'll ask you later on!

 

 

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More articles from Ren can be found here: The Rant Archive