I think a lot of people have some subject they just love no matter what. Maybe it’s shoes or time travel or Shakespeare. For me, there are several: Hellboy, Mucha, Batman… but the one that outshines them all is DINOSAURS.
It could even be an intelligent passion if I could get past that wall of child-like glee I encounter when I see/think about/hear a dinosaur. Maybe if I learned some of the more exotic, lesser-known species I could at least sound smart about it. But alas: my brain regresses (back to… let’s say 6?) and I just go ga-ga. There’s a glazed look in the eyes, a dumb smile on my face, and most likely some very high-pitched squeals. So when I heard that Walking with Dinosaurs was coming to Pittsburgh? Hoo boy.
Walking with Dinosaurs is a live action production based on the popular BBC series. A paleontologist walks you through the world during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, while 20 life-sized dinosaurs interact with one another in a grand joining of animatronics and puppeteering.
Granted, you could dress some chickens up in little dino suits and I would pay good money to watch them run around for a couple hours; but this was legitimately AMAZING. The smaller species like Liliensternus and Utahraptor (think Velociraptor) were dudes in suits — you could see their grey legs, but you eventually forgot they were there because the creatures moved so naturally and the fog helped distract you from the part that wasn’t dinosaur.
The bigger species — Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Torosaurus (think Triceratops, but bigger), Mama T-Rex and the massive Brachiosaurus — were “driven” by a man inside a tiny car-like mechanism at their base, while the more delicate actions were controlled remotely from backstage. Even if you didn’t care much for dinosaurs, the puppeteering aspect could have fascinated anyone. Their movements were natural, fluid, kinetic… they were very convincing.
The set was simple. There was a giant rock continent in the middle that split and migrated according the Earth’s continents of each period. When plants became more prevalant, the perimeters of the ring and the continents sprouted giant inflatable foliage, which was a superb way to translate the arrival of this new predominant lifeform — it looked like they bloomed when they appeared, and they wilted convincingly when volcanic shifts occured. The music was dramatic, fun and appropriate. Also, a surprising amount of detail came in the lighting. Whoever directed the lights for this show did a phenomenal job — it conveyed large-scale geological shifts and general weather with ease and beauty. It could have easily been corny, and it wasn’t.
The most impressive part was definitely the realism of movement, however. I only took still photos — you can check out some footage of the show here. It was darned impressive.
I could go on and on and on. A coworker asked me about the show on Monday because I’d been so excited about it — he didn’t know what he was in for. I proceeded to give him a detailed breakdown of what happened, which species were involved, and how freakin’ cool it was. If it comes to your town and you have any interest in dinos or puppets, I highly recommend it.
And this is an Ankylosaurus:
I want to hug him and squeeze him and take him home.