Walking with Dinosaurs

September 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Audiences around the world flocked to see Steven Spielberg's dinosaurs in Jurassic park. In mid September another version of prehistory opens at Fresno's Save Mart Center. And once again human beings are essential in bringing these dinosaurs to life. An actor portraying the paleontologist/historian closes the 1st of 2 acts with this comment, "Life on earth will never again be this big." He is the only human in the show.

The pre-historic world of dinosaurs has moved from computer generation to life-size animatronics. It came to life two years ago in Australia. This year audiences in America are taking in this live theatrical arena show. 5 year old Anna Dalton told us what she liked after the production she saw in Anaheim's Honda Center, "I liked the baby long neck and I liked them hugging."

It helps if you're willing to suspend disbelief and just accept 'this' world as real. You will also see a history lesson that was two hundred million years in the making. The paleontologist explains the rise and the fall of the different dinosaurs that once roamed the earth and how they met their end 65 million years ago.

On the arena floor the dinosaurs are controlled by so-called animatronics puppeteers like Michael Hamilton, "It's what's been lovingly called, amongst the crew, as: Edge-U-Tainment." And none of it would be possible without the behind the scenes, extraordinary puppeteers like Chad Colton. He's one of the so-called "Suits". He wears a dinosaur suited he can make come alive once inside it. One of his fellow puppeteers demonstrated while he explained it. He's one of six performers who 'inhabit' the small dinosaurs

Their movements are controlled partially by the puppeteer inside the dinosaur suit and remotely by others you don't see. I couldn't resist going with the illusion so I asked, "can we give you a little pet oh, what a sweet heart I hope! you don't bite do you? ah...." They don't bite! But the result is lifelike and at times even the puppeteers are awe-struck says Chad, "The lights come on, everybody in the audience inhales and you almost feel yourself getting pulled forward by it."

The actions of the ten huge dinosaurs are also controlled remotely but a human being guides them around the arena. Michael Hamilton is the lead dinosaur driver, "In some of the action sequences that we have, we actually come pretty close to each other. Sometimes we actually bump into to each other or the set and get stuck."

The 'drivers' are inside an odd cockpit between the giant marching legs of the Big boys of the Dinosaur world. The contraption seems to disappear with the addition of theatrical lighting.

This is after all, a spectacle but one with an animatronic heart. The Paleontologist explains it this way, "Now do you see why I think this is such a glorious period in our earth's history?"

It is something you have to see and hear for yourself to believe!

Tomorrow night on Action News we'll bring you more from behind the scenes of "Walking with Dinosaurs" when we take you to the voodoo lounge where the remote control of these animatronic creatures actually takes place.

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