Walking with Dinosaurs

September 16, 2008 11:17:47 PM PDT
Who hasn't wondered what it would really be like to see a living, breathing dinosaur?A few weeks ago, I encountered the next best thing, behind the scenes with people who make 'Walking with Dinosaurs' come alive.

"The paleontologist: the age of dinosaurs has reached a peak."

The time? Roughly sixty-five million years ago. The place? Anaheim, California suspended in pre-history for this 90 minute live theatrical arena experience.

Roaring T-Rex mankind and dinosaurs never shared the planet ... Until now.

They've been extinct for 65 million years but in the blink of an eye ... there they are."

Mat McCoy, Head of Puppetry: "It looks like a real dinosaur just walked out and decided to roar."

Meet the show's Tyrannosaurus Rex. T-Rex for short. Although this one is anything but ... He stands 18 feet high at the shoulder. It feels a lot like Jurassic Park in here. In fact it's so real, it's kind of scary. Especially having this big guy behind me!

The momma Brachiosaurus is 35 feet tall ... The baby close to 20 feet. They are big. But what you don't see behind the scenes ... Is no less astonishing ... Even to the human beings who control them.

Mat McCoy, Head of Puppetry: Unless you know someone who owns a time machine, it's as close as you're going to get."

Mat McCoy heads up the unseen crew whose skills at animatronics 'puppetry' have reached the extreme level. Each of the 10 large dinosaurs has 3 people working in concert to control them. And every one has more than 30 unique movements along with individualized sounds.

Mat McCoy, Head of Puppetry: "This isn't a random series of grunts and bellows, it's actually a score unto itself."

In a performance there are two puppeteers for each dinosaur operating from in this place. They call it "the voodoo lounge" a third operator drives these giants from a cockpit underneath them.

Mat McCoy, Head of Puppetry: "You have the eye blinks, the eye blinks here. The mouth and all the sounds and there's a palette of sounds for each dinosaur."

The result is a choreographed production spanning the 2-hundred million years when dinosaurs really did walk the earth.

Mat McCoy, Head of Puppetry: "The thing about dinosaurs is they have one foot in the mythic world and one foot in the real ? "

The folks who bring them life admit there is also an element of magic, one that happens when you suspend disbelief.

The live experience opens Wednesday in Fresno's Save Mart Center and runs through Sunday.

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