Walking with Dinosaurs
Hisense Arena, Thursday 12 May 2011
Like most people, I had heard the name Walking with Dinosaurs, but when I arrived at Hisense Arena, I really didn't know what to expect. Sure I'd heard about the $20 million budget and the 20 life-sized dinosaurs, but was it a stage show? A movie? Perhaps a musical?
As it turns out, Walking with Dinosaurs - The Arena Spectacular is a live theatrical show based on the BBC miniseries of the same name. The live show began in Australia in 2007 and in 2011 we're welcoming the dinosaurs home after their record breaking tours all over the world.
This unique show is designed as a journey through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Complete with lighting, a great musical score and roaring sound effects loud enough to vibrate my seat, this production was far from extinct.
Huxley, the friendly palaeontologist narrator, began the performance by transporting us back through time. We landed in the Triassic period and watched adorable baby dinosaur puppets hatch from their eggs. Before long, we met the surprisingly realistic Plateosaurus, Stegosaurus and Allosaurus. They could walk, roar and peer around at the audience. In fact, every time a dinosaur came near me I felt obliged to look warmly at its eyes as though it was a pet.
I thought the video clips and effects felt a tad outdated, but the animatronics were so incredible that it didn't matter. Each enormous dinosaur weighs 1.6 tonnes, required 200 litres of paint in its construction, and the largest (Brachiosaurus) is 11 metres tall. Apparently Australian artistic director William May's inspiration for the dinosaurs came from watching cranes build Melbourne's Southern Cross train station.
As the journey continued, the landscape and wildlife evolved. Large plastic plants and flowers inflated around the set and paper butterflies floated into the crowd. The set was literally the entire arena floor - when you're dealing with performers this large you need all the space you can get.
There was quite a spread of people in the audience: lots of young children with their families as well as interested adults. Everyone was simply captivated by the 3D versions of these legendary creatures. "My favourite bit is the fighting," said 10-year-old Michael, referring to the numerous dramatic dinosaur confrontations throughout the show.
The flying Ornithocheirus was a crowd favourite. It was suspended from the ceiling in front of a video screen that created the illusion that it was flying over oceans between newly formed continents.
Of course a dino show wouldn't be complete without the notorious T-Rex. She arrived just in time to rescue her baby from another dinosaur brawl, only to be wiped from the Earth by that infamous comet at the end of the production. "That was just fantastic," said fellow audience member Cam as he escorted two enthusiastic toddlers home.
I was really impressed by the presentation. Everything was educational but surprisingly accessible and by the end I felt inspired to learn more. Certainly the live performance was a brilliant spin on any ordinary documentary and I recommend taking the time to see it the next time the dinos come to town.
4 out of 5