"The BBC Series was a brilliant blend of special effects, escapism, excitement and information," says Carmen Pavlovic, head of The Creature Production Company. "Our show brings together all of that, plus something extra - it's live! In this production, seventeen roaring, snarling 'live' dinosaurs mesmerize the audience -- and are as awe-inspiring as when they first walked on earth."
More than 3.1 million Americans have already seen the production since it opened in July 2007. The production originated in Australia, where after years of planning, Walking with Dinosaurs came to life at Sydney's Acer Arena. The show proved to be such a sensation that this North American tour was fast-tracked. It began a short three months after completing its sold-out engagements in Australia. Since that time, the show's two companies have played to 4.4 million people worldwide and generated over $210 million dollars in overall ticket sales.
Ten species are represented from the entire 200 million year reign of the dinosaurs. The show includes the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the terror of the ancient terrain, as well as the Plateosaurus and Liliensternus from the Triassic period, the Stegosaurus and Allosaurus from the Jurassic period and Torosaurus and Utahraptor from the awesome Cretaceous. The largest of them, the Brachiosaurus is 36 feet tall, and 56 feet from nose to tail. It took a team of 50 -- including engineers, fabricators, skin makers, artists and painters, and animatronics experts -- a year to build the original production.
The show depicts the dinosaurs' evolution, complete with the climatic and tectonic changes that took place, which led to the demise of many species. With almost cinematic realism, Walking with Dinosaurs presents the interactions between dinosaurs, and the audience sees how carnivorous dinosaurs evolved to walk on two legs, and how the herbivores fended off their more agile predators.
The history of the world is played out with the splitting of the earth's continents, and the transition from the arid desert of the Triassic period is given over to the lush green prairies and forces of the later Jurassic. Oceans form, volcanoes erupt, a forest catches fire -- all leading to the impact of the massive comet, which struck the earth, and forced the extinction of the dinosaurs.
It took 50 artists and technicians one year to build the show. The 17 dinosaurs were originally "hatched" by Sonny Tilders, the head of creature design, in a Melbourne Docklands workshop big enough to park a 747. For the North American tour, the only building large enough to house rehearsals for the dinosaurs -- some as large as 36 ft tall by 56 ft long, was the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.
Faris said, "We take the audience on a journey back in time and show them how the dinosaurs might have actually looked in their prime - huge, sometimes frightening, sometimes comical monsters - that fought for survival every day of their lives." says Director Scott Faris. "Our dinosaurs move exactly like they are real -- with all the roars, snorts and excitement that go with it. The realism is mind-blowing!"
Sonny Tilders, who designed and built the creatures has been, for the past decade, one of the major creative forces of the high-tech world of animatronic puppetry for film and television. He was one of the lead animatronic engineers for Jim Henson's Creature workshop on the Farscape series, followed by work on Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, Peter Pan, Ghost Rider and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Tilders said, "Many of the technologies we are using on Walking with Dinosaurs are borrowed from film. The computer software and hardware we have developed is based on the systems used to control animatronic creatures in feature films."
"To make it appear that these creatures are flesh and blood weighing six, eight or even 20 tons, we use a system called 'muscle bags,' made from stretch mesh fabric and filled with polystyrene balls, stretched across moving points on the body. These contract and stretch in the same manner that muscle, fat, and skin does on real creatures," Tilders adds.
Puppeteers use "voodoo rigs" to make many of the dinosaurs move, the designer explains. "They are miniature versions of the dinosaurs with the same joints and range of movement as their life-sized counterparts. The puppeteer manipulates the voodoo rig and these actions are interpreted by computer and transmitted by radio waves to make the hydraulic cylinders in the actual dinosaur replicate the action, with a driver hidden below the animal, helping to maneuver it around the arena."
Suited puppeteer specialists, who are inside the creatures, operate five of the smaller dinosaurs.
You can see Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular during performances at Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont from July 28 through August 1. For tickets, call Ticket Master at 800-745-3000 or visit www.Ticketmaster.com. Tickets are also available at the Allstate Arena box office. For discounts on groups of 15 or more call GroupTix at 877-447-7849. Tickets range in price from $19.50 - $69.50.
For more information, please visit www.dinosaurlive.com
WALKING with DINOSAURS
July 28 through August 1