Lifesize Dinosaurs Part of $20 Million Theatrical Show
Lifesize Dinosaurs Part of $20 Million Theatrical Show

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Dinosaurs, those extinct enormous animals, have been the subject of many books, movies, and scientific hypotheses.  For the past two years, a lifelike dinosaur show has toured Australia, Europe and the United States.  It teaches a timeline of when and how dinosaurs lived and demonstrates just how huge the animals were.  VOA's Carolyn Presutti caught up with the show in Washington, DC.

Children know dinosaurs. Even though they've never seen one.

MATT: "How old are they?  65 million years old, I guess.
REPORTER: "Kind of like your parents?"  
MATT: "Yea, I guess."
REPORTER: "But dinosaurs are extinct, right?  They don't really live, right?"
EVAN: "They do! The real ones are in there!"

He's right. Inside, it's a travel back in time, more than 100 million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled.

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There is a baby brachiosaurus and its mother.  She towers above the arena at 11 meters tall and 17 meters long.

The bracs are part of the traveling show, "Walking with Dinosaurs."  It's a $20 million production, where animatronics add to the realism.  

Here's how it works in rehearsals.Stegosaurus lumbers in at 5 and a half meters tall and 11 meters high.  Next to him stands the armored ankylosaurus.  The 17 dinosaurs in the show are covered with elasticized mesh filled with polystyrene balls.  The fabric skin contracts and stretches across muscles and bones just like on real creatures.

Three people activate each dinosaur by remote control. Two of them stand among the audience and work at what's called a voodoo rig.  The voodoo rig is actually a mechanical miniaturized version of a dinosaur.  This is the body, this is the spine and neck area and this is the head.  So whenever the puppeteer moves this apparatus, it sends a remote signal to the floor and in turn, the dinosaur moves.

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Ed May, the second puppeteer, controls the smaller movements.  

"This is the joystick that operates the mouth by moving it back and forth and this little toggle switch here works the eyes has the eye blinks and side to side," he said.

A keyboard controls the dinosaur's voicebox.  May coordinates that sound by pulling on the lever to open the mouth.

The third person is the driver who sits in the carriage beneath the animal.

"They have a joystick that allows them to turn left or right, go fast or slow....a brake so they can stop quickly if they need to," added Ed May.

They are oversized, bygone fossils, but it's the subtle coordination of the puppeteers that makes them appear lifelike.

DAVID (AGE 10): "It was just like bringing back all the creatures from long ago.  You'd never think it could happen, but it did happen."

Just don't tell Evan they are remote control.