[Review] - Walking With Dinosauress: The Arena Spectacular

Walking with Dinosaurs was, probably, the most influential modern programme about dinosaurs outside of Jurassic Park. It helped that it was technically cutting edge, and found a way to balance the science with entertainment. So, in 2007, when it was adapted into a "stage show," the challenge was to see if they could maintain the same balance, whilst also creating animatronic recreations of the series' animals that were effectively believable. In that, they also succeeded.

Currently in the middle of its second world tour, Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular is exactly that: a spectacle. An amazing feat of engineering, and easily the closest we will ever get to experiencing these animals in the flesh. Touted as an all ages event, this is not simply dinosaurs on parade or Jurassic fight club. This is edu-tainment: packaging real learning in an accessible and enjoyable wrapping. And, on its second time around, has managed to do what most are unwilling to: it has kept up with the research, and altered itself accordingly.

Hit the jump for the brief review.

Obviously, the most impressive and note worthy thing about Walking With Dinosaurs are the dinosaurs. These life size, or life size-ish, recreations amble around the stage with as much grace and realism as could hope from robots. that, in fact, sells it a little short. The magic of the show is the level of realism that the robotics is able to demonstrate. The way the limbs move, the tails sway, the way the skin bunches at the joints all behaves in a way familiar to anyone who has spent time watching large animals at the zoo. the tale-tell signs of automation are hidden as well as can be expected, though if you are sitting near children, expect them to pick up on these strange aberrations with immediate suspicion. But the craftsmanship is stellar, and effective enough to allow the suspension of disbelief to take over.

Recognizing that it is a harder sell, the producers have taken the effort to include little details and behaviours in the animals that are so convincing that your guard involuntarily drops, and you feel like you are watching real animals. The mimicry of the juvenile T. rex as it follows it's mother around the stage, the affectionate ballet of the Brachiosaurus as they wander the stage, occasionally stopping to rub necks. It's the heavily staged action that comes off looking the most manufactured: the non-impacting tail swings or the pre-broken bones. Raptors absently chewing at the corpse of some fallen prey seems less real when they come away with nothing in their teeth, compared to Liliensternus actively devouring a hatchling earlier in the show.

The show tows that fine line of having the dinosaurs everyone knows and expects (basically, the Jurassic Park lineup), and introducing the presumably interested audience in something new. Mostly they rely on the familiar physical appearances to introduce the audience to some names they might be familiar with. The aforementioned Liliensternus is a substitute for the duel-crested Dilophosaurus, just as the Torosaurus stands in for Triceratops. Then there are the usual suspects, like Stegosaurus and the ubiquitous raptor, with the T. rex capping off the show. It's wise for the show to cater to expectations, and nice to see that they managed to include a little variety where they could.

Since I last saw the show, on it's first go-round, science has marched on, and the opinion is now that theropods had feathers. Rather than remain obstinate, like other cultural depictions, the show has incorporated this new information into the show, as explained by the narrator. As such, the predators now all boast colourful plumage and manes on their heads and necks. It's a far cry from the whole body covering that is currently assumed by paleontologists, but at least it is an acknowledgement of the progression, without having to completely re-skin the beasts.

There were a lot of children at this performance, and there is certainly a push to getting kids in the arena, but do not mistake that for the notion that it is a kid's show,  like Disney on Ice. Through the narrator, the show manages to cover some pretty complex science as well. Subjects like plate tectonics, the evolution of flowers and the differences and importance of different kinds of fossils are all covered, and probably go unnoticed by the younger audience members, who sit and wait in eager anticipation for the next brute to lumber from the parted curtain. Which, if I'm being honest, I was too.
Share on Google Plus

About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


Post a Comment