When Dinosaurs Ruled The Mind #47: Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular

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https://whendinosaursruledthemind.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/introduction-remember-dinosaurs-theyre-different-now/

 

Admit it, you’ve always wanted to see a real live dinosaur. That has been the dream of a million kids, enthusiasts and paleontologists across the world. Of course, the only thing we had for a while were special effect driven films and documentaries,. And even if those films were completely accurate, it wouldn’t be the same as physically being in the presence of one of those fantastic beasts. The team behind Walking With Dinosaurs knew this. Even though they created a series that made dinosaur more real and alive then they have ever been to us before, it still wasn’t walking with the dinosaurs.

So they decided to rectify that.

What resulted was a massively successful live show that has been touring for several years over several countries. The show uses incredibly realistic animatronic dinosaurs that are bought to life using puppetry, robotics and a little human intuition (as well as some long beams to support the robot’s massive weight, which can take you out of the experience of you let it).

The dinosaurs are mostly based on the ones from the Walking With Dinosaurs series, but that show is two decades old. Science has progressed quite a bit since then. So, how do these dinosaurs hold up under a scrutinizing eye? Let’s find out.

Keep in mind, however, I have never actually physically seen this show, although I would like to one day. I have, though, seen the entire thing filmed on Youtube, so I have a good idea of what the experience would be like. Still, it is one of those things I would like to see in real life.

The show starts out in the Triassic period, a fitting place to begin. The show’s announcer, who is playing a paleontologist, explains that the land masses of the world once formed one continent, called Pangaea. We meet our first dinosaur, and appropriately enough, it is one of the first really big dinosaurs to appear. It is a Plateosaurus.

Now, if you remember, Plateosaurus made a small appearance in the Walking With Dinosaurs show, but it was basically a cameo at the end to show that the dinosaurs were getting bigger.

It looks fairly similar to the series’ version, but I don’t know, the live one looks a little frog faced to me. Perhaps it’s just a bit too derpy for my tastes.

The Plateosaurus is seen looking after it’s eggs, which is cited as one of the reasons reptiles became so successful. These eggs, however, are attacked by Liliensternus.

Now, if you remember, Liliensternus wasn’t in the original show. The theropods that were focused on in the Triassic segment of the show was Coelophysis. Obviously, Coelophysis would have been way to small for a show like this, especially since the small carnivores are controlled by humans in a robotic puppet costume. It also kind of makes more sense scientifically, as Liliensternus was found in the same place and time as Plateosaurus, while Coelophysis was from another part of the world and lived slightly later.

Now, when the show first started touring, all the theropods were portrayed as traditionally scaly (even the ones that they really should have known better). But recently, the production has updated the theropods and all of them now have at least some feathering, even Liliensternus.

Now, putting feathers on Triassic dinosaurs is only recently trendy, but is gaining popularity (especially since many scientists now think the ancestors of all archosaurs were covered in some sort of filaments). But remember in my ‘Dinosaurs Over The Years: Raptors’ review when I noted my distaste in raptor portrayals that look like they just glued some feathers on a Jurassic Park raptor? Well, that’s literally what happened here. But we’ll get to that a little bit more later.

After leaving the Triassic, we then jump to the Late Jurassic of North America, the only interesting place and time in the whole Jurassic period apparently. We meet up with our next dinosaur, Stegosaurus.

The Stegosaurus seems pretty accurate to the series’ version in most respects. If you remember in the show, the stegosaur had the ability to flash blood into it’s plates to make them red and intimidating. Although the live show mentions that this is a possible theory, nobody is really for sure what the plates are for (although I’m pretty confident they were for display purposes, and possibly to make them look more intimidating). The Stegosaurus is then attacked by the ever present Allosaurus.

The Stegosaurus, of course, fends off the predator with it’s spiked tail (with a little help from an impromptu fire). We leave the Stegosaurus, and follow the allosaur further.

The Allosaurus, for the most part, looks fine, However, I think they could have made it look a bit cooler. I personally love Allosaurus, perhaps more than T. rex, but in this production he just seems a little bland. But he’s still fine.

It’s not long before the allosaur finds it’s next potential prey item, a juvenile Brachiosaurus.

It’s stated that the young Brachiosaur wandered from it’s herd, making him a target for predators. But before Allosaurus can get his grabby little claws on him, Big Momma comes.

 

You may or may not know that Brachiosaurus, or the sauropod creature actually based on Giraffatitan that we still call Brachiosaurus, is my favorite dinosaur. Now, one of the reasons I would love to see this show in person is just to feel myself next to this animatronic, and finally get a sense of how it would feel to stand next to this gigantic creature. I would love to have the opportunity one day.

Sadly, the depiction here suffers from many of the outdated tropes this dino continues to suffer from. The nostrils are positioned on the top of it’s head like the creature is traditionally portrayed, even though that line of thought is now considered outdated. Despite that, it’s a flaw we continue to see often in sauropod reconstructions simply because it is so prevalent. It would also have been nice to see the skin not conform to the face so tightly (I will talk about ‘skin wrapping’ dinosaurs eventually). But I’m still a sucker for this kind of depiction of Brachiosaurus purely for selfish and nostalgic reasons, so I still think they look beautiful.

After the sauropods, we enter the early Cretaceous, and meet the pterosaur Ornithocheirus, straight from the mini series.

The Ornithocheirus is portrayed fairly decently, and I like that they took the time to give it a nice woolly covering of feathers (yes, I said feathers; not fur, not pyctofibers of whatever the hell we used to say, full fledged feathers).

The pterosaur is held up with wires and moved with what I guess is a mixture of robotics and puppetry. However, the Ornithocheirus doesn’t fly around the stadium and above the audience, or really much of anything. It just kind of hangs in one place, in front of a film screen.

The screen behind it simulates flight and movement, as the camera flies over the ocean and several beaches and points of terrain. However, it’s easy to not pay attention to the screen and focus on the fact that the pterosaur itself isn’t really doing much. This is something that may or may not take you out of the experience, and I personally think they should have decided against using pterosaurs in the show in the first place.

Thankfully, that segment doesn’t last too long, and we are then treated to a pack of Utahraptors.

The raptors (at least at first) are shown to be featherless. This show launched in 2007, meaning it was in production at least in 2006, meaning there really is no excuse for this. Scientist new better even then. This kind of look can even be kind of insulting to some. The show, however, does note that the arms fold to their sides like birds, so at least there is that.

In the more recent tours, however, they decided to update the look of the raptors, and they now officially have feathers.

However, by modern standards, the feathering is….minimal. Laughable depending on who you’re asking. The feathers are literally glued on, and having the feathers looked glued on is a major no no when reconstructing feathered dinosaurs. Still, they now look a lot better, and at least this helps get the message across better that these guys were related to birds. Saying that while portraying scaly dromaeosaurs is like saying you’re not a pervert while sniffing the girl’s hair. It’s hypocritical.

We then leave the raptors and make our way to the Late Cretaceous, so you know what that means….

Hell Creek Formation!

We witness the rise of flowering plants, and discover our horned friend, Torosaurus, foraging among them.

Once again, the ‘Walking With…’ guys prefer to use this guy over it’s more famous contemporary Triceratops. Now, I know there is a lot of debate over whether this guy is just a mature Triceratops or it’s own separate genus. I’ve personally have usually been in the boat that they are one and the same, but I don’t blame you at all if you think it’s distinct. To put things in perspective, Gregory S. Paul (the same guy who helped spread the myth that Deinonychus was a species of Velociraptor) categorizes all centrosaurine dinosaurs (like Centrosaurus, Styracosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus, Einiosaurus, Achelousaurus, and so on) as all in one genus; Centrosaurus, because the only real difference between them is crest and horn shape. Do I agree with this statement? Not really, but you can see just how divisive some scientists are when trying to figure out what fossil goes where on the dinosaur family tree.

We then meet up with Ankylosaurus, which looks pretty much exactly like it’s mini series counterpart.

Although once again I applaud it for not having nodosaur-like side spikes, the armor itself is still not completely accurate, as seen in my Dinosaurs Over The Years post on Ankylosaurus (I don’t like to repeat myself too often). However, it’s still one of the better looking Ankylosaurs I’ve seen in pop culture, and I think the model for it is fantastic.

Now, of course, we can’t have a visit to Late Cretaceous North America without a visit from the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex. The narrator announces it’s presence, the name itself sending shivers down the audiences spine. Then, out behind the curtain, with a gigantic silhouette of the beast signalling it’s arrival. Then, out comes….

 

A baby.

 

Yep, they know not to blow their T. Rex trump card too early. We are instead treated to to young Tyrannosaurus, who is cute and curious and everyone loves him. However, Torosaurus and Ankylosaurus aren’t quite as happy with it’s little visit. They begin to get defensive, so the baby Rex lets’ out a little cry (the same cry the baby T. rex in The Lost World Jurassic Park used I believe). And when a baby calls out to it’s momma, you know what that means.

Mommy’s very angry.

The mother Tyrannosaurus comes out and saves her baby from the villainous herbivores mwahahaha!!!!

 Ehem…

Anyway the Torosaurus and Ankylosaurus leave the baby alone and the mother and baby have a tender moment together.

Awww, that’s adorable.

Now, first off I’ll say that the Tyrannosaurus here looks a lot better than the one from the series…

…but I kind of wish they kept the series’ Rex’s color scheme, which is one thing I do like.

T. rex is one of those dinosaurs in the live show that got updated with a covering with feathers. Now, it would seem that at least giving the baby one some fluffiness is a given…

I’m so cute and fluffyyyy!!!

…but they even give the adult Rex a good covering.

YES! PROGRESS!

All in all, this show is pretty good. The dinosaurs are awesome too look at; their movements are realistic, they are life sized, it’s almost like being next to a real live dinosaur.

That is, I imagine it would feel like that. Like I said, I haven’t actually seen it live. But I would love to. The dinosaur models range from very accurate (the feathered T. rexes) to standard (the Brachiosaurus and Ankylosaurus) to just kind of plain wrong (the raptors, both pre and post feathered). But they are still really good. On a scale of accuracy, I give the original models a….

6.5 out of 10.

As for the updated feathered models, I’ll raise the score to an….

8.2 out of 10.

The only thing really keeping it down are the raptors and a few minor mistakes concerning some of the other dinosaurs.

Now, I’ll leave you to some awesome viral videos featuring the dinosaurs in this show.

Join me next time as I do another Trope-osaurus, dealing with the always seen herbivore defense, tail swinging.

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8 thoughts on “When Dinosaurs Ruled The Mind #47: Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular

  1. so we’ll see stegosaurs , ankylosaurs , nodosaurs and sauropods .
    did i miss any other group of dinosaurs that ”use their tail for defending them selfs”.
    i do think that stegosaurs , ankylosaurs and nodosaurs had this sort of behaviour.
    but with sauropods it depends on which specific dinosaur.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Tyrannotherium is an awesome name, but in naming animals, the suffix ‘therium’ is usually reserved for mammals, as that is traditionally what the word ‘beast’ refers to. I have never seen a dinosaur with the the suffix ‘therium’, but small mammals you wouldn’t think to call ‘beast’, like Volaticotherium, have it.

        However, I wonder if those rules are set in stone….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m wondering if stegosaur plates weren’t just a type of feather. That we judged the fossil plates wrong. The tail too covered in feathers. The plate-feathers making it like a peacock.

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    1. Well, the plates were made out of bone, but some recent studies suggest that the scutes on a modern crocodile’s back are descended from the genes that created feathers, and that perhaps the spines on the back of sauropods were also connected, so who knows. I do believe they were used for display like a peacock, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. OK, here’s a question since you’d know better than I would. The adult T. rex here looks a LOT like a feathered Jurassic Park rex with a few tiny alterations. The head shapes look nearly identical. Is this type of reconstruction some type of subliminal thing where reconstructors, having had the image of the JP rex burnt into their brains since childhood, think that Jurassic Park’s model is the baseline for rex reconstructions and that rexes should mostly look like the ones in those movies? Or is it just a universally accepted thing that rexes’ heads looked like the one above, with the really boxy jaws and the little ridge of scales above the eye and everything? I see some rex reconstructions– in toys, other dinosaur shows, etc.– that are dead ringers for Jurassic Park’s rex, and some that look completely different.

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    1. Well, the Rex is certainly a lot more like the JP Rex than the Walking With Dinosaurs one, who’s design has garnered some criticism. Perhaps they felt this look was more aesthetically appealing to a massive audience without detracting too much away from accuracy.

      Liked by 1 person

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