Based on the Emmy Award-winning BBC TV series, the king-size animatronic stage production of Walking with Dinosaurs will descend on China this fall, kicking off at Beijing's Wukesong Arena from September 29 to October 9.
A scene on the stage of Walking with Dinosaurs [Global Times]
In order to ready China for how life-like (and scary) their dinosaurs can be, Austrialian-based The Creature Production Company held a press conference earlier this week at Wukesong Arena and inviting 30 local primary school kids for a front row sneak peek. It only took one of the mid-sized dinosaurs stepping on stage to trigger a wave of screams.
"When I saw the dinosaur, it looked so real, I got scared and screamed, but I also want to see the dinosaur again, it is scary but exciting," 8-year-old-girl Wu Jun told the Global Times.
Originally produced in Australia, Walking with Dinosaurs-The Arena Spectacular is currently on tour with a North American and Europe-Asia cast. Most recently brought to China in cooperation with AEG ThemeSTAR, the show has already performed for more than 5.2 million across the world since first opening in Sydney in January 2007.
According to Carmen Pavlovic, CEO of Austrialian-based The Creature Production Company, considering the size of the operation, there are only so many venues that can accommodate these prehistoric stars.
"The dinosaurs are life-size, making the show so immense, it could only fit in Wukesong Arena," she said.
The $20 million production crams 160 million years of prehistoric history into a two-act, 96-minute show, from dinosaur evolution to their eventual extinction.
"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," director Scott Faris said. "Our dinosaurs move exactly like they are real—with all the roars, snorts and excitement that go with it," he added.
The show has received worldwide acclaim for its special effects, including the Billboard Touring Award for Creative Content in 2008 and the Pollstar Concert Industry Award for Most Creative Stage Production in 2009.
According to Hai Ou, marketing director of the Wukesong Arena, the show will include ten different species and a total of 20 dinosaurs, three more than the North American production, which include a full-sized plateosaurus from the Triassic, stegosaurus from the Jurassic and allosaurus from the Cretaceous periods.
The show hinges on how realistic-looking the company can pull off staging 1.5 metric-ton animatronic dinosaurs for kids weaned on CGI since birth. Crews achieve their life-like movements by manning the eight larger dinosaurs with three operators: one "driver," and two "Voodoo Puppeteers," which involves remote controls fixed to the operators' arms. One operates the head and tail while the other directs the jaws, eyes and roars.
Three smaller one-man suits and nine baby dino puppets make up the rest of the herd, the largest which is a 36 feet-tall, 56 feet-long brachiosaurus.
According to Sonny Tilders, head of creature design, it took some special engineering to simulate muscle movement under the skin of the reptile beasts.
"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," Tilders explained.
"These contract and stretch in the same manner that muscle, fat, and skin does on real creatures."
Although an amazing family-oriented show, all that detail might be a little too real for some young audience members.
"I brought my 8-year-old daughter Pingping to see the dinosaurs, but she was so scared and wanted to go home," said guest speaker Hong Huang, editor-in-chief of iLook Magazine, at the press conference.
Currently in Tokyo, Walking with Dinosaurs is also scheduled to run in Nanjing and Shanghai before wrapping up its Asian Tour in Seoul later this year.