The late William May told me that the idea for Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular came to him when he stopped his car to watch cranes working at Docklands at night. He saw dinosaurs and knew that the technology existed that could make something as close to a real dinosaur as we can get, or, as he often said, he saw “wonderment”.
His dinosaurs are back in Melbourne for a four-night visit. First seen in 2007, the arena spectacular was developed in Melbourne (in conjunction with the BBC who made the tv series it’s based on) by Global Creatures and has travelled to the USA, Europe and Asia and been seen by well over seven million people.
The puppetry and animatronics (design team led by Sonny Tilders) haven’t aged and are still remarkable. With hand-painted skins and suspension that bounces like it’s alive, the life-size giant dinosaurs are breathtaking. It’s like seeing dinosaurs! Well, as close as we can ever imagine them. And who doesn’t want to see that?
Its narrative is no where near as complex as a paleontologist in a Driza-bone talks about fossils and evolution with a few jokes older than the dinosaurs. But he makes the evolutionary connection to birds – not reptiles – and even though humans weren’t even close to evolving when dinosaurs were about, the constant reminder of scale adds to the magnificence of the creatures.
Global Creatures have since produced How To Train Your Dragon: The Arena Spectacular, King Kong and Strictly Ballroom. All have all been technically spectacular, financially popular, and critically unpopular for relying on spectable. Walking With Dinosaurs could be so much more but millions have people have seen it because of the spectacle and feeling the wonderment.
PS. Head to your favourite last-minute ticket site for more affordable tickets.