Back on the 18th of August 2018, I had an amazing dinosaur day-out in London. I got to see BBC Earth’s Walking with Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular. This production is created by Global Creatures in association with BBC Studios, and is a live-action piece which explores dinosaurs through the different ages. The show is heavily inspired by Walking With Dinosaurs – a hit Television series produced by Tim Haines (Of Impossible Pictures, the company responsible for Primeval) which first aired on the BBC in 1999.
The show was created as a deep dive into dinosaurs – educating people on how different dinosaurs lived and behaved, whilst also covering areas of paleontology to explain to us how the scientists of today can piece this knowledge together in the first place. The show grew and expanded – with side specials like ‘The Ballard of Big Al’ and ‘Sea Monsters – Prehistoric Predators of The Deep’ doing even more to expand upon the series. Having recently watched the series on UK Netflix, I really enjoyed it – and was appreciative of the educational value of the show. So, I was absolutely delighted when this live show proceeded to take on a very similar format!
The show starts in the Triassic Period – between 245 to 208 million years ago. Here, we visit Pangaea – the solo continent on the planet during this period. As we explore the environment, we meet a Liliensternus – a small theropod dinosaur which has ties to the Jurassic carnivore - Dilophosaurus. The Liliensternus is a vivid animal, with long feathers and brightly coloured plumage really making it stand out. The accompanying show guide explains that the Liliensternus is named after German palaeontologist Hugo Ruele von Lilienstern – who presumably discovered the specimen. We also then meet Plateosaurus – the largest land animal of the late Triassic Period, and one of the earlier giant herbivores. Like a Brachiosaur or Apatosaur but with less neck length, the Plateosaurus was still an awesome animatronic to see in action – and it was fun getting to learn more about these humongous beasts from the Triassic period who I had not discovered before.
We then skip forward in time again – very like the format of the television show – arriving in the Jurassic Period, where we encounter some fan favourite dinosaurs. We start off with the Allosaurus – and it was amazing getting to see Big Al himself immortalised in an animatronic! As a fan of Impossible Pictures and the BBC’s prior work, it was special getting to see this dinosaur in action again – especially as it finds more infamy with its appearance in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. We also get the Stegosaurus – which was my second favourite animatronic which was created by the show. Stegosaurus has been a dinosaur which has stayed with me since The Lost World: Jurassic Park – and it was realised well in the animatronic here, looking incredibly organic and lifelike. The animatronic created for the Stegosaur is arguably my favourite – and is something which would not look amiss in any Jurassic film.
We then get my favourite dinosaur from this show presented to us – the Brachiosaur. And oh, my god – the animatronic created here is massive. I am so used to seeing animatronics where only the head and neck moves, so seeing an animatronic here where the whole creature moved was truly impressive – and spoke volumes of the depth the team went to when creating the animatronics for this project. The Brachiosaurs are massive, lumbering Sauropods – just as they should be, and they feel incredibly imposing, commanding your entire attention. Furthermore, there are two – a juvenile and an adult, which only lends itself further to the sense of awe and wonder. I was truly overwhelmed seeing these beautiful creatures realised in front of me. After this, the show then takes another step forward, travelling to the Cretaceous Period – just 65 million years ago.
Arriving in the Cretaceous period, we are greeted with a beautiful video sequence showcasing the truly incredible Ornithocheirus – a beautiful pterosaur with a wingspan of up to 40 feet! This creature was not an animatronic but was CGI – presented in this beautifully rendered coastal flight sequence which was breath-taking. We then depart from this gentle giant as it attempts to land – right where two Utahraptors are waiting! The Utahraptors here are nimble and quick – with both arguing over a dead corpse. Here, we are shown how Utahraptor females have dominance – with the male having to wait until the female has eaten. We also get a demonstration of their knowledge and pack-hunting instincts – all done in a wonderful way which is bound to resonate with younger audiences.
We then get introduced to two herbivores and how they have adapted. The first is the beautiful Torosaurus – a refreshing change from the usual Triceratops! Here we explore Torosaurus herds, and how one Torosaurus is usually leader of the pack. We have an intense showdown between an older and younger Torosaurus, before the older one ultimately has his horn snapped and must concede defeat! We are then also introduced to an Ankylosaurus – and the fact that this is the biggest, most tank-like armoured herbivore is explained. The live show takes an interesting stance – exploring how creatures have adapted across the eras to hunt and survive more efficiently. This, of course, climaxes in the reveal of a massive Tyrannosaurus animatronic which all the audience have been waiting for. It bellows a deafening roar and absolute storms around the stage, really imposing its power and might upon the audience. The creature is presented as a horror, but we soon see it caring for a juvenile T-Rex, showing us that they are highly-skilled social animals and not mere blood thirsty creatures.
The show finishes with the Great Mexico meteor striking, and the dinosaurs turning extinct – before our friendly paleontologist reminds us that birds are dinosaur descendants, and dinosaurs are still around us today! The show is a fantastic educational feat – with visually stunning sequences combined with educational story telling delivered in the form of the paleontologist. The information provided here is deep and rich – matching perfectly to the more education focused stance the original television production took. This is Walking with Dinosaurs greatest strength – and is one of the reasons I adored this show! The Live Tour is currently touring around Europe with some stops in Dublin and London later this year. Tonight, I implore you – take yourself back in time, and go Walking with Dinosaurs.
Visit Walking With Dinosaurs online for more information and tour dates.
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