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Dinosaurs return to life in a groundbreaking theatrical production roaring to life

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represented, including the three-horned Torosaurus; the back-plated, spike-tiled Stegosaurus; the long-necked, three-story-tall Brachiosaurus; vicious Raptors; and, of course, the king of the dinosaurs and one of the largest predators to ever walk the earth, Tyrannosaurus Rex.

In addition to showing how they lived, the production also tells the story of the earth and the many dynamics it endured during that time, including climatic changes, the separation of the continents, and the cataclysmic event, scientists believe wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

"We use an actor that plays a paleontologist to tell the story," said Cameron Wenn, tour director. "It gives you a great sense of scale. You can actually see how large the dinosaurs are, compared to a human being."

ANIMATRONIC AND HYDRAULIC SYSTEMS
Many of the technologies used to bring the dinosaurs to life were developed for feature films. The complex animatronic and hydraulic systems are on par with what was used in movies like "Jurassic Park." To give the appearance of flesh-and-blood creatures weighing several tons each, each of the dinosaurs has a system of "muscle bags" under the skin that contract and stretch like real muscle and fat.

The head of the creature team, Michael Hamilton, explained that to ensure that the dinosaurs look real and give organic performances, they are not preprogrammed, but are instead puppeteered live at every performance.

"Each of the 10 larger dinosaurs takes three people to operate it," Hamilton said. "A driver that is hidden underneath the dinosaur guides its overall direction onstage, and two other puppeteers are responsible for all the other body and facial performance."

Working inside 90-pound suits, five other performers bring the Raptors and baby T-Rex to life. Although many of the puppeteers have been with the show since its beginning, Wenn still keeps a sharp eye on the performances.

"It's important to keep the show tight. It may look like the dinosaurs are just randomly walking and around and trying to kill each other, but everything is choreographed. They all have marks to hit," Wenn said. "There are technical issues, but we have 65 people that travel with us, many of which are very talented dino-doctors and engineers that do a checkup on the dinosaurs every day "? a mechanical physical, if you will "? to make sure that they are in good shape before they go on."

Although he's been with the show for two years Hamilton said it's still awe-inspiring at times.

"Getting to see the look of wonder and awe, and occasionally fear, on the face of a little kid reminds me of how amazing these creatures are," he said.  "?Eric Webb

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