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November 18, 2010

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Life-size T-Rex and reptile pals rule the stage

LIFE-LIKE dinosaurs lumber, roar and fight in a spectacle evoking the world of 65 million years ago and the comet that smashed into the earth and ended their reign.

"Walking With Dinosaurs - The Arena Spectacular" will be staged on January 19-23 at the Mercedes-Benz Culture Center (the new name of the Shanghai World Expo Culture Center).

They appear to look at the audience and blink. The realistic moving dinosaurs are a stunning technical and visual achievement.

The Australian production is adapted from BBC documentary TV series "Walking With Dinosaurs," which recreated scenes of Mesozoic era and told the story of dinosaurs with man-made models and computer special effects.

In the show, an archeologist takes the audience back in time to the age of the dinosaurs to witness the evolution of the giant reptiles in a world of erupting volcanos, climate change and finally the comet.

About 20 life-size dinosaur models stalk the stage. The models cover 10 representative species of different ages; they include Tyrannosaurus Rex, Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus and Torosaurus. The biggest model is a winged Wyvern, 11 meters high and 17 meters long from nose to tail.

"'Hey Dad, guess what? Dinosaurs are real!' This is what my son told me after the show," says Craig Hartenstine, vice president of AEG ThemeSTAR Australia Pty Ltd, a major sponsor of the show that was debuted in 2007. He believes the production that wowed Australia, the US and Europe will wow China as well.

The show is based on the idea of bringing dinosaurs back to life and making the audience feel what they are seeing is real, according to Matthew Rimmer, official spokesman of "Walking With Dinosaurs."

A 50-member team borrowed techniques from the BBC TV series. To make the animals lifelike, technicians used a "muscle bag" system in which elastic reticular fibers filled with polystyrene balls are set in all the moving points of the dinosaur body.

"The muscle bags stretch and contract along with the movement just like real animals," says Sonny Tilders who designs and produces the dinosaur models.

A Voodoo Rig system controls the movements. A mini dinosaur with realistic joints and movement is controlled by a technician "wearing" the gear, and the movements of the smaller dinosaur are transferred to the big ones by electric waves.

It generally requires three people to control movements of a large dinosaur; one controls the direction, one the movement and gestures and one the facial expression such as eye-blinking and roaring, says Rimmer.

All the models will be shipped to Shanghai in 33 containers. Chinese actors will play the roles of archeologists who explain what's happening. Overseas actors will perform in English.

"We don't need special arrangements for the dinosaur, as their language is universal," says rimmer.

Date: January 19-21, 23, 7pm; January 22, 11am, 7pm (English version)

Tickets: 80-580 yuan (700-1,000 yuan for a three-ticket package)

Address: 1200 Expo Ave, Pudong

Tel: 5169-5229, 400-779-0288


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