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Dinosaurs roar to life

Manitoba Museum will be inhabited by 14 animatronic dinos, two full-scale skeletons

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A herd of roaring, tail-lashing prehistoric reptiles will invade the Manitoba Museum this fall in the touring exhibition Dinosaurs Unearthed.

The "experiential" show will feature 14 realistic animatronic dinosaurs, two full-size replica skeletons and 22 fossils.


It opens Oct. 4 and will be on view until April 7, 2013, the museum is announcing today. The show will fill Alloway Hall, the large exhibition hall off the museum's lobby, said Graham Young, curator of geology and paleontology.

The show is produced by a Vancouver company called Dinosaurs Unearthed that has been creating "dinosaur experiences" for museums, science centres, zoos and amusement parks since 2005. The firm has just created Dinosaurs Alive!, a seven-acre outdoor "Jurassic-themed environment" with more than 40 animatronic reptiles that's about to open at Canada's Wonderland near Toronto.

In Winnipeg, the long-extinct beasts will be displayed among backdrops and landscaped scenes to simulate prehistoric Earth. Most of the animatronic dinos are life-size, the largest being a full-scale, standing Tyrannosaurus rex.

The company has yet to do a site visit, Young said, but it is "reasonably certain" the towering giant will fit into the hall. When the museum brought in the Dinosaur Dynasty show of Chinese dinosaur fossils in 2008-09, he said, it was a tight fit to erect the largest skeleton in the space.

The Vancouver company makes some replica dinosaurs that are designed to be exhibited outdoors. The Rupert Avenue museum is investigating whether it's feasible to display one in its courtyard.

"We don't have the park-like setting that some museums have, which makes it easy to do that kind of thing," Young said.

The indoor, family-targeted show may not be as hair-raising as the fictional Jurassic Park, but because some of the dinosaurs are motion-activated, they may roar to "life" when visitors don't expect it.

"Some of them are going to be a bit intimidating, perhaps," Young said with a chuckle.

Each dinosaur is capable of eight separate movements. "Their eyes blink, mouths open with a roar, necks turn and oscillate, front limbs move, bodies expand and contract, and tails swing," says the press material.

Some of the creatures can be controlled by the visitor pushing buttons or touching a screen.

The show, designed to blend entertainment and education, reflects up-to-date discoveries in paleontology. For instance, recent research has brought to light that some dinosaurs that were previously thought to be scaly were actually feathered.

"The Velociraptor is feathered (in this show)," Young said. "So some things are pretty different from Jurassic Park."

The exhibition includes a hands-on "dig site" where families can excavate fossils. The fossils on display will be a mix of real and replica specimens. Some real dinosaur fossils are too fragile to tour, Young said.

Admission to Dinosaurs Unearthed will be $14 (youth/senior $12) or $50 for a family. The price is discounted when the exhibition is added on to museum, planetarium or science-gallery admission.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2012 D1

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