Top 5 Highlights Of ‘Walking With Dinosaurs – The Live Experience’

Mama T-Rex eyeing the audience in Walking With Dinosaurs - The Live Experience. [Photo: Marguerita Tan]

“Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur!” Ever since the globally-acclaimed show, Walking with Dinosaurs, arrived on our sunny shores weeks ago, the catchy refrain from the 1988 Was (Not Was) hit, “Walk The Dinosaur”, kept playing in my head. When opening night for the live arena spectacular came last Thursday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, I still didn’t get a chance to walk with a dinosaur, but I sure saw a good lot of them doing, well, a whole lot of things!

Based on the 1999 award-winning BBC docu-series of the same name, Walking with Dinosaurs – The Live Experience is a US$20 million (S$27.7m) production that features 18 life-sized dinosaurs—the tallest of which is almost three-stories high!—comprising nine different species and operated by skilled performers who bring them to life.

WWD paleontologist Huxley hosts and narrates the theatrical show amidst vibrant lights, projections and special effects. [Photo: Marguerita Tan]

Through the show’s paleontologist Huxley, the audience is given a 200-million-year paleontology lesson deftly compressed into a 100-minute show (with a 20-min interval) filled with special lighting and projection effects, and not forgetting, some amazingly realistic-looking dinosaurs!

Musings on the M49 was delighted to be invited to the Walking with Dinosaurs‘ opening night rehearsal (partial) and performance. A unique educational yet fun show for both young and old—and a real treat especially if you are a big dinosaur fan—here are the top 5 highlights of Walking with Dinosaurs – The Live Experience.

Walking with Dinosaurs – The Live Experience: Top 5 Highlights

5. Battle of the Torosauruses

Territorial Torosauruses on the Warpath.[Photo: Marguerita Tan]

A herbivorous dinosaur, the Torosaurus immediately catches your eye thanks to its hardy elongated frill and two long sharp horns atop its bulky head and build. And when two of them are strolling around and grunting at each other, you know they are going to lock horns when they come head to head. For every big dinosaur, a team of three people is required to operate it – two puppeteers called Voodoos (who handle various movements) and one driver who makes it walk on steerable polyurethane wheels (the thick plank-like structure seen between the dino’s legs pictured above).

4. Carnivore & Herbivore Fight

Let’s face it, even among us humans, meat eaters and vegetarians seldom see eye to eye (thankfully, just a small faction). But in prehistoric times, the herbivore IS unfortunately meat for its carnivore counterpart, represented here by the Stegosaurus and Allosaurus respectively. The Stegosaurus, highly recognizable by its broad, upright plates, has a spiky tail which it uses primarily for defence and which, as you can see in the video above, it is furiously swinging for dear life as it tries to avoid being dinner for the rampaging Allosaurus.

3. Snappy Utahraptors Eating Their Prey

Fast and snappy, the carnivorous Utahraptors.[Photo: Marguerita Tan]

At just 2.5m tall, Utahraptors may look scrawny compared to their massive counterparts, but they are fascinating to watch as they move and run very fast because of their size. And also being meat eaters, they have no qualms of eating one of their own, or hunting down large herbivores in packs of two or three. Brrr!

Performance-wise, it is also very intriguing as these critters are small enough to be operated physically by one puppeteer in a costume suit (which alone could weigh about 35-40kg), simulating not only limb movements but everything from the eyes to the tail to even the sounds the creature makes.

2. Mama T-Rex Rescuing Baby T-Rex

Mama T-Rex(top left): "Nobody puts baby in the corner!" [Photo: Marguerita Tan]

Hell hath no fury like a Mama T-Rex’s wrath. When a tiny scruffy Tyrannosaurus Rex came galloping out, everyone thought it was oh-so-cute until it was caught between a rock and a hard place – or, more specifically, the armored porcupine-like Ankylosaurus and the winning Torosaurus from an earlier scene. Just when we thought Baby T-Rex is going to end up as dino snack, out came ferocious Mama T-Rex, in all her 7m x 13m glory, showing the two predators exactly who’s boss.

Mama and Baby T-Rex sharing a tender moment. [Photo: Marguerita Tan]

It’s no wonder that WWD touring director Ian Waller calls the T-Rex the “star of the show”. The moment the towering adult T-Rex steps into the arena, first as a silhouette, then under the spotlight, its imposing build is not only instantly recognizable but also extremely intimidating. Yet the creature also shows an inquisitive nature (as it looks over the audience, see top main picture), plus a tender side when consoling its precious baby.

1.The Brachiosaurus Ballet

The T-Rex may be the superstar but if truth be told, the graceful long-necked Brachiosaurus is the one that took my breath away. Measuring 11m tall and 17m from head to tail, it is also the biggest dinosaur on the show. And Baby Brachiosaurus ain’t exactly tiny either (unlike baby T-Rex) – it is just a tad smaller at 9m tall and 15m long. And it also needs its mama to rescue it from bullies and/or predators. There is a moment in the show where the pair just glides around, occasionally munching on greens, as if waltzing to a ballet. Simply lovely. And even though you know it is not real, you just can’t not wave to Mama Brachiosaurus when she is looking directly at you during the show!

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: BEHIND THE SCENES

At the Walking with Dinosaurs rehearsal, besides the rare opportunity of seeing and filming selected scenes of the show itself, Musings on the M49 also had the chance to hear Lead Voodoo Puppeteer, Amanda Maddock (above left), showing us various equipment used by Voodoo puppeteers and drivers to operate the large dinosaurs.

One Voodoo will operate head and tail gross motion, while the other is in charge of minor movements such as jaw, blinking and sounds. As you can see on the keyboard machine (above right), the sounds that can be made include snorts, roars and even farts! Yes, modern-day puppetry has come a long way since the days of using just fingers and strings!

Walking With Dinosaurs – The Live Experience runs until Sept 8, 2019 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Performances : Tue-Fri 7pm; Sat-Sun: 10.30am, 2:30pm and 6:30pm. Tickets: $78-$148 from www.sportshubtix.sg/WWD2019

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.

Walking With Dinosaurs: The Man Who Brings A Life-Sized Baby T-Rex To Life

Neal Holmes (left) in costume as Baby T-Rex at the Walking with Dinosaurs press conference in Singapore.

I still remember the goosebumps I had when I first saw the animated yet so realistic-looking dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster hit, Jurassic Park. So when there was a chance to meet and interview the man behind the Baby T-Rex from Walking With DinosaursThe Live Experience (WWD), I didn’t hesitate to say yes!

Based on the 1999 acclaimed BBC TV documentary series of the same name, the US$20 million (S$27.7m) live arena spectacular originated in Australia in 2007 and went on to become “the biggest and best dinosaur show in the world”. Last here nine years ago, Walking With DinosaursThe Live Experience will run at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from August 29 to September 8, 2019.

Musings on the M49 was thus chuffed to be invited to the Walking With Dinosaurs media conference held at Capitol Theatre, where a life-sized Baby T-Rex, operated by British performer Neal Holmes, was the featured star.

ON THE FLOOR WITH A BABY DINOSAUR

Baby T-Rex mingling with the audience at the WWD press call!

The baby Tyrannosaurus Rex—to give its scientific name in full—is but one of the 18 life-sized dinosaurs, operated by skilled performers via animatronics and physical puppetry, featured in the highly successful Walking with Dinosaurs arena show. Using state-of-the-art technology, lighting effects and projection, the 100-minute show is presented as a theatrical story of the prehistoric creatures’ 200-million-year existence on Earth.

Nine species from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods will be represented. You can expect Mama T-Rex to be super huge, but it will not be the biggest dinosaur on show — that honor goes to the Brachiosaurus which measures at 11 metres tall and 17 metres from nose to tail!

WWD resident director Ian Waller introducing the Baby T-Rex.

After introducing Baby-T—as it is affectionately called—WWD resident director Ian Waller filled us in with details of what the young critter is like, what went into the production of the show, and what we can expect from the live performance.

As he was talking, Baby T continued to strut around, doing its own thing as what you’d expect an inquisitive creature would do. Truth be told, puppeteer Neal Holmes’ movements were so realistic that at times you simply forgot that it is just a human being in a fancy costume!

One of the lucky kids who got to pose with the Baby T-Rex!

Highlight for everyone was without doubt the photo op with Baby T in all its glory. Many of the kids in attendance were thrilled; one even came clad in a green dinosaur head costume! “Generally, kids love dinosaurs,” Holmes would confirm later during the interview session. Most adults were thrilled to bits too (especially yours truly)!

TALKING WITH THE MAN IN THE DINOSAUR SUIT

The man who makes Baby T-Rex comes to life!

It was exactly 10 years ago when Briton Neal Holmes, then a fitness instructor, went for an audition in London, not knowing exactly what was required, and ended up with an agent plus a full-time job as a dinosaur puppeteer all within a week.

With the Baby T-Rex costume weighing about 35-40kg, the job is needless to say, physically demanding but the now 35-year-old, who has a background in acrobatics and parkour, takes it all in his stride. Not only does he have to walk and run like a dinosaur, Holmes also controls other movements of the “baby” creature from the eyes to the tail.

Revealing that he can’t really see much out of the suit, one key thing Holmes has learnt to be extra mindful of while performing is to “not bump into things, or run into other dinosaurs”. Depending on demand, performances could be as many as three shows a day, or nine shows during weekends.

Neal Holmes speaking to the media at the WWD press call.

When Musings on the M49 asked whether has anything gone wrong for him during performances, Holmes admitted that “the worst is falling over.”

He elaborated: “I’ve never been injured, but it could be due to a slippery stage or just an error. ‘Cos with big dinosaur feet, it could happen when you cross your legs. It’s quite difficult to get out of. That’s probably the silliest thing I’ve ever done.”

But there’s help when such mishaps occur. “Stage people will look out for you and rush out to pick you up. If you are okay and not injured, and the suit is okay, you just continue from where you left off.”

After a decade as a dinosaur puppeteer, Holmes also realizes that “less is more” when it comes to performing.

“It is easy to do too much in puppetry, so I’m careful in not going too crazy like a puppy dog (when portraying a baby T-Rex), but to allow for moments of stillness. The (dinosaur) suit itself looks amazing just standing still, so to just allow those moments to happen ‘cos there are so much other things going on,” he explained.

Walking With Dinosaurs – The Live Experience runs from Aug 29 to Sept 8, 2019 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Performances : Tue-Fri 7pm; Sat-Sun: 10.30am, 2:30pm and 6:30pm. Tickets: $78-$148 from www.sportshubtix.sg/WWD2019

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.