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Dinosaurs seem to be every kid’s favorite fantasy. Growling, drooling, lumbering prehistoric “lizards,” some tall enough to peer into three-story buildings – and longer than Greyhound buses.

Fifteen of these life-size, fully-animated behemoths will roar to life this summer during nine performances at the Spokane Arena.

They’re far from the sandbox variety. They’re the full-scale stars of a new production, “Walking with Dinosaurs: The Live Experience,” a 3-D spin-off of the BBC’s popular TV series of the same name.

Some 65 special-effects gurus labored for a year, in an Australian facility as big as an airplane hangar, to bring the $12 million dinos to life.

The production premiered this winter, touring Australia’s biggest arenas.

“This is probably the closest you’re going to get to representations of dinosaurs in our lifetime,” said Spokane Arena events manager Matt Gibson, who fell under the production’s spell last year when it was still a mere idea presented to arena booking agents.

Spokane will be the dinosaurs’ second U.S. stop.

They’re floating over on container ships in June. They’ll land at the Port of Tacoma and play the Tacoma Dome to get the wrinkles out, said Gibson.

Gibson said the sets are Broadway-worthy, with vivid lights, fog, orchestral sound track and prehistoric plant life that unfurls and grows over time.

Weaving it all together will be a paleontologist who strolls amid the action, explaining dinosaur lifestyles and some of the massive upheavals the earth underwent in those days.

The show unfolds in three acts, showcasing animal and plant life found in geological time, from the Triassic (245 to 208 million years ago), Jurassic (208 to 144 million years ago) and Cretaceous (144 to 65 million years ago) periods.

Among the cast you’ll see;

Utahraptors, in the “swift lizard” family, are 7 feet tall, 20 feet long and can balance on one leg while using a sickle-like foot claw on the other for kickboxing.

Brachiosaurus, the biggest of the brutes, tips the scales at more than 70 tons, stretches its pliable neck 43 feet up to graze on tree tops and measures 75 feet long from nose to tail.

Tyrannosaurus rex, or the “tryant lizard,” a fearsome carnivore boasting 6-inch-long serrated teeth for bone-crushing bite, and which stands 16 feet tall and 49 feet long.

Australian audiences were wowed by the production. And some parents deemed it suitable for tots, given a few precautions. One parent, who blogged about taking a 4-year-old to the show, suggested sitting away from the stage so little ones won’t be frightened by the dinosaurs’ sheer sizes.

Three puppeteers control each creature. A driver in a motorized sled below the dinosaur’s legs guides it over the floor. A second operator hides in the stands, controlling the dinosaur’s head, neck and tail by moving the same parts on a miniature version of the creature, dubbed a “voodoo rig.”

Eyes, jaws and vocals are controlled by a third puppeteer.

The show’s scale and complexity puts it in a class all by itself.

“Nobody’s ever tried anything like this before. This is the kind of show you normally would have to go Disneyland or somewhere to see,” said Kevin Twohig, executive director of the Spokane Public Facilities District, which operates the Arena.

“It’s a very big production … with full concert sound and lighting applied to this very animated and very theatrical environment,” he added

“We’ve got 58,185 tickets available and I think we’re going to sell most of them,” he said.


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