By Tyler Steele
Yesterday morning, Woodland Park Zoo staff began unloading life-size animatronic dinosaurs for their latest spring and summer experience, “Dinosaurs. Real Close,” to debut April 30.
All the way from McKinney, TX, the seven-species exhibit has a total of 10 dinosaurs that once roamed North America during the Mesozoic period.
Styracosaurus. All photos by Tyler Steele.
“I’m so happy because I’ve been waiting for these guys for almost a year!” said zoo Capital Project Manager Monica Lake, with her arm around a Styracosaurus.
“They move, make incredible noises,” she added, followed by her own version of a dinosaur snarl for effect. “And there’s a dino they can climb on and ride.”
Woodland Park Zoo’s Capital Project Manager Monica Lake shows off the rideable T-rex.
“Summer is a big time for us, and we like to give back,” Public Relations Coordinator Rebecca Whitham added while standing in front of the giant rideable Tyrannosaurus rex. “Kids love dinosaurs, and families will get a kick out of this!”
Other dinosaurs to be included in the exhibit are a 19-foot-tall Brachiosaurus, Dilophosaurus, baby T-rex, and even a nest of Edmontosaurus hatchlings, all coated with colorful polyurethane foam skins for better movement and realism.
“There’s a lot that goes into the whole exhibit,” said Prehistoric Display Advisor Robby Gilbert of Billings Productions, the company that makes these robotic dinosaurs.
He said that the process starts with chicken wire and clay molds, followed by permanent fiberglass casings for easier replication and ends with welders who fuse the entire air-driven pneumatic structure together.
“We need the process to be as safe and problem-free as possible,” he explained about the reason behind air-driven pneumatic technology.
The zoo and Billings Productions have partnered in part to educate the public about the connections between dinosaur adaptability and preserving the environment for the future of the planet’s existing creatures.
“Dinos thrived for millions of years because they had amazing adaptations,” Whitham said. “They didn’t make it, but if we’re good to our earth then animals will have a better chance.”
To advertise for the exhibit, a baby T-rex will be trucking around hot spots in the Seattle area. See where he’s going next on Woodland Park Zoo’s Twitter feed, which will detail his journey around town this week.
This baby T-rex will travel around town in one of Woodland Park Zoo’s white trucks to promote the “Dinosaurs. Real Close” exhibit.
The exhibit will be $3 per day (in addition to regular zoo admission). It runs April 30 through Sept. 5.
Tyler Steele is our sister site PhinneyWood’s intern. He is a journalism student at the University of Washington.