Reel and Robotic Dinosaurs in San Diego

This Memorial Day weekend brought robotic dinosaurs to San Diego’s Natural History Museum. The Dinosaurs: Reel and Robotic exhibit is a traveling exhibit which will call San Diego’s Natural History Museum home through January 1, 2007.

Old movie fans will love the collection of giant, colorful and rare movie posters portraying the evolution of dinosaurs in Hollywood. This collection is the world’s largest collection of dinosaur movie posters and features a variety of dinosaurs and dinosaur like monsters such as lizards, dragons and Godzilla from the early days of film making to today.

A small model of a stop motion dinosaur on a small movie set is a neat feature to look at. The model dinosaur is on a set with both a background as well as a foreground scene. When looking through a mock up of a movie camera, visitors can see how the final print will look on film. Accompanying information explains how the animator would move the dinosaur slightly for each shot.

The exhibit also features real models of dinosaurs actually used in the movies along with other memorabilia such as dinosaur comic books and toys. The King Kong Brontosaurus is one of the original models on display. This dinosaur model was used in the 1930’s in the movie King Kong and also appeared as the sea beast in Son of Kong. He is unusual because he was designed like a stop motion model but also incorporated a cable system for live action filming. The robotic dinosaur model rose out of the sea and attacked the actors which were actually loose jointed puppets. Next to the model dinosaur are photos from the actual movie so visitors can see the finished product right next to the small robotic dinosaur.

The centerpiece of the Reel and Robotic Dinosaurs exhibit is the collection of modern robotic dinosaurs designed by Kokoro Dinosaurs, a leading mechanical dinosaur design firm. The cast of robotic dinosaurs include T. Rex, Stegosauras, Triceratops (and babies), Ankylosauras (and babies), Pteranodon and Parasaurolophus. Only the Pteranodon is full scale, the others vary in scale size making it difficult to judge their relative sizes in relation to each other.

These robotic dinosaurs do move and make noise but aren’t too scary for young children. T. Rex with his big teeth is the fiercest while the others appear almost friendly. Both the Ankylosauras and Triceratops have babies which are delightful.

Another big hit with the children and adults alike is an actual robotic skeleton that can be controlled by pushing buttons. Each button controls a certain function such as breathing, eye movement, jaws, arms and body position.

While the robotic dinosaurs will only be at the San Diego Natural History Museum through the end of 2006, the museum is currently building a permanent dinosaur display called Fossil Mysteries which opens in July 2006. Fossil Mysteries will focus on fossil evidence found in the San Diego area featuring both dinosaurs as well as mammals from the ice age such as the wooly mammoth.

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