Dinosaurs Come to Life in Field Museum’s New ‘Jurassic World’

Article provided by the Daily Herald.

dinos-FMDinosaurs have always been one of The Field Museum’s biggest draws, and this summer fans of the prehistoric creatures will find even more to get excited about. A massive tent outside the museum through Jan. 7 brings to life the excitement of “Jurassic World,” using a mix of animatronics and puppetry to portray the friendly and frightening dinosaurs in the blockbuster science fiction film.

“There are no dinosaurs in the world that are anything close to this,” said Tom Zaller, president and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions, the exhibit’s creators. “My goal from the beginning was to take you to ‘Jurassic World.'”

Visitors enter into a room designed to resemble a ferry, which takes them to the island theme park. After stepping through the gates — and listening to the film’s iconic score — they are greeted by enormous animatronic dinosaurs accompanied by plaques and screens that share details on the fictional park and quotes from the movie’s characters. Orange signs provide real science facts for those who want a bit of education to go with the impressive special effects.

“It’s fiction, but you want to immerse people in it,” Zaller said. “Everything that we do has an educational bent to it. We draw you in with the wonder and then you learn something.”

“Jurassic World” was developed as part of a partnership with Universal Studios that included consultation with the film’s paleontology advisor. The exhibit debuted in Melbourne, Australia, before heading to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and making its third stop in Chicago.

“We were approached by Imagine Exhibition and they said, ‘You guys do dinosaurs? Have we got a show for you!” said Tom Skwerski, director of exhibit operations for The Field Museum. “Of all the places in Chicago this is where we should be — with our collection of fossils and natural history.”

The problem was that “Jurassic World” was too big, needing more space than both of the museum’s rotating exhibit spaces combined. The ceilings in those galleries are 18 feet while the animatronic brachiosaurus in “Jurassic World” extends its long neck up to 22 feet.

“We literally could not fit it in our building,” Skwerski said.

The solution was a 16,500-square-foot, 40-foot-tall tent set up outside the museum. Attendees are guided through the tent since there are many timed components, including a raptor handling show where performers use costumes designed by the producers of “Walking with Dinosaurs” to portray the creatures the original “Jurassic Park” trilogy and the 2015 “Jurassic World” sequel made famous. Each show is a bit different based on visitor reactions.

“They engage with the audience in a way that the animatronics can’t,” Skwerski said.

Visitors can also engage with numerous hands-on components throughout the exhibit. They can touch the skin of an emu or crocodile to learn what a dinosaur might have felt like, examine a dinosaur bone under a microscope and play sounds that probably more realistically reflect the noises dinosaurs made than the dramatic roars heard in the exhibit. There’s also an area focused on kids who can find fossils, create dinosaur hybrids by mixing and matching parts, and use etching plates to make rubbings.

Many props from the movie are on display at “Jurassic World” as well. A laboratory recreates the space where dinosaurs were brought back to life, complete with the same incubators, tables and light fixtures. A Tyrannosaurus rex skull from the film is displayed along with information on the animal’s powerful bite and broad diet. Visitors can linger there before stepping into a paddock to see the massive creature emerge from the shadows and move around as it assaults one of the park’s trucks.

“I think we understand that people come to love dinosaurs in different ways,” Skwerski said. “People come to The Field Museum and love to see Sue, but you wonder what she would look like if you ran into her when she was alive. There’s a blending of science and science fiction — otherwise it wouldn’t be ‘Jurassic World.'”

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