－With unbelievably fast speed that belies its massive 8 meters tall frame, it instantly plants its feet in between its captors, with blazing eyes that give no reassuring sense that it “can be talked to or reasoned with”－
The “Dinosaur Live DINO SAFARI” currently presented at Shibuya Hikarie. We’re reporting from this live performance where the audience can experience the power of living creatures ? in other words, “real dinosaurs.”
■ Recreating “dinosaurs!”
Dinosaurs are something that all of us as children have been enamored of at one time or another. In 1993, there was the release of the film “Jurassic Park.” According to our research, the awareness rating of this film across all generations in this country was 98%, with a favorable rating of 37.2%(across all generations), and a very high 58.3% among males in their twenties. The latest film in the series, “Jurassic World,” had a sparkling run, reaching No.4 in all-time worldwide box office revenue.
In gaming, beginning with “Dino Crisis,” there have been a number of hit games that have emerged. It would not be an overstatement to say that “dinosaur-themed” properties form a robust category in the entertainment field.
There is a creative organization that has continued to take on the challenge of recreating realistic dinosaurs. That company is ON-ART Inc., which has its studio in Saitama Prefecture.
■ The surprise of “realistic dinosaurs!”
On April 17, a public rehearsal of “Dinosaur Live DINO SAFARI” was held for the media. While up to now dinosaurs have made surprise appearances at dinosaur exhibitions and educational events, this would be the first staging of a story-based presentation. The story: “At the special zone ‘DINO SAFARI,’ where dinosaurs live in the modern era, a safari expedition is sent to study the ecology of the Triceratops ? a relatively calm herbivorous dinosaur. Suddenly, the expedition is attacked by savage carnivorous dinosaurs. And ultimately, the most powerful carnivorous dinosaur, the Tyrannosaurus, makes its appearance…!?” During the practice, first to appear was the 8 meters tall Tyrannosaurus, followed by dinosaurs such as the Fukuiraptor, and finally the Triceratops ? which is making its first ever appearance at this performance.
The studio used for the public rehearsal
A sheet laid upon the lawn
Triceratops－ building it took 6 months
The first thing to surprise us was their speed. At the venue, sheets are laid on the lawn ? where the audience members sit, and the dinosaurs move about endlessly, vertically and horizontally, between those sheets.
In addition to the guides who facilitate the story, there are 3 aides ? called rangers, who assist the dinosaurs in their movements, and are always around each of the dinosaurs. While we believe that most likely the dinosaurs are walking about while keeping a measured distance from the rangers, we are impressed at how they manage to avoid bumping into the audience. They continue to pass by one after the other extremely close in front of us. And more than anything else, it’s surprising how real they are in their movements, their texture, and their roars and cries. It’s as if they truly were alive. And the cold glint in their eyes when they occasionally blink is especially frightening.
During the performance, the story progresses with the guides and audience members being attacked, leading up to a climactic battle between the Tyrannosaurus and the Triceratops. The entire performance runs about 50 minutes.
The guide is being eaten! (but it looks like fun)
The audience is being attacked! (but this looks like fun too…)
■ The challenge of creating “dinosaurs!”
ON-ART Inc. Representative Kazuya Kanemaru
According to company representative Kazuya Kanemaru, ON-ART Inc. was originally a company which created sculpture art for exhibition in museums. However, as the need for such products gradually declined, he decided about 10 years ago that “unless we create things that aren’t available elsewhere, we won’t be able to survive as a business,” which propelled him towards his resolve to create kinetic dinosaurs.
They studied the basics on their own while talking to dinosaur researchers, all in the relentless pursuit of creating realistic dinosaurs. Utilizing the theory that dinosaurs had evolved from birds, they referenced the movements and bone structures of birds. There are people inside operating the dinosaurs. These are realistic mechanical free-standing walking dinosaur-shaped suits, called “DINO-TRONICS.” The persons inside the suit use monitors installed in the front, back and both sides to determine their surroundings, and use multiple levers and handles to operate the dinosaur. They spent the most time developing the lifelike “breathing quality” of the dinosaurs. It is true that the detailed neck movements that they make when they roar give it a very “lifelike” quality that feels like “breathing.” Mr. Kanemaru explained that as they continued in the pursuit of realistic movements, every bit of progress in that area contributed to an increase in how “scary” they became.
*Incidentally, as the sound of dinosaur roars needed to be left up to the imagination, these sounds were created by mixing together and modifying the cries and roars of several species of wild animals, such as lions and elephants.
10 years after beginning work on this project, he explained that they built and rebuilt the dinosaurs after much trial and error. The first Allosaurus ended up being the 5th such build. During that process he experienced a major turning point. It was the transformative idea that “it’s okay if they break!” While up to that point they had intended to build dinosaurs that were solid and durable, about 3 years ago, they came upon the idea that they could just repair them immediately if they broke down. This led to a technological breakthrough, which led to a drastic weight reduction, which resulted in speedier movements. As more detailed movements became possible, the dinosaurs became increasingly more realistic. These dinosaurs are said to be built at the borderline level of durability in order to withstand the stress of operation.
■ And finally, on to the premiere!
On April 26, the final rehearsal was unveiled. Incorporating smoke and illumination effects, and other spectacular production values, the show became even more thrilling.
Mr. Kanemaru explains that he wants children to see this show. “I want them to understand that long ago, these amazing creatures lived and breathed and walked upon this planet. And I hope they can feel and experience the amazing power of living things.”
Mr. Kanemaru said that he is hoping to eventually expand production to overseas venues as well. We definitely felt that his desire to create something unique and unrivaled had finally borne fruit.
“Dinosaur Live DINO SAFARI”
(Written by: Kenichi Nakamura)
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.