Dinosaur invades Australian school – for show

SYDNEY (AP) — Children shrieked and froze in momentary fear as a Tyrannosaurus Rex invaded their Sydney school yard on Friday — then smiles and laughter broke out when they realized the life-sized monster was a robot.

In a scene reminiscent of the “Jurassic Park” films, the roaring dinosaur surprised 350 primary school students at a presentation to kick off a national tour of the animatronic show “Walking With Dinosaurs.”

A frenzy of shrieks rang out as one of the show’s stars, a 7-foot (2-meter) -tall baby T-Rex, surprised the students, who gathered to hear what they thought was going to be just a presentation about the show.

Children at Bondi public school react as a baby T-rex performs in Sydney, Australia, Friday, April 1, 2011. Pic: AP.

“I turned my head to the left and a really big carnivore was standing right next to me,” said 8-year-old Alex Kairouz. “My heart was in my ears.”

The show, the brainchild of small Australian production company Global Creatures, is returning to the country for the first time since it became an international hit with box-office earnings of $350 million worldwide.

The company was named by influential magazine Business Review Weekly as the biggest Australian earner in show business in 2010, beating out rock band AC/DC and the combined bankroll of celebrity couple Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban.

“We are incredibly proud to be bringing it back to Australia; it’s been an enormous success. In 2010 it was the No. 1 selling show in the world, beating U2, Bon Jovi, The Wiggles,” said Global Creatures general manager Angela Dalton.

The show uses 20 mechanical dinosaurs in an arena production — theaters are too small — that blends educational information on the history of dinosaurs with special effects, technology, engineering and theatrics.

The $20 million production, based on the British Broadcasting Corp. television series of the same name, features 10 different dinosaur species, including a 36-foot (17 meter) -tall, 56-foot (11-meter) -long Brachiosaurus.

One driver and two puppeteers inside the machines are used to bring the largest of the prehistoric beasts to life, along with truck batteries, motors and hundreds of yards (meters) of cables and hoses.

A key element of the show is the realistic look and sound of dinosaurs — something on clear display when the T-Rex appeared Friday at Bondi Public School.

Some kids scattered, while others fell over as the dinosaur approached them, stretched up high and let out a roar before crouching down to bring its fang-filled jaws right in their faces. After the scare tactics, the technician approached the students more calmly, letting them pet the puppet as its eyes blinked and it purred with smaller roars.

“When I first saw it, I thought it was real,” said 11-year-old Mishka Ivanovic. “It came really close to me and I was frozen.”