We sunk our claws into Scott Wright, the Artistic Director of Erth, who is bringing Dinosaur Petting Zoo to Southbank Centre as part of Imagine Children’s Festival this February. This is what he had to say about dinos, puppets and feeding children to the dinosaurs!
1. How do you make the dinosaur puppets in Dinosaur Petting Zoo come to life?
The great thing about puppetry is that it's an art form that hinges on bringing the inanimate to life. All of our dinosaurs are carefully crafted puppets and the puppeteers are masterful at operating them. We always tell our audience that our dinos are puppets, but you can be sure that within minutes they have forgotten what we've said and they instantly suspend their disbelief... People want to believe that they are real. Our puppeteers have to be able to operate a puppet externally and internally, meaning that sometimes they may handle the puppet from outside of the puppet and sometimes they also have to climb inside to operate it. It's kind of a cross between The Muppets and War Horse!
2. What’s your favourite dinosaur?
My favourite dinosaur at the moment is Australovenator – a dinosaur was discovered in Australia just four years ago. This great dinosaur has anatomical differences to other theropods – it’s got larger feet and arms that are almost equal to a human’s. It can run very fast and captures its prey with its huge claws.
3. Is it scary coming up on stage to pet the dinosaurs?
I think it's scary watching the news, so I’d say it's matter of personal opinion as to what is scary and what’s not! When we invite children onto stage with us, we do our best to ensure that they are brave and understand that the dinos are puppets. But even at the best times our puppeteers are so good at what they do it's easy to be caught up in the excitement and theatricality of the show.
4. What’s the best dinosaur fact you know?
Recently people have started to think that dinosaurs had feathers and that dinosaurs actually didn't become extinct but instead evolved into birds. In reality, only a particular type of dinosaur evolved into birds and not all dinosaurs. There was a huge extinction event that caused most life to disappear forever, but what we have today is what survived and evolved to take its place in the world.
5. Have you ever fed a naughty child to a dinosaur?!
Oh yes, we do it in every show. It’s one of the funniest and spectacular moments!