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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Natural History Museum: When Dinosaurs Attack!

Today, faced with an afternoon of boredom (which just shouldn't happen in London), I randomly decided to go to the Natural History Museum, not really knowing what was there, but figuring it was more entertaining than sitting around in good ol' Stockwell.

I only really saw one area. The museum is massive, with several floors of different areas, including lots of stuffed dead animals, such as the dodo:

But who wants to look at dead animals when there's dinosaurs (tho also dead, thankfully) to be seen? I was expecting lots o' fossils and skeletons and interactive displays; of course, they had all these things, and I should say, it was all beautifully displayed with an overhead walkway for upclose and personal views of the skeletal remains of dinos-that-were.

While the collection is, unsurprisingly, nothing to Tyrell (tho they did have a couple of Albertan specimens) it has one feature to rival any dead-dino collection: animatronics.

You may scoff. Indeed, I'm sure you will. You may imagine shit-disney versions or Simpsons-spoofs of such things. But these are so wicked-awesome, they actually scared me.

The first I saw was a velociraptory-thing. The main part of the exhibit is in one big room with carved pillars, with a overhead walkway suspended thru the centre. Wandering along that, I noticed some huge claws hung from the walls, and below them this little guy:

"Grrr. Argh."

Except, he was moving. And hissing. And looking at me. See, these little animatronics are designed to react with their surroundings. Make a big noise, they look at you. Very creepy.

There is also a pair of little guys, who look as tho they're talking to each other. Now, this is obviously poorly illustrated thru pictures (and thru my lame-ass descriptions). So, I took video. Click the two below pictures for short movies:

Now, these guys were just the sideshow. The feature is a T-rex. Tho smaller (I think) than lifesize (I think it's supposed to be a baby or a teenager or something), it's hella cool:

It's so real-seeming, that it looks as tho it's about to take a foot off the ground and take a step forwards. At one point, a girl next to me took a flash photo. The T-rex stopped, turned it's head towards us, and opened it's mouth and growled. I jumped.

It really reminded me of when I first saw Jurassic Park. I think it was one of the summers we were at Loon Lake, near Spokane. (I remember reading the book while there, so I think that's when we must have seen the film.)
During the movie, I was -- cliche tho it may be -- on the edge of my seat. I very clearly remember covering my eyes at the first shot of the t-rex. Ok, I was 11 at the time, but still.

Though cgi advancements have taken special effects way beyond that level now, it's nice to know it's still possible to be amazed. And at a museum, no less.


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