Dinosaurs delight at Tacoma Dome

No one has ever seen a living dinosaur but the live version of “Walking With Dinosaurs” is about as close as anyone’s going to get — until that whole cloning thing from “Jurassic Park” becomes a reality.

Wednesday’s night’s opening show at the Tacoma Dome had about 90 minutes (not including the 20 minute intermission) of robotic dinosaurs walking the dome floor, some as tall as 36 feet.

The show combines the dinos with a live human narrator — an Australian Indiana Jones type — and Vegas-worthy set, lighting, sound and props.

The live show is part of the “Walking With Dinosaurs” franchise which includes TV, movies and plenty of purchasable dinos.

The dinosaurs in the live show come in two types. Smaller ones are operated by puppeteers — you can only see their legs — while the larger ones are moved around the performance floor and controlled by operators off stage and disguised underneath the dinos in flat vehicles.

The 21st century accoutrements are a bit incongruous but I soon lost interest in them and instead focused on the dinosaurs. Yes, no one has really seen one walk but these are fully realized facsimiles. They walk, twist their tails, open their mouths and blink their eyes.

And they roar. The sound system at times seemed to be set at full volume. A boy in front of me would periodically cover his ears.

The show opens in the Triassic period when the supercontinent called Pangaea was in place, hundreds of millions of years ago. Eggs suddenly appear in a rocky outcropping. And then they begin to hatch.

“You thought they were bigger didn't you?” the narrator said.

The animatronics and puppetry in the show is startling. Baby dinosaurs run across the floor and then get gobbled up by bigger dinos.

The narrator combines factoids with bits of drama. I couldn’t catch all the scientific names mentioned but I’m sure the 11-year-olds in the audience knew them.

The floor is ringed by a wall filled with inflatable plants that “grow” as the show moves through the various eras. It’s a dramatic effect — some are as large as palm trees.

Flora aside the audience is here to see the fauna and “Walking” doesn’t disappoint. As the show enters the Jurassic period a Plateosaurus ambles about. Then a Stegosaurus, with its distinctive back of plates and spikes, appears.

There’s some dinosaur fighting and lots of roaring. There’s even some touching moments when mother and offspring rub necks. Well, as touching as a 36-foot-tall Brachiosaurus can be.

The Brachiosaurus is particularly impressive as it sticks its head beyond the arena for a closer look at the audience. Kids were thrilled and a few adults were probably wondering as I was: just how do they make these things work? They seem to transcend feats of engineering.

Geologic time really does happen in the blink of an eye. In this case the Cretaceous period arrived after the intermission.

Amongst other creatures an Ornithocheirus descended from the ceiling and “flew” against a projected moving landscape. More dinos appear and there’s a funny bit with dino-poo.

Then, like a pro wrestler making his appearance, the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex takes center stage.

The show’s not over until the T. Rex roars.