Dubai’s Ruling Family Plans Robotic Prehistoric Animal Theme Park

Moving away from their dependence upon oil revenues, developing the state of Dubai as a world class destination has been the vision of the Al-Maktoums, Dubai’s ruling family for some time.  The waterfront along the city of Dubai has been completely redeveloped over the last few years with a huge boom in tourist attraction construction, from the building of famous landmarks such as the seven star Burj Al Arab, the giant sail-shaped hotel to the creation of artificial islands to enhance the areas leisure facilities.

Now a new attraction called “Restless Planet” will take visitors on an amazing tour of the Earth’s history, with the star attractions being a number of high-tech, super realistic giant animatronic prehistoric creatures.  There are plans to feature more than 100 robotic animals, a total of 40 different species in a visual panorama of the Mesozoic era – a sort of “Jurassic Park” but in real life.  The aim of the attraction is to create a cross between a conventional museum and a theme park with the robotic animals reacting to visitors as they roam freely throughout the exhibit.

Imagine how a party of tourists might feel when, on hearing their approach a 40 foot Tyrannosaurus suddenly wheels round and roars at them!

For Audrey O’Connell, the museum’s project co-coordinator one of the biggest tasks is to re-create Mesozoic landscapes which are scientifically accurate.  To assist her she has called upon the expertise of the Natural History museum in London plus the world renowned American palaeontologist Jack Horner.  Jack, an expert on late Cretaceous dinosaurs (Hadrosaurs are his favourite), advised Steven Spielberg on the Jurassic Park films.  Jack, with his long hair, dark beard and penchant for wearing stetsons  even inspired a character from the second movie – “The Lost World”.  Unfortunately, this character, one of the palaeontologists with the larger Hammond expedition ended up being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Audrey stated “we wanted to create a hybrid of a theme park and a museum which would allow people to experience a Jurassic era habitat in a scientifically realistic environment”.

This new attraction will be sited just 6 miles from the coast in an area of development called the City of Arabia and it should be open in 2010, although once opened the attraction management team hope to be able to continually update their exhibits to reflect new discoveries and new research into prehistoric animals.

It will be the size of 10 football pitches and consist of two climate-controlled buildings, one of them dome-shaped. It will contain grassland and woodland divided into several different micro-environments, within which the various animals will wander.  As well as the dinosaurs, pterosaurs will swoop overhead and amphibians will swim in a large, artificial lake.

The park’s developers hope to set new standards in the realism of animatronics in the same way that Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Jurassic Park was a landmark in computer graphics with its dramatic portrayal of dinosaurs on screen.

An international team of scientists led by the museum are advising on the accuracy of details such as the stretching of the dinosaurs’ skin, their colour, the flaring of their nostrils and the smell of their breath.

In addition to the dinosaurs, the park will include displays showing the development of Earth from the big bang to the creation of oceans and mountains, before arriving in the age of the dinosaurs. An adjoining exhibition hall will house temporary exhibitions, some of which are likely to be loaned from leading Natural History museums.

The Dubai project is the first of a series of four scientific theme park-style attractions which the museum plans to develop overseas.  It seems apt that having built up the state on a fossil fuel economy, that other fossils should now act as the inspiration for the development of Dubai as a major tourist attraction.

The emphasis will be on realism, with realistic prehistoric animals wandering a realistic prehistoric landscape.

Below is a copy of the press release sourced from the Restless Planets own site:

Imagine going back 100 million years or more… to feel the power of the cosmic forces that helped shape our planet, and come face to face with giant dinosaurs. Restless Planet is a unique electronic media and natural history experience… where visitors enter a prehistoric world.

Restless Planet offers the world’s ultimate theme ride back into the mists of time – through the state-of-the-art electronics of today. Here, in the glittering new City of Arabia, you are transported back millions of years into the prehistoric kingdom of the dinosaurs. The world-renowned Natural History Museum of London has drawn on the elite of science, entertainment and technology expertise to realise the dream of bringing these giant creatures and the mysteries of the nature of our planet to life.

Along with the acclaimed dinosaur authority Jack Horner, Tokyo-based animatronics team Kokoro have recreated the real life creatures of the Jurassic era, the visitor experience is designed by international theme park specialists Jack Rouse Associates and is enclosed by a 75-metre dome, designed by international specialists firm RH Architects.

Gathered from the latest research available, the creators of the Restless Planet transport you into an age where earth-shattering events impacted the world. From earthquakes, eruptions and meteor strikes, the evolving shape of our planet will come alive before your eyes.

Step back in time to when our Earth was young. Feel your heart race as you travel through a Jurassic landscape alongside gigantic dinosaurs. Restless Planet is a unique, world-class natural history phenomenon, designed to draw tourists and investment and put Dubai into the scientific spotlight on the international stage.

A first of its kind in the world, Restless Planet will respond to breaking dinosaur discoveries through an ongoing programme of exhibits, announcements and events. No visit to Dubai will be complete without the thrill of stepping into our primitive world. Real natural history and entertainment – more exciting and authentic than ever before, and an attraction for all ages.”

With the world-wide “Walking with Dinosaurs” tour continuing to pack stadia I am sure this attraction will prove a success.  However, whether or not they are able to satisfy the keen eyed palaeontologists on the exhibits accuracy is a different kettle of animatronic fish.  For example, in the publicity DVD to promote the park, a tracking shot of Brachiosaurs and Stegosaurs majestically walking across a plain is interrupted by the passing overhead of a large Pterosaur.  The problem is that the flying reptile is clearly modelled on an Pteranodon ingens, pterosaurs like this evolved long after the likes of Brachiosaurs and Stegosaurs had disappeared – never mind.

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