Life-size animatronic dinosaurs coming to South Florida Science Center

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They're the same size as the dinosaurs that roamed the earth millions of years ago. They look as authentic as science can make them. And they move.

The animatronic T-rex, stegosaurus, velociraptor and other dinosaurs featured in the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium's next major exhibit, "Dinosaurs Around the World," are meant to take visitors on a tour back in time — one that feels as true to life as possible.

"This is the real thing," said Lew Crampton, CEO and director of the West Palm Beach museum. "Or as close to the real thing as we can get, since dinosaurs died off about 65 million years ago."

Dinosaurs Around the World

Buoyed by the recent success of the movie "Jurassic World," museum officials think the exhibit will be the museum's biggest yet. They expect around 75,000 people to check out the dinosaurs during their nearly six-month stint in South Florida, from November to April.

With the dinosaurs roped off in spaces that look like their natural environments, the exhibit is meant to make visitors feel like they're on a tour of a prehistoric park. It includes 13 dinosaurs from all seven continents over a time span of about 150 million years.

The brightly colored creatures blink, roar, open their mouths, shake their heads and sway their tails. They range in size from about 3 feet tall and 15 inches long to 16 feet tall and 45 feet long.




"We tried to show them in all their greatness," said Gregory Erickson, a paleontologist and Florida State University professor who consulted on the exhibit.

Because of their size, some of the dinosaurs will likely have to stand outside the museum. Their "giantism" was a challenge in designing the exhibit, Erickson said: "It's kind of interesting trying to jam the largest creatures that have ever walked the earth into a human-built building."

And getting them around is no small feat. Crampton said it'll probably take three or four 18-wheelers, a crane and other equipment to get the exhibit to Palm Beach County. Setting it up could take as long as 10 days, he said, calling it a "technical tour de force."




"Dinosaurs Around the World" is coming to the South Florida Science Center from the Clinton Center in Arkansas, where it is making its world premiere. New this year, the exhibit was designed to be as up to date as possible. To that end, it includes several more recently discovered dinosaurs that may be new to some visitors.

"Our goal was to create a dinosaur exhibit that utilized the latest technology and research," said Debbie Donohue, vice president of exhibits for Imagine Exhibitions, the Georgia-based company that put it together. "And we were really excited to create a globetrotting exhibit that features dinosaurs. It's sort of a different take on a dinosaur exhibition."

It's also aimed at being educational. Among things Erickson said viewers will learn: Dinosaurs weren't all big, a new one is discovered every week and they didn't truly go extinct — some just evolved into birds that are still flying around today.

While the exhibit is on display, Crampton plans to bring in experts who will discuss what happened to the dinosaurs that did die out. There will be a question-and-answer session with paleontologists and hands-on activities including fossil digs.

"It's going to be all dinosaurs all the time around here," Crampton said.

Bringing "Dinosaurs Around the World" to the science museum will cost around $300,000. It's being funded by a grant the Quantum Foundation, a West Palm Beach-based grant-making organization that also paid for the museum's last couple of "blockbuster exhibits."

Though the two, "Afterlife: Tombs and Treasures of Ancient Egypt" in 2014 and "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" in 2013, attracted more than 70,000 visitors apiece, Crampton thinks this next one will be the most successful.

There's something "universally appealing" about dinosaurs, he said.

He would know. As the director of the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Ill., Crampton decided the then-struggling museum needed a dinosaur to bring in more people. He dispatched a team of researchers to Montana, where they ended up making one of the most significant T-rex discoveries of the decade.

The dinosaur, a juvenile named Jane, was brought back to the museum, where attendance nearly quintupled that year.

"Dinosaurs are just plain awesome," Crampton said. "They make people think, they make them open their eyes."

Erickson agreed.

"I think it's remarkable to think that something like this existed," he said. "I think that's it right there. I think we're just really stunned that something like this existed.", 561-243-6531 or Twitter @britsham

If you go

"Dinosaurs Around the World" is open daily from Nov. 1 to April 16, excluding some holidays, at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, 4801 Dreher Trail North, West Palm Beach. For more information, including hours and costs, call 561-832-1988 or visit