In anticipation of the upcoming release of the movie Walking With Dinosaurs, I recently I had the opportunity to interview one of the film’s consulting paleontologists, Steve Brusatte. Steve has been involved in consulting during the editing process of the film, adding feedback and ensuring the science portrayed is accurate. He is also involved in the Walking With Dinosaurs spin-offs such as the website, children’s encyclopedia, toys and interactive video games that parents will be looking for in time for the Holidays. In fact he wrote the Walking With Dinosaurs Encyclopedia which will be available from Harper Collins in November and profiles all of the dinosaurs in the film.
I asked Steve to tell us a little about Walking with Dinosaurs. He explained the film tells the story about a heard of dinosaurs coping with a changing world. Due out at the end of the year, the film is poised to be the next big thing in dinosaurs and makes use of amazing CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and 3D to bring the story to life. He indicated that he has noticed that in the last few years dinosaurs seem to have been less in the public eye. He believes this film will change that. He acknowledges that the film is entertainment and not a scientific documentary, but is pleased that the very latest science in this field has been incorporated into the film. Every dinosaur character is based on a real dinosaur known to have existed, and all the landscapes and settings are based on current scientific research. The dinosaur movements and behaviors shown are based on current scientific understanding. Each dinosaur portrayed in the film had a consultant who was a specialist on that species, adding authenticity to the portrayal of how the dinosaur actually would have moved and how they would have interacted with each other. As a scientist he is pleased with the film as a well-informed story.
I was curious if there were some story elements in the film that might seem like just Hollywood magic and make believe, but were really based on fact. Steve pointed out one of the creatures in the film that would be easy to dismiss as fiction would be the pterosaur, which was based on a flying creature with a wing span of 30 feet. Steve says we know there were real flying animals that existed that were actually that big! It has been almost 20 years since Jurassic Park hit theaters, and in that period many new things have been discovered about dinosaurs. He thinks something parents and kids will also be surprised about is the feathers on the dinosaurs. Steve mentions that tens of thousands of fossils of dinosaurs covered in feathers have come to light since 1996. This will be the first major film to show dinosaurs covered in feathers.
Talking with Steve, you could not help getting excited about dinosaurs. We talked about how most kids go through a “Dino” phase sometime in preschool or elementary school. He said he had a younger brother that went through an intense “Dino” phase. However, for Steve, it was not until he was 15 and his little brother asked for help with a science project that he became hooked on fossils and discovering that this line of study was a great way to understand how the earth has changed over time.
I asked him for any suggestions he had for parents looking to encourage scientific discovery to compliment the imaginary dinosaur play. He fondly remembered how his parents encouraged him and his brother to ask questions, and be curious. He recalls trips to the museum to see not only dinosaurs but mummies, ancient artifacts, submarines, all of which he believes attributed to his natural curiosity. He says today’s parents have so many tools for them on the internet in the way of scientific news, blogs and videos. He noted that you can easily find videos showing paleontologists in the field digging up bones and making new discoveries. So if Walking with Dinosaurs sparks your kids to want to know more, these are great ways to channel your kid’s curiosity!
Walking With Dinosaurs hits theaters on December 20th and will be in 3D.