Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jurassic rock: 'Walking With Dinosaurs' takes creative contentaward.(On The Road).

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Stegosaurus, originally uploaded by christiNYCa.

Well-conceived live entertainment other than concerts and sports is hard to find, particularly the kind that can fill an arena.

That might explain why dinosaurs are among the biggest names in touring during the past two years.

That's dinosaurs as in Ankylosaurus, Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Brachiosaurus and, of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex.

They've been--quite literally--rocking audiences in "Walking With Dinosaurs--The Live Experience."

The show is a highly creative production in look, sound, feel and presentation. And with $40 million in grosses and more than 821,000 tickets sold since the show first hit North America last year, according to Billboard Box-score, it's also clear the public still digs dinos. It is for this creativity and box-office muscle that "Walking With Dinosaurs" will receive the Creative Content Award at the 2008 Billboard Touring Conference Nov. 20 in New York.

This award goes to a first-time touring production that provides entertainment that is unique and commercially viable. The only previous winner of the Creative Content Award was Cirque du Soleirs "Delirium" in 2006, produced by Cirque and Live Nation.

After "Walking With Dinosaurs" played 10 sold-out weeks in Australia in early 2007, veteran U2 and Rolling Stones production guru Jake Berry was hired as the production director of the North American tour, which has drawn kudos from arena managers since it began.

"We sold every single ticket for every single show," Spokane (Wash.) Arena executive director Kevin Twohig says. "It is a spectacular event with spectacular demand."

Based on the BBC documentary series that first aired in 1999 in the United Kingdom and subsequently came to North America through the Discovery Channel, the tour is produced by Bruce MacTaggart of Immersion Edutainment with ArenaNetwork. The massive, Stones-esque production involves 27 53-foot tractor-trailers and 65 crew members, including lighting technicians, engineers, puppeteers, actors, sound people and carpenters. The dinosaurs themselves are technical wonders, the largest of them maneuvered by high-tech puppeteers and hidden "drivers" so that they not only walk among patrons, but react to their screams with a fierce stare and a thunderous roar. There are 15 dinosaurs in all with 10 species represented, including a mother and daughter T-Rex.

The show is theatrical in its presentation, with lighting from John Raymond. The set designer is Peter England, known for ballets and operas. Berry calls "Walking With Dinosaurs" "Broadrock," entertainment he considers a mix of the theatrical aesthetics of Broadway and the excitement of rock'n'roll.

ArenaNetwork is a consortium of venues with the purpose of helping arenas and arena theaters bring in more quality content. ArenaNetwork president Brad Parsons says this show works because of its "wow" factor. "If you don't have some kind of 'wow' factor, you've got a problem, because that's the way you sustain an audience," he says. "They've done a very good job at doing that and also in being educational."

Still, marketing such a unique tour is not without its challenges. "If you talked to any one of our marketing departments in the venues, they would tell you it's an extraordinary work project--but it's a good work project," Parsons says. "It was well-received by the schools and by the community and in the end it was a happy ending, but this is not a show where you can just put it on sale and sell lots of tickets and be happy. Frankly, I think it's harder than anything I've ever worked on, and I've been doing this for 32 years."

Hard, maybe, but the market is broad and the appeal enduring. Once kids outgrow Barney the Dinosaur, they're pretty much fair game for these fiercer-looking dinos for the rest of their lives, as Madison Square Garden marketing VP Liana Farnham discovered.

"I came onboard at MSG just as our team was launching a unique press event with the baby T-Rex and one of the raptors outside the Garden--truly a spectacle," she says. "As a member of our target demographic--mom of a 5-year-old--I felt this was the perfect opportunity to help leverage all of our assets for such a unique attraction. And as marketers, we learned the audience for ["Walking With Dinosaurs"] was all ages, and that the magic of dinosaurs will never be extinct."

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Source Citation
Waddell, Ray. "Jurassic rock: 'Walking With Dinosaurs' takes creative content award." Billboard 8 Nov. 2008: 12. Academic OneFile. Web. 17 Jan. 2010. .

Gale Document Number:A188795776

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