Something new is coming to the NEC. Creatures with big teeth and terrible claws will be stalking the venue for two whole months this summer.
Luckily this isn’t the end of days; it’s the start of Dinosaurs in the Wild, an innovative theatre-exhibition-museum combo pushing the boundaries of immersive entertainment.
When EN meets up with producers Jill Bryant and Bob Deere at the start of June, the show has already taken up residency at the NEC, and rehearsals are just about to begin.
“It’s their first extended tenancy show, and our first show,” Bryant tells EN. “It’s really exciting to see it being built, something that’s lived in our minds so long as a creative idea.”
Bryant previously worked with Walking with Dinosaurs producer and director Tim Haines on the live version of the TV show. That experience inspired her to start thinking and talking about a new concept in family entertainment.
The £12m show takes visitors back 67 million years to the time of the dinosaurs, for a 70-minute experience. It combines live walkthrough sets, cutting edge computer generated imagery, animatronic creatures, actors and more. Everything has been designed to create a completely immersive prehistoric world.
Deere points out that the emphasis on scientific accuracy means visitors may have to rethink their preconceived notions of what dinosaurs looked like.
“There’s lots of new science about dinosaurs,” he explains. “Now scientists understand that dinosaurs weren’t green and brown scaly lizards; they had feathers and fur and were all sorts of colours. “Everything you see in relation to the dinosaurs is based on work from our scientific consultant, who is a palaeontologist.”
New concept in entertainment
One of the biggest challenges of creating the show was finding a venue, continues Bryant, and one that was able to envision the true scale and scope of the show.
“It comes down to the fact that this is a new concept in entertainment, it’s a hybrid of immersive theatre and an exhibition,” she says.
“One of the big challenges when you have a new idea is that you need someone to share that vision, and the NEC did that. We talked to them about this new concept and they really supported that vision.”
The show is a step into the unknown for the NEC, and one that’s it’s excited to take, adds Ian Taylor, venue sales director – NEC Group conventions and exhibitions.
“Dinosaurs in the Wild is a fantastic product,” he tells EN. “The thought of stepping back in time is certainly an exciting one – and it will help people see the NEC differently in terms of what can be hosted here.
“It is a different type of show to anything we have done before and the depth of partnership with the Dinosaurs in the Wild team effectively sees us acting as co-promoter of the show,” Taylor adds.
The show will take place throughout July and August, when the exhibitions community tend to hold fewer events and the school holidays will be in full swing.
“UK holidays are becoming more and more popular, so we are tapping into a trend with a show that has enormous appeal for the mass market,” continues Taylor.
The NEC boss says the group is hoping to lead the way with organisers adding extra content to extend their shows at the venue, with workshops and live experiences, multi-day events and the like, building not just their audiences but also footfall around the site.