NEW YORK (AP) — The dinosaurs are ready to roar across America again — but they're sporting a new look.
"Walking with Dinosaurs, the Arena Spectacular" is coming back to the U.S. and Canada — its first visit to North America since its inaugural 2007 tour — and many of its lifelike puppets will be wearing downy feathers.
"We've decided to bring them up to date," said the show's self-described "resident dino geek" Philip Millar. "I've been going on about feathers for some years now. And now we've finally taken the leap and we're applying the feathers to the dinosaurs we're fairly confident had feathers."
Recent discoveries by paleontologist point to the possibility that a large number of non-avian dinosaurs had feathers or something similar — paleontologists call it "dinofuzz" — as part of their body covering, blurring the distinction between dinosaurlike birds and birdlike dinosaurs.
The show, based on an award-winning BBC Television series, travels 200 million years from Triassic to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, features 20 life-size dinosaurs from 10 species, including a mother Tyrannosaurus Rex and her baby, both of which will now have feathers.
Miller said the new feathered creatures may be a shock to some in the audience. He notes that the ferocious T-rex is more closely related in time and anatomy to a sparrow than a Stegosaurs.
"People's popular ideas tend not to keep up with the science, so you'll find some people tend to draw T-Rexes at a 45-degree angle or they talk about Brontosaurs in a swamp and things like that. The science has moved on."
The new tour kicks off in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena from July 9-13, then hits The Barclay's Center in New York City from July 16-20 and then The Prudential Center in New Jersey from July 23-27. Other stops are planned for Los Angeles, Kansas City, Montreal, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Milwaukee, Wis.
The largest dinosaur in the show is the 36-foot tall, 56-foot long Brachiosaurus. It takes three people to operate the biggest puppets and each large one weighs 1.6 tons, the weight of a standard family car.
A team of 50 costume designers and engineers have been working since last year to re-create the ancient creatures, The animatronic dinosaurs bat their reptilian eyelids and gnash their teeth with a startling ferocity.
The show is produced by Global Creatures, the Australian company behind the new musical "King Kong," ''War Horse" and "How To Train Your Dragon." Worldwide, more than 8 million people have seen the dinosaur show in 243 cities.
Miller is a little tickled that the show will land in America in 2014, where debate continues to rage over both evolution and climate change. "Dinosaurs are deeply charismatic. They are very deeply appealing to children. And so I think it's important that the curriculum around that is fact-based and the way evolution works and the way the history of the planet works" he said.
"I mean, climate change killed the dinosaurs. It wasn't just a meteor. The meteor precipitated making climate change which led to the extinction. So there's some fairly important lessons from these creatures."
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits