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Spend a day with dinosaurs at Jurassic World

All photos: T. Collins / Oakville News
All photos: T. Collins / Oakville News

*Note: the below story may contain spoilers for surprise elements on display at Jurassic World: The Exhibition.

Crazy as it may sound, dinosaurs are walking the Earth once again...or at least, walking in Mississauga.

Square One shopping complex in Mississauga, less than 10 minutes away from Oakville and most of Halton, is now playing host to a "dino-mite" family experience called Jurassic World: The Exhibition.

Primary inspiration comes from the multi-billion dollar Jurassic Park film series, and more specifically the 2015 sequel Jurassic World. The exhibition describes itself as a "family-friendly immersive experience featuring realistic dinosaurs, cutting-edge technology and richly themed prehistoric environments."

While that technically describes what's inside the 20,000 square foot exhibition, it doesn't truly encapsulate what it feels like to walk through the experience. With lush, detailed sets, detailed puppetry and jaw-dropping animatronics, the exhibit more than delivers on their teased blockbuster production values.

After seven years since its debut and over a dozen previous cities playing host, including nearly five million visitors worldwide, the exhibition is finally making its Canadian debut mere minutes away from Oakville for a limited engagement through this summer 2023.

Brachiosaurus on display at Jurassic World: The Exhibition
Brachiosaurus on display at Jurassic World: The Exhibition

Before the exhibition's grand opening this Saturday, April 29, 2023, Oakville News was invited to attend a soft opening ahead of the general public to get an up close and personal look at the dinosaurs and live entertainment inside the exhibition.

Aside from the editorial of this story, this reporter (and author) can say after seeing the exhibition in-person, Jurassic World is the single most exciting attraction that Mississauga (or Halton, for that matter) has ever seen.

The quality of special effects, scenic design, cast dedication and interactivity are so well crafted and executed that it truly feels like you're a character in an authentic movie adventure. And that doesn't mean it feels like a Jurassic World movie set - it feels like you're walking through Jurassic World as if it were a real place.

Making the movies come alive

All of these dinosaurs aren't the only thing suddenly alive at the exhibit - so too is the spirit of the source material and famous locations and characters from the Jurassic Park franchise.

Bringing these silver screen environments into the real, practical world is done in combination by two companies: NEON, the producer of several themed exhibitions and experiences, and Universal Destinations and Experiences (UDE), in conjunction with Universal Live Entertainment, which manages the Jurassic Park as a film property.

But how does a movie become a real place for people to visit? That's the job of UDE's global business developer Michael Silver.

"What we're always trying to do is to bring guests into guests favourite movies as much we can," says Silver, "and this exhibition does that for Jurassic World in incredible new ways. There really is something for everyone."

Visiting from Hollywood for Jurassic World's Canadian debut, Silver sat down with Oakville News for an exclusive interview on site at the exhibition. But this was no ordinary interview: we sat down inside a real-life gyrosphere, one of the fictional rides from the Jurassic World movie come to life.

Oakville News reporter Tyler Collins (left) with Universal Experiences and Destinations Global President Micheal Silver (right), seen in a Gyrosphere from the film "Jurassic World".
Oakville News reporter Tyler Collins (left) with Universal Experiences and Destinations Global President Micheal Silver (right), seen in a Gyrosphere from the film "Jurassic World".

"Jurassic World is an ecosystem," explains Silver. "This year is the 30th anniversary of the original Jurassic film and all of our theme parks around the world feature a big Jurassic presence. But we at UDE recognize most people can't get to our theme parks very often."

"We have a section at UDE called Live and Location Based Entertainment, and the mission is we want to bring our brands to where our brands live. This is a great way for people in Toronto, the GTA, Oakville, Halton and all around to come and experience the amazing things we [Universal] can do."

So what makes the exhibition unique from a regular museum? It's more than simply having the dinosaurs come to life.

"What makes our exhibition unique is there are live performances and show segments. We’ve replicated some elements from our theme parks in Florida, Hollywood and Asia and recreated them right here."

One of those elements is a life-size velociraptor puppet of "Blue" from the movies, operated by a highly skilled actor. Sure, if you look closely you can see the small human element, but the effect of the blinking, snarling, running dinosaur in front of you is extremely convincing - and a great way to showcase what dinosaurs were really like in an interactive way.

Silver continues, "This exhibition has a lot of information from outside the movie, including science from real-world STEM technology, paleontology and archeology. That also includes the newest research from working scientists to make this exhibition equally accurate, informative and entertaining."

A look inside a true Jurassic World

Why dinosaurs? "Everyone loves dinosaurs," says Silver. "They’re the biggest creatures who've ever roamed the Earth. We'll never know what happened to them - no one knows for sure - but this brand has grown the popularity of dinosaurs like we never imagined."

Before continuing to the final part of this story, know that this where the spoilers truly begin, including photos and descriptions of what else is inside the exhibition.

(Don't say we didn't warn you!)

By far the most impressive and exciting part of the show are the several large, live-size animatronic dinosaurs on display. There are six full-size animatronic dinosaurs on display at the show.

That doesn't sound like much at first, but when I say full-size that means some of them are nearly 20 feet tall and 40 feet long. And they don't just move like real dinosaurs - some of them actually walk around and eat, too.

Travelling through the exhibit is comprised of two alternating parts: stopping to watch short, scripted scenes with an interaction with a dinosaur and other walk-through exhibits (like you'd find at a museum) that you can explore at your own pace.

Part of one show scene, for example, features a live size T. Rex walking right in front of you. The effects needed to make this come alive are unbelievably real and seeing the T. Rex move makes you feel (understandably) small.

When asked about his favourite dinosaur, Silver answered the ankylosaurus (pictured above) nicknamed "Anky" by the local staff. Even more special is that this animatronic ankylosaurus is making its debut for the Mississauga stop of the exhibit's tour, and so far is exclusive worldwide here.

Silver says, "When you stand close enough to the tail, you can feel the breeze from his tail moving. That's the level of work [show design copany] NEON uses to make sure every detail is right." (Fun fact: NEON also builds the animatronic dinosaurs for Universal theme parks worldwide.)

Also on display at the show are five unique character encounters with baby dinosaurs. These meet and greets, In reality, are cleverly built hand puppets operated by the carriers (as seen above). But the term "puppets" seems inadequate to describe how life-like and interactive they are.

These dinosaurs can be touched by guests, and they blink, make sounds, move their tails, and even engage directly with visitors. The carriers also have a wealth of knowledge about each of the species.

Easily the most popular of the five creatures guests can get a close look with is "Bumpy", the baby ankylosaurus character from the children's Netflix series Camp Cretaceous.

"We're delighted to bring this awe-inspiring immersive experience to Canadian audiences for the first time," said Ron Tan, executive chairman of NEON Global. "This really is a one-of-a-kind experience."

"We hope Jurassic World: The Exhibition continues a long time and we're excited to finally bring it to Canada," finishes Silver. "We hope it goes to many places across Canada and as many guests come as possible will come and enjoy the show."

"Jurassic dinosaurs have such a unique look, and here they look so alive and exciting. Seeing a skeleton in museum is interesting, but it's hard to imagine what they were really like. Here you can see as accurately as possible what we think they really looked and behaved like."

Silver is right about one thing: Jurassic World: The Exhibition is the closest you'll come to seeing a real dinosaur. And if your experience is anything like mine was, it will take your breath away.

Jurassic World: The Exhibition is located at 199 Rathburn Road West in Mississauga, ON. Single tickets range from $21.49 to $55.99 and are currently on sale from now to June 25, 2023, though the exhibition is currently booked to run at its current location until at least September.

More information about the exhibition is available online here.

Editor's Note: While this story is not sponsored or endorsed by Jurassic World: The Exhibition, the author of this story did receive complimentary admission to the experience at the invitation of NEON and Universal Destinations and Experiences. Neither group was given authority over the content of this article.


Tyler Collins

About the Author: Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is the editor for Oakville News. Originally from Campbellton, New Brunswick, he's lived in Oakville more than 20 years. Tyler is a proud Sheridan College graduate of both Journalism and Performing Arts.
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