Hollywood has blessed us with some iconic moments. Like the Velociraptor rattling that door handle. But how many on-screen dinosaur scenes are plausible and how many pure fantasy? The KinoSaurier exhibition at the Naturhistorisches Museum has some answers.
- Explores the changing relationship between science, movies and dinosaur depictions through time
- Features film clips, models, skeletons, movie posters, and more
- Two words: Dinosaur. Selfies.
- Just a normal museum entrance ticket required
- Runs Oct 20, 2021 – April 18, 2022
- See also:
KinoSaurier: Fantasy and Research
(View of the exhibition interior; press photo © NHM Wien, Christina Rittmannsperger)
Inevitably, our image of dinosaurs comes less from the latest scientific analysis and more from Hollywood studios.
The KinoSaurier exhibition explores the delicate relationship between the two, where the screen version of a dinosaur reflects a mixture of what we know, what we imagine, what fits the plot, and what’s possible with special effects.
As a result, the on-screen portrayals have often produced what we might politely describe as (ahem) “scientific inaccuracies”.
I recall a time, for example, when screen dinosaurs were just present-day lizards with an extra horn strapped to their head by the special effects team. You younger folk have no idea what cinematic life was like back in the day.
(And, apparently, dinosaurs did not travel in stone age cars. Despite what The Flintstones tells us.)
Not all the blame lies with the filmmakers. As KinoSaurier explains, early scientific depictions of dinosaurs got it wrong, too.
One notable display shows how a Megalosaurus leg bone was once misidentified as a scrotum. And paleontologists initially assumed the T-rex stood upright with its tail on the ground. We’ve only recently realised it held itself horizontally.
KinoSaurier shows how screen representations of dinosaurs live somewhere on the line between fantasy and research (hence the subtitle of the exhibition), how these depictions have changed through time, and how we’ve gone from clumsy models to the remarkable computer-generated beasts of 21st-century films.
The exhibition also explores the relationship to the scientific consensus.
Film clips, movie posters, real dinosaur skeletons and full-scale models help illustrate developments and the interchange with science…and provide some memorable selfie opportunities.
The skeleton of a 210 million years-old Plateosaurus, for example, occupies the final part of the exhibition space. The team at the Natural History Museum only recently put together the bones by combining fossil remains with replacement bones in a configuration based on the latest science and technology.
The Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies feature significantly (of course), since the original kickstarted the use of CGI for animating dinosaurs. We discover that they got the T-rex’s posture right, but also increased the size of a mosasaurus enormously for effect.
The exhibition also introduces us to the discipline of paleo art, which is the formal attempt to create true images of dinosaurs based on the scientific evidence. Given sightings of live dinosaurs remain relatively rare in 2021, even the experts need to make a few educated guesses when it comes to those scientific depictions.
KinoSaurier comes to Vienna from the Landesmuseum Hannover with curators Dr. Annette Richter of the Landesmuseum and Dr. Daniel Hercenberger of the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf.
Tickets and dates
Enjoy the science and story of dinosaurs on film from October 20th, 2021 to April 18th, 2022. No extra ticket is required: just the normal entrance ticket for the museum itself.
How to get to the exhibition
Find travel tips at the bottom of the main NHM article. The KinoSaurier exhibition lives up on the lower floor (Hochparterre) leading off from the entrance.
If you enjoy dinosaurs, then the museum offers a couple of other prehistoric treats. Visit the lower floor galleries for an animatronic Allosaurus (try saying that after a few glasses of wine) and other delights.
The museum shop obviously has plenty of dinosaur-themed toys and souvenirs, including genuine prehistoric relics and fossils.
Address: Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna