WRITTEN BY VINCE CAREY
@vincecarey on Twitter
PHILADELPHIA >> While you won’t get into one of those cool bubble cars or actually be chased by a dinosaur, you can get about just as close as possible at the Franklin Institute.
With the world premier of “Jurassic World: The Exhibition,” the Franklin has brought a little bit of Hollywood to the museum.
“This exhibition is an immersive and educational experience like none other — combining the enduring fascination with dinosaurs with an intriguing layer of real-world science,” said Larry Dubinski, the President and CEO of The Franklin Institute. “It is our hope that this exhibition will ignite true passion for discovery and a curiosity in our visitors to never stop digging, exploring and learning.”
Unlike other exhibitions the Franklin Institute, “Jurassic World,” making its North American debut, is a total experience.
Visitors start by jumping on a virtual ship (including windows showing a rocking sea) and take a ride to Isla Nubar, the site of some fun and some tragedy in the Jurassic Park films.
What emerges after the ship “docks,” is the iconic “Jurassic World’ gate in the middle of the jungle. Suddenly, you aren’t in a Philadelphia museum any more.
“Jurassic World: The Exhibition opened here to record-breaking crowds,” Dubinski said. “Making it the most attended opening weekend in the institute’s history for a traveling exhibition.”
The original “Jurassic Park” movie (based on the Michael Crichton book) opened all the way back in 1993 and has spurred three sequels, with more to come.
“These are great, entertaining movies about a science that is almost real,” said Jack Horner, the famed paleontologist. “We can’t do what they do in the movie, but it’s almost plausible.”
Horner should know, after all he is credited with most of the science behind the “Jurassic World” stories. Horner offered the first clear evidence that dinosaurs cared for their young, one of the key reasons behind the drama in all four movies.
“I think they are great,” said Horner. “The movies are a lot of fun.”
All of which has been transferred to the Franklin Institute by Imagine Exhibitions, the company behind the look and feel of the exhibition. Imagine has also been behind former Franklin Institute shows like Gehghis Kahn and Titanic: The Exhibition.
“This is the closest our visitors will ever come to living, breathing dinosaurs,” Dubinski said.
It doesn’t take long, either.
After stopping to take photos at the gates, there is a giant (life size if we are to believe the science), Brachiosaurus swinging its head directly above.
Moving through the dinosaur zoo, comes right up next to a Pachyrhinosaurus and its offspring. A warning, though, don’t feed the dinos people food.
“The exhibition masterfully transforms the iconic, breathtaking dinosaurs from Jurassic World,” said Dubinski. “It features the closest simulation of dinosaurs ever created.”
After spending some time in the lab filled with mosquitos encased in amber and some baby dinosaurs, it’s time for the big shows to begin.
First, there’s an up-close-and-personal visit to a Velociraptor cage (complete with a hologram of Chris Pine). What starts out as a calm visit, quickly devolves as the Raptor gets closer to the bars, roaring at visitors.
“Well that was a little too close for comfort,” said the exhibition’s audio guide.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to “Jurassic World” without a little bit of drama. While waiting for the doors to the Tyrannosaurus Rex area to open, there is an alert of an escaped asset.
Which, if you’ve seen the movie, is the newly-created Indominus Rex.
“After we made the first three movies, I wrote a book called ‘Making a dinosaur,’” Horner said. “It was supposed to be made into a movie, then it was put on hold. So, I had this book out there for years that didn’t make any sense until we made Jurassic World.”
The T-Rex, of course, adds to the drama by knocking over a jeep and roaring its way through a thunderstorm.
It wouldn’t be The Franklin Institute without some learning mixed in. There are stations where you can create your own dinosaur, see Dino DNA and compare skins of different reptiles.