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Santa Barbara Zoo welcomes a robo dino

May 30, 2011|By Terry Gardner | Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Actress Heather Hernandez and volunteer Zoe Fleming, 6, brush Duncan the Dinosaur's teeth in a new show at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Actress Heather Hernandez and volunteer Zoe Fleming, 6, brush Duncan the… (Tony Luna )

Young fans of the movie “How to Train Your Dragon” will want to catch the new show at the Santa Barbara Zoo, in which a Tyrannosaurus Rex demonstrates how animals can be trained to receive special care at the zoo.

Duncan the dinosaur stars in “How to Train Your Dinosaur,” in which hosts use the robo dino to show families how the zoo’s animals receive care, including how the creatures let trainers brush their teeth. This lifelike T. Rex is 15 ½ -feet long from nose to tail and 7 feet tall.  It was created by the Chiodo Brothers, a Hollywood creature shop, and Duncan can run, roar, snort, growl, sneeze, blink and even, um, take a comfort break with the help of the operator inside, who controls his actions.  In the 15-minute show, Duncan allows his teeth to be brushed with a giant toothbrush. (In real life, the gorillas at the zoo have their teeth brushed daily with a normal toothbrush.)

"We average about one crying kid per performance," Dean Noble, the zoo's director of marketing, said in an email. "The rest of the children are thoroughly enchanted."

As with all productions, there is some tinkering: "We keep adjusting the revised poop mixture (peat moss, small bark, vermiculite, cooking oil plus two other secret ingredients)," Noble said. "It has to be just right to deploy. The poop is a huge hit (no applause, lots of chuckles and groans, however). "

The free show is staged at the outdoor Rolling Hills Theatre, with the audience seated on the grassy hillside (with no reserved seating). The zoo's kid-friendly website even provides tips on how to train your friends or pets.

Zoo admission: Adults (13-64): $12; Children (2-12)/Seniors (65+): $10

Parking: $5 (or free for zoo members)

Info: Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Niños Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103; (805) 962-5339, www.sbzoo.org.

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