Tuesday , July 27 2021

Meet Mutty the Muttaburrasaur at Questacon



"For kids it's all about imagination."

Audience members are encouraged to move and roar at various times and view other characters and settings.

Muttaburrasaurus langdoni was a true herbivorous dinosaur that lived in northeastern Australia about 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. A partial skeleton was discovered in Queensland in the early 1960s near the town of Muttaburra by grazier Doug Langdon – hence its name.

Although Muttaburrasaurus is about seven meters tall, Mutty is not that big. He is a hand puppet created by a student of Muppet's creator Jim Henson, says Cannell.

Someone offered him the puppet almost 20 years ago, asking if he could do something with her.

"I said," Yes, I can! ", He says.

Cannell is the original writer of this and many others Dinostory shows since the series began in 2000, and is also one of the artists. The scripts have evolved over the years through the suggestions and preferences of various artists.

Mutty is also a Questacon veteran, who has seen much service as one of the stars of the Dinostory series, held during most school holidays.

"He's had five or six different heads and four different bodies, but he's still the same doll," says Cannell.

Among the other dinosaurs on the show are Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Tyrannosarus rex – the most familiar prehistoric creatures that allow the show to appeal to a broad audience.

A statue of a Muttaburrasaurus in Hughenden, Queensland.

A statue of a Muttaburrasaurus in Hughenden, Queensland.

The show lasts only about 25 minutes, taking into consideration the attention of small children. Members of the audience should arrive early, as the theater often fills up quickly. There are two every day of the week.

"It can be exhausting – we used to do three shows a day," says Cannell.

After each presentation, he says, many of the kids do not want to leave and pepper the artists with questions and comments.

It is a testament to the enduring appeal of dinosaurs, especially to children – perhaps because, as paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould once said, dinosaurs are "big, scary and dead."

Cannell was one of those dinosaur-loving kids, but says his interest in them eventually faded away ("I found girls"). But when he completed a zoology course and did a work experience at Questacon, where dinosaur research was being conducted, he found himself "totally captivated."

He has been working there for a long time and has also spent some of his vacation periods in dinosaur digs in Queensland. The fascination of the dinosaurs, it seems, never left – just fell asleep. And now Cannell is doing his part to educate paleontologists and students of natural history of the future, helping to keep alive the love of dinosaurs.

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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