“At a natural history museum, you assume you will see dinosaurs,” Julia Rivera, director of marketing for the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum told Examiner. “Our hall is one of the best.”
As one of the best, Dinosaur Hall boasts 300 fossils with many unique or newly-discovered specimens. There are 20 fully articulated skeletons on display, some having only been excavated recently. The L.A. County museum boasts the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the western United States.
For the 2012 Rose Parade, the dinosaurs are bursting out of their confines and storming across the rose garden on the City of Los Angeles float, “Dinosaurs in L.A.’s Backyard.” Each year, the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, known as LA INC, partners with a local attraction for a Rose Parade float. For the 123rd Rose Parade, LA INC chose the Natural History Museum.
“When we were approached by the City of Los Angeles,” Julia Rivera said, “we couldn’t be happier!” With the opening of Dinosaur Hall last July, “it was perfect timing for us,” she said.
“We want the country—the world—to know that L.A. is not just the Hollywood sign. We wanted to put on the map a cultural institution. We’re really honored that we came to mind.”
For links to all the articles on the LA/NHM float, including video of road tests, see “Follow that float: Los Angeles/Natural History Museum, from plans to parade”
The city gave the Natural History Museum (NHM) complete creative control over the design of the float. Phoenix Decorating Company, the designer and builder of the float, met with NHM and LA INC to brainstorm.
“The first point of inspiration was the cover art of Thomas the T. rex,” Rivera said, which was painted by Gayle Garner Roski. The children’s book, written by Michael Smith, is about the discovery of Thomas the T. rex in 2003. Thomas, now on display in Dinosaur Hall, is one of the most complete T. rex skeletons ever found with 70 percent of its bones intact.
An 18’ by 55’ float can fit just so many dinos, so only three could make the cut. The first idea tossed out was to do small, medium, and big. The team said, “No, let’s do big, bigger, and biggest!”
“The designers were impressed by the size of the animals,” Rivera said. “They said, ‘Thank you for picking the biggest.’ They wanted a challenge.”
The final design by Art Aguilar of Phoenix Decorating features life-size adult Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Mamenchisaurus. The Mamenchisaurus stretches the entire length of the float.
In deciding how to recreate the animals, the designers worked from illustrations provided by NHM and relied on the expertise of the paleontologists at the museum. “They are as scientifically accurate as they can be,” Rivera stated. “Dr. Luis Chiappe, head of the Dinosaur Institute at NHM, reviewed the sketches and made tweaks.”
For pictures of the dinos and their counterparts on the float, see the photo gallery at the left.
Rivera said Phoenix Decorating impressed her with the detail they employed on the float. “One of the welders brought in a figurine of a Triceratops as he was welding,” she said. “For them to pass muster with Dr. Chiappe is a big deal.”
The setting is also important. In the background on the float, as on the book cover, stands the historic 1913 Beaux Arts museum building. In front of the real museum in Exposition Park is an expansive rose garden. NHM asked Phoenix to create a wildly creative landscape, but with the more manicured rose garden in front.
“It’s a lot to try to pack into one scene on a float,” Rivera said, “but I think we’ve done it.”
Riders on the float will be Dr. Chiappe and five teenagers who have a relationship with the museum through volunteering or as part of the Junior Scientist program.
For the pre-parade TV cameras and post-parade fans, the float will likely be joined by the puppets from Dinosaur Encounters. NHM is the only museum in North America that has this kind of interactive show, which features puppets that are larger than adult humans (think Big Bird) and perform five days a week at the museum.
Volunteers are signing up to decorate the float on Saturdays in December and the for the big push during the final week between Christmas and New Year’s. Information is on the website. Shifts are eight hours with a break for lunch, and volunteers are expected to stay for the entire shift. Each volunteer will receive an official commemorative T-shirt.
Because the Rose Parade is on Jan. 2 in 2012 due to the “Never on Sunday” rule, the Natural History Museum is open on parade day. A special viewing party in the works, with activities for all ages themed around the float and an early opening to catch the parade on television.
The L.A. County Natural History Museum is open seven days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It’s a great place for anyone to visit when they’re in town for the Rose Parade.
The theme of the 123rd Rose Parade and 98th Rose Bowl Game is “Just Imagine…” The events take place on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 to avoid interfering with worship services on Sunday. The Tournament of Roses is a celebration that lasts several weeks in the fall and winter, with the high points being the Rose Parade presented by Honda and the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. Keep following your Tournament of Roses Examiner for the latest news and for upcoming announcements.
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