(A&E) 'Walking with Dinosaurs' a worthy family-friendly expenditure 

"Walking with Dinosaurs" opened last night at Conseco Fieldhouse. The event was something I had been looking forward to since it was announced. And while I had a great time, there were a couple small disappointments. But, overall, this is an event that an entire family can actually enjoy (unless you are a hard-core Creationist) -- even the parents and older kids will find it neat, and not just tolerable, like so much family fare.

If you like TV channels such as History and Discovery, you will enjoy this show. While a lot of the evolutionary information may not be new to you if you are a big non-fiction reader or watcher, the presentation finds a nice balance of simplicity and accuracy. Plus, the unique presentation makes it interesting, between the projected Pangaea and the blow-up vegetation. A "paleontologist" character walks you through the three dino periods, introducing the characteristics of each era and its inhabitants -- and throwing in some mild humor that isn't too cringe-inducing.

But the stars of the show are the dinosaurs. The puppets -- for lack of a better word to describe these complex concoctions -- range from suited individuals to animatronic monsters. What I was not expecting was the larger dinos being supported by a rolling cart-like device that holds them up, with their legs to the side and operated by a bicycle-like pedaling device. For me, these supports marred what was otherwise a simply awesome illusion. Most of the dinos look as lifelike as an extinct, never-seen-in-the-flesh reproduction of a creature can, but ungainly back pedaling and some movement limitations made complete suspension of disbelief unattainable. However, their vocalizations were just as, if not more, imposing than the beasts themselves. Conseco was filled with the vibrations of roar after roar, which elicited applause from the large audience.

Amazingly, with many small children in attendance, I didn't see any that totally freaked out, even those sitting close to the stage. I saw a few that became so entranced with the action that they stopped moving and stared, trance like, even when Mom and Dad started prodding them to move along. A couple screams were heard when the T-rex made her entrance, but cheers quickly followed.

Speaking of, be aware that this is a circus-like environment, with tons of food, roaming cotton candy vendors and lots of enticing gift shop items, like a dinosaur tail you can attach to your little one. The arena was a-glow with twirling light-up toys.

July 8-12. $59.50, $49.50, $39.50, $29.50 and $19.50.

Thursday, July 9, 7 p.m.

Friday, July 10, 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 11, 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Sunday, July 12, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Conseco Fieldhouse

Phone: (800) 745-3000

Web site: http://www.dinosaurlive.com

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