Walk on the Wild Side

By Brittany MenjivarJanuary 16, 2024

Walk on the Wild Side
DINOS ALIVE, Montebello, from December 2021.

In 1990, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park warned us about bringing dinosaurs back to life. In 2021, Exhibition Hub and Fever ignored Crichton’s warning and brought us the ongoing “immersive experience” Dinos Alive—and we’re all the better for it. The one-of-a-kind exposition, which features animatronic recreations of over 80 “monstrous lizards,” has taken up residence at a warehouse in Montebello, transforming it into a prehistoric jungle that visitors can explore at their own pace. After being bombarded with Instagram ads urging me to “WALK AMONG THESE GIANTS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON,” I let my curiosity get the better of me.

When I walked into Dinos Alive, an employee asked me whether I was there for “Bubble World” before redirecting me down a dark hall. As I passed signs for an immersive Van Gogh experience, a docent with a lifelike dinosaur puppet on his arm approached me. He ushered me into a “cave” behind a projected waterfall, and I found myself in a land before time.

I heard the dinos before I saw them. An ominous string soundtrack accompanied low moans, triumphant roars, and sporadic birdlike shrieks. Lining either side of a winding central path, the beasts came in all shapes and sizes—and all of them were convincing. I stepped closer, resisting the urge to reach out and let one chomp on my hand. Its eyes, complete with slender pupils, blinked open and shut; its tongue swished around its mouth. Its sides even expanded and contracted in steady animatronic breaths as it wiggled its tiny arms and swung its tail to and fro.

Reading the plaques that outlined each dino’s habits and habitats, I viewed the machines in a new light. They were no longer robotic novelties but living, snorting dioramas. I was surprised to learn that the dinosaurs’ sizes didn’t always correspond to their numbers on the scale: stumpy herbivores were well over 20,000 pounds, while the pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus was relatively lightweight despite its 52-foot wingspan. I was also shocked to see how few dinosaur specimens have been discovered—sometimes, researchers only have one or two skeletons of a given species. (You’re welcome for the cool dinosaur facts; consider using them as icebreakers at parties.)

I began to fancy myself an amateur paleontologist; nonetheless, I continued to be surprised by the sheer range of the displays, which included adorable baby dinosaurs and a giant room with wall projections that created an “underwater” environment where massive marine reptiles swam by. The developers did well to corral the most famous creatures into the last room of the exhibit. Sure, the Dimetrodon is a funky little guy, but nothing compares to the overstimulation induced by seeing a Triceratops and a T. rex next to each other—I know you guys! my inner child cried out. My heart radiated with a joy I hadn’t felt since my parents took me to the Rainforest Cafe for my fifth birthday.

The final phase of the exhibit involved two dino “rides” as well as a VR component. Seeing that the former were more like kid-proof mechanical bulls, I decided to leave them to the under-12 crowd and opted for the latter. Putting on the headset, I saw myself on the back of a pterodactyl. I whirled around in a swiveling chair among creatures both tranquil and aggressive. Even when the animation lagged, I lit up thinking about all the methods humans have invented to get closer to these 65-million-year-old marvels, driven simply by curiosity and awe.

Returning to the real world, I passed by a new crop of visiting families with toddlers. I couldn’t help but wish that more adults would listen to the “roar” in their heads and roll through. Sure, Dinos Alive is a no-brainer for little ones—but it’s also a fun day out for anyone who has ever spent hours in a natural history museum or gotten a little carried away making papier-mâché dinosaur eggs in kindergarten. I, for one, am glad I took this walk on the wild side.


Photo of dino by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Brittany Menjivar was born and raised in the DMV; she now works and plays in the City of Angels. With her partner in crime Erin Satterthwaite, she runs Car Crash Collective, hosting late-night literary readings at Footsies Bar in Los Angeles. Her poetry and fiction have been featured in HADDream Boy Book ClubSpectra, and Dirt Child, among other publications. Additionally, she was named a 2023 Best of the Net Award Finalist. You can stream her short film Fragile.com on YouTube’s ALTER Channel, where it has nearly two million views. You can also find her on Substack: she posts cultural criticism via BRITTPOP, and keeps track of the most exciting events happening in L.A. each week via The Angel Almanac.


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