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These Life-Size, Animatronic Dinosaurs Are Heading to New Homes

Yesterday, an auction house in Canada offloaded more than 50 robotic reptiles in a unique online sale

Each of the more than 50 animatronic dinosaurs remains fully functional. (Courtesy of Able Auctions)
smithsonianmag.com

This week, an auction house in Langley, British Columbia, presented the perfect selection of items for anyone who’s ever considered converting their backyard into a veritable Jurassic Park: namely, more than 50 life-size, animatronic dinosaurs, as well as a collection of dinosaur fossils, animatronic equipment, lights and speakers.

“It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy one of these in auction,” Jeremy Dodd, CEO of Able Auctions, tells Ben Mussett of CBC News. “We’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve never seen a dinosaur come through before.”

Ahead of the August 6 sale, collectors in some 25 different American states, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia had expressed interest in the trove. Potential buyers included people looking to add to their backyards, restaurants and even a dinosaur-themed liquor store, according to Jessica Leigh Hester of Atlas Obscura. Speaking with CBC News, Dodd estimated that the fully functional models could sell for as low as $1,000 Canadian dollars (around $750 USD) or as much as ten times that amount.

To demonstrate the dinosaurs’ capabilities, Able Auctions brought a handful of them to life. They blinked, nodded, roared and slammed their tails, causing a ruckus in the company’s warehouse.

“It sounds like a dinosaur farm in there,” Dodd tells Atlas Obscura.

One of the animatronic dinosaurs sold in yesterday's auction (Courtesy of Able Auctions)
One of the animatronic dinosaurs sold in yesterday's auction (Courtesy of Able Auctions)
One of the animatronic dinosaurs sold in yesterday's auction (Courtesy of Able Auctions)
One of the animatronic dinosaurs sold in yesterday's auction (Courtesy of Able Auctions)

The models consist of a steel-frame skeleton filled with foam and held together by a rubbery, skin-like exterior. Their interior motors can be controlled by human handlers or programmed to react to motion sensors. Per CBC News, the head of a Tyrannosaurus rex animatronic is roughly the size of a small car, while a Brontosaurus measures some 72 feet long.

As David Carrigg reports for the Vancouver Sun, the dinosaurs and fossils were once part of an international touring exhibition—likely Experiential Media Group’s “Dinosaurs Unearthed.” The Canadian company went bankrupt in May after just a year in operation.

Before its closure, Experiential Media Group rented the dinosaurs out to museums, zoos and tourist attractions in more than 100 cities around the world. As seen at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and London’s Natural History Museum, among other institutions, animatronic dinosaurs are often used to give visitors a sense of what it might have been like to walk among these giants.

Wherever these faux dinosaurs ended up, they’re sure to continue inspiring the imagination of many people.

“People love mysteries,” Dodd tells Atlas Obscura, “and this is a mystery, what it would have been like back then.”

About Claire Bugos
Claire Bugos

Claire Bugos is a journalist and former print intern at Smithsonian magazine. She is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and history.

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