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article imageReview: Ginormous Gonwanda Giants Groove at ROM Special

Toronto - It’s often said everyone likes a dinosaur and there’s no better place to check out the theory than in Toronto, where “everyone” lives. So on a Sunday when the outdoors temp is dino-steamy, a duck into the AC’ed ROM is in order.
I'm there to check out the meeting of ‘everyone’ and the biggest, strangest dinosaurs ever, the beasts of the Southern Hemisphere.Straight out of an orthodontist’s nightmare, large as life and twice as terrifying, it’s no wonder at some point the person in charge of naming dinos just gave up and named one Gigantosaurus, and she wasn’t kidding.
Ultimate Dinosaurs, showcases 21 of the most unusual dinosaurs discovered so far. The last bit is important as more dinosaurs have been named in the last 20 years than in the previous 100. It’s highly likely there’s more to come. The exhibit will be the first time that many of these Southern Hemisphere dinosaurs will be shown in Canada.
We can learn a lot about our social evolution from the way we relate to dinosaurs. As with any group, stars will emerge and in this group, no surprise it’s the bad boys that light up the eyes. Even though the most massive dino on the premises in both height and weight is a herbivore, it’s the thugged-out flesh rippers who draw the love. Among the exhibits is a nest with babies from one of only two known dinosaur species who passed on the egg thing in favour of live births.
Awesome miracle of birth you say? Good luck with that when those bad boys from Jurassic Jersey Shore are in the house. So deep is the love, while we mock the tiny heads of the herbivores, the machete sized teeth and meat-hooked feet on a Cryolophosaurus makes it easy to overlook the puny, pathetic arms.
Another Gondwana star is Futalognkosaurus, the largest dinosaur ever mounted in Canada. It's 33.5 metres long and weighed as much as 10 elephants when it roamed the earth. Rounding out the top three is Suchomimus, reputed to devour the equivalent of a dozen of those guys with the man boobs and Speedos daily.
The Gondwana giants evolved in an eat or be eaten social environment much like that of Bay Street. Since we’re not really sure of the coloration of most dino species, I’m betting on the existence of a pinstriped velociraptor.
Before you get to the headliners, the interactive CGI component makes a killer opening act. It uses augmented reality technology that allows visitors to scan the displays through a tablet screen provided, or through their own iPad, to see them become animated and covered in skin.
Visitors can also interact with two digital murals that react to their movements. Especially effective is the video showing the formation of the continents, beautifully sequenced so that the planet seems to breathe in and out as the continents pull apart and come together in different configurations. As it’s on a loop it can be quite hypnotic. Ok, just me and a couple of stroller rats then.
Enter the main hall and become one with the crowd, as colourful and varied and nultilingually chattering as only Toronto can provide, and totally in keeping with this bazaar of the bizarre.atmosphere.
Packs of variously hued children dart about, dodging ongoing photo shoots bathed in flashes like it’s a Lindsay Lohan arrest, a trio of stoners in heavy metal drag wander by presumable on their way to the Dinosaurs Of Rock show, blond Korean fly guys cruise Middle Eastern girls in swirling scarves ‘neath the towering bones, famous fashion bloggers recording it all, families in shirts proclaiming geographic affiliation, as in ‘I Love Kingston’, other families in apparel with more distant reference points, like Cambodia and Pakistan.
All brought together out of love and reverence for creatures who died millions of years ago and whose stories are shrouded in myth. Hmm, sounds familiar. No bones about it, makes one wonder if there’s room for an all-embracing religion centered on dinosaur worship.
Failing that, there’s always the Gift Shop, which brings together love of dinosaurs with that other religious experience, shopping.
Ultimate Dinosaurs runs until March 2013. Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Bloor St. W. Visit rom.on.ca/dinos.
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