PARKING alongside a triceratops, a muttaburrasaurus and giant titanosaurus was quite a surprise on a recent visit to O’Connor.
I wasn’t attending a Liberal party fundraiser; I was outside Animatronic Engineering.
The dinosaurs were placid when I got there, but AE boss Tony Riggio says when they are operational, they are so realistic they scare young children.
There are more dinosaurs inside the massive AE warehouse, along with giant insects and fruit.
Mr Riggio, a White Gum Valley local, has combined his love of dinosaurs, theatre and science in a business that creates educational displays for museums and zoo across Australia and Asia.
Mr Riggio has been working closely with Flinders University’s paleontology department to create walking, roaring, breathing Australian megafauna.
They include the giant goanna (megalania), marsupial hippo (zygomaturus), the prehistoric procoptodon (giant kangaroo), the giant wombat (phascolonus gigas) and the rainbow serpent (wonambi).
His robot dinosaurs are built around a high-tech stainless steel frame, and electricity has replaced pneumatics to create life-like movement.
“With nano-technology we get the same fluid movement,” Mr Riggio says.
Similar eastern states companies import cheaper dinosaurs, including Clive Palmer’s now extinct, Palmersaurus, but Animatronic Engineering’s models are made to Australian safety standards.
“There’s only been one big
fire in Australia and that was at Clive Palmer’s.”
Constructed in China, under close supervision, the dinosaurs are fleshed out with fire retardant foam and coated in silicon and nylon mesh.
With a degree in theatre arts from Curtin University (formerly the WA Institute of Technology) Mr Riggio has worked on the technical side of theatre, beginning his career at the old Perth Play House.
He’s worked on the Adelaide Arts Festival a number of times, is involved in China’s national puppet organisation, and was part of the huge 2008 UNIMA world puppetry festival.
“I’m fascinated with puppetry and our dinosaurs are giant puppets,” he says.
By JENNY D’ANGER
68 Forsyth Street, O’Connor