In which Brian Cooley and the Dinosaur Research Institute introduce a hand built dinosaur.

Brian Cooley dinosaur

On April 24, Brian Cooley unveiled his latest creations to a large and appreciative audience at an open house held at his studio in Airdrie, just north of Calgary, Alberta. World reknowned dinosaur paleontologist Dr. Phil Currie was also on hand to dazzle us all with a presentation on his recent work in South America. The event was jointly sponsored by the Dinosaur Research Institute and all proceeds went directly to that non-profit organization.

The creations in question were three life size Alamosauruses. And just how big is life size? The two children, Greg and Diana, are 25ft long each while the mother, Yvonne, is a staggering 75ft long! Yeehaw! You don’t get many of them in a hatchback! A supporting cast of other smaller (but still life size!) dinos was also present along with some actual fossils, but Yvonne and her two rambunctious kids owned centre stage.

The project, commissioned for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Dinodome, was two years in the making and involved the skilled hands of several dozen artists. I had the pleasure of being one of those artists for all of three days near the conclusion of the project.

Like an idiot, I didn’t bother to document the actual work in progress. Opportunity presented itself again with the open house and I leapt at the chance to come out and record the results. All I can say is, “Wow!” The dinos are amazing! 


Dinos At the Event

Brian Cooley dinosaur

This is the big fellow that greeted everybody at the gate. In the background you can see a bit of the warehouse that houses the studio where Brian Cooley and his crew work their magic.

Brian Cooley
Dino on the loose!

Wow, he looks real, doesn’t he? All the dinos at the show were full size. This is pretty much how it would look if one of these bad boys was running around today. With less blood, of course.

Brian Cooley dinosaur

Kind of looks like a parrot from this angle. A rampaging parrot of death!

Brian Cooley dinosaur
Don’t touch my head!

Here we have a little baby, “little” being a relative term. This critter is about the size of a dog. I like the very natural expression and body posture.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
They grow up so fast

This is an adolescent alamosaurus. She is 25ft long! This shot was taken from a standing position, so this is pretty much what you’d see if you were standing beside a live one.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
Once again from the other side

Here she is again from the other side. What a spectacular paint job!

Brian Cooley dinosaur
Whoosh! Here she is, the star of the show!

This is the big ol’ mom alamosaurus that I helped with. Notice how her back touches the central roof beam? They had to tip her just to fit her in the building. You can get a sense of the scale by comparing the people down in the left corner. In the lower right corner you can see the back of Cam’s head. Cam is a very cool guy who helped us get set up on our first day. He has a great singing voice.

Brian Cooley dinosaur

The mom alamosaurus from the reverse angle.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
No tickling!

Exquisite detail along the belly of the mom alamosaurus.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
The atto contribution

This is the area that I worked on. It is the left side of the dino and is the part that will face out towards people, so we did our best to make it look nice. The top of the dino is about three stories high. The artist working on the spine just a foot up from our section did his job suspended in a harness attached to the roof. I thought he was pretty brave until I realized he had a full harness on while I was tippy toe on a milk crate with no fall protection of any kind. Neither of us tumbled to our doom, so it all worked out.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
Extreme attention to detail!

This is the area where the rear left leg attached to the body. Every detail was worked out by the crew in advance, right down to the way the scales would wrap around the folds of skin back there.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
Such a pretty smile

The head of the mother alamosaurus is a work of art unto itself.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
The head once more

This gorgeous work is worth a second look from the reverse angle.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
Scale model

This model indicates how everything will be installed.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
Large scale model

Every detail was painstakingly gridded out on this larger model.

Brian Cooley dinosaur
She’s huge!

This shot was included so you can see just how big she is.


What We Did

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blob

A quick explanation of what was done during my three days of involvement.

Two years of work had already been completed by the time I came on to the scene. Steve Sekulic, a mutual friend, had directed us Brian’s way in response to an open call for able bodies to assist the crew in the home stretch.

The main form of the dino was already complete and sheets of precast skin texture had been tacked into place. The sheets varied in size from several square feet to strips a few inches wide.

We were among the group tasked with “chasing” the seams. This process involved filling the gaps between the sheets of skin texture with warm squishy blobs of plasticine and sculpting the plasticine into a transitional texture. In this way the gaps are filled and conflicting textures are smoothed into one another.

Brian Cooley chasing plasticine dinosaurBrian Cooley chasing plasticine dinosaur

The finished results actually looked two-tone like that. The colours were not an issue since the dino is used to form a mould from which is cast a new fiberglass dino. It is the fiberglass dino which is painted up and delivered to the customer.

So what happens to the original plasticine dino after the casting process? Believe it or not, it is dismantled and most of the several hundred kilograms of plasticine are reclaimed for the next project!


Cooley & Co.

If you want a dinosaur to look as if it could walk right off the pedestal and bite you,

you hire Brian Cooley.

Chris Sloan, Art Director, National Geographic Magazine

There can be only one. In the world of dinosaur building, Brian Cooley is lord of all he surveys. Artist, scientist, engineer, teacher and entrepreneur, he is the kind of guy the word guru was invented for. His client list spans the globe from Canada to Japan and includes the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the National Geographic Society and Walt Disney World.

Together with Mary Ann Wilson, he has built Cooley & Co. into the leading creator of dinosaur replicas in the world. They have written a book together and continue to be at the forefront of fundraising in the continued support of dinosaur studies.

Brian Cooley and Mary Ann Wilson
Brian Cooley and Mary Ann Wilson