Dinamation International Corporation was a robotics effects company based in San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, and Tustin, California, USA. It was founded in 1986 by former airline pilot Chris Mays and some neighbors and dropped in March 2001. (A 2001 article describes the rise and fall and disappearance of its founder, Chris Mays.) Originally begun as a way to lease hand-made, one-of-a-kind, Japanese-produced robot dinosaurs to North American shopping malls, in time Dinamation defied its original mandate and came to produce its own production-line models for exhibit in science museums and zoos worldwide. Dinamation was a rare example of an American company following, improving upon, and then outpacing its Japanese rivals.
Dinamation started out with a dozen movie special effects technicians, sculptors, painters, and engineers housed in third-tier industrial spaces in Santa Ana, California, where municipal, safety and corporate oversight was minimal and creative freedom maximal. Given vague guidelines and a selection of consumer-grade dinosaur books for reference, they produced one "beta" show (which was sold, not leased) for a museum in Boston and also sold a display to the Mesa Southwest Museum in Phoenix, AZ, US (D.I.C. creatures are still on active exhibit there). Techniques improved (and so did scientific fidelity, up to a point, under the guidance of paleontologists Drs Robert Bakker and George Callison and given the contributions made by many skilled engineers and inventors/sculptors such as noted public artist Raymond Persinger and movie sculptors such as Matt Croteau, among others), until by 1988, Dinamation had grown to 150 employees embedded in a complex corporate structure and operating out of a 39,000-square-foot (3,600 m) facility in Tustin, California.
Museum attendances soared with every visit by the "Dinosaurs Alive!" shows and remained fairly high afterwards, boosting the revenues (and often the survival) of almost every venue. Dinamation was for a time quite successful, with exhibits around the world in important museums including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the National Geographic Museum, and the British Museum of Natural History.
At the end, under a cloud of financial mystery, over 700 American-made 'creatures' were left in limbo, scattered in science museums, trucks, and shipping containers across the United States and abroad. Some of the orphaned robots have become permanent parts of the displays in the museums that had shows running when the company folded. Other dinos were sold, lost, disassembled, disposed of, or recycled as spare parts for other dinos in better shape. Other final vestiges of Dinamation can be seen as ubiquitous uncredited photographs of the dinosaur robots and preproduction art, scattered in children's books, toy art, video backgrounds, and recycled magazine illustrations, as well as appearances in film. For viewing some of Dinamation's sculptures view www.DinosaurSculpture.com. This website shows several of the sculptures in process as well as completed sculptures in museum displays.
Some examples of Dinamation's sculptures can still be seen at the Otway Fly in Victoria, Australia.
A (very) partial list of the Dinamation robot creatures:
- Tyrannosaurus rex, 1/2-size
- Tyrannosaurus rex, full-size
- Apatosaurus, 1/2-size
- Stegosaurus stenops, 1/2-size
- Allosaurus fragilis, full-size
- Triceratops sp., 1/2-size
- Elasmosaurus sp., full-size
- Deinonychus sp., full-size
- Parasaurolophus sp., 1/2-size
- Pachycephalosaurus sp., 1/2-size
- Dimetrodon sp., full-size
- Tenontosaurus, full-size, dead
- Pterygotus sp., full-size
- Utahraptor sp., full-size
and various 'baby' dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, whales, giant insects, and versions of some animals from Dougal Dixon's "Future Zoo."