“Chomp! Chomp!” performances are scheduled at 12:00 & 3:00 p.m. on weekends.
Performances held at the outdoor Rolling Hill Theatre and are free with Zoo admission. Audience seating is on a grassy hillside; no reserved seating.
Shows are canceled in the event of rain, since dinosaurs don’t like to get wet!
Creation of the Zoo's Dinosaurs
The Chiodo Bros. Productions, Inc. did an amazing job in bringing dinosaurs to life at the Santa Barbara Zoo!
Mix together bad puns, an egotistical French chef, and original songs (including one about worms), add three high-tech dinosaurs on stage and the result is a new, live, musical show at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “Chomp! Chomp! Dinosaurs are Picky Eaters” is performed daily at noon and 3 p.m. at the Zoo now through Labor Day, when the schedule moves to shows on weekends only. The performances are free with admission, as are visits to the Zoo’s animal kitchen, located in the newly opened Discovery Pavilion, to observe the animals’ food preparation first-hand.
“Chomp! Chomp!” stars the Zoo’s popular dinosaurs, Duncan the T-Rex, Lily the Duckbill, and baby Triceratops Tulip, in a lively 15-minute “cooking show” that reveals how the Zoo’s animals diets are created. Audience volunteers help the two cooking contestants, “Nutritionist Trent” and “French Chef Ego,” figure out what kinds of foods the dinosaurs should receive.
The Top Chef-type competition between the two chefs also includes volunteers from the audience, who help feed Lily, and a hapless “assistant” who could end up as dinner for Duncan the T-Rex.
“This fun show is a good way for guests find out more about what animals eat at the Zoo,” says Zoo CEO Rich Block. “Another way is to visit our animal kitchen, which is open in the Discovery Pavilion every day. You can see first-hand what is being prepped – fresh fruit for the gorillas, fish for the otters, wriggling mealworms for the birds, and even enrichment items like huge bones for the lions. As Chef Ego says, ‘Bone appetit!’”
All three of the Zoo’s dinosaurs were designed and hand-built by the Chiodo Bros., the Hollywood “creature shop” that also created Duncan. The Zoo’s dinosaurs are sponsored by the Duncan family.
FAQ’s About Chomp! Chomp!
The hosts were selected by audition, but they aren’t just actors. They all share a real interest in animals and a love of performing.
Every child is different. It is impossible to predict an individual child’s reaction to large, realistic-looking dinosaurs. If you think your child might be fearful, consider sitting further back from the stage.
“Chomp! Chomp!” performances scheduled on weekends at 12:00 & 3:00 p.m.
Show times may change, so check the schedule when you arrive at the Zoo. Please be aware that dinosaurs do not appear in the rain. They don’t like to get wet.
Absolutely take photos or videos during the show! There is also a five-minute period at the end of each show for photos of the dinosaurs with your children.
The Zoo has “ambassador” animals that come out to meet the public. We’ve had such shows in the past and there may be a show in the future featuring one or more of those animals. But for now, this is the only show.
FAQ for Younger Guests
Yes! Dinosaurs hatch from eggs and are reptiles.
Duncan’s egg was found by itself. It didn’t look like his parents were around to take care of it. So it was brought to the Zoo to hatch. Lily’s egg was found a little while ago, and also hatched at the Zoo. The little triceratops just hatched – she’s a baby! Keepers at the Zoo have taken very good care of the dinosaurs and they have lots of friends – like you – who come see them.
Duncan does eat meat, but he will not eat people. Both Lily and the triceratops eat plants.
Like most of the predator animals at the Zoo, Duncan is kept in his own space, separate from the other animals.
T. Rexes were carnivores, meaning that they ate other animals. They were like the Zoo’s lions and leopards in that they hunted their prey.
They have a special area near the stage where they stay when they aren’t in the show. It isn’t open to the public and they aren’t visible.
About the Zoo’s Dinosaurs
Duncan is 15.5 feet long and 7 feet tall when his head is raised. He weighs 75 pounds (not counting his operator). Lily is even bigger – she’s 16 feet long and 10 feet tall, but weighs about the same. The baby triceratops is very little –small enough for her handlers to hold in their arms.
Triceratops (try-SERRA-tops) means “three-horned head.” Parasaurolophus (para-saw-ROLL-off-uss) means “crested lizard.” Tyrannosaurus Rex (tie-ran-owe-SORE-uss rex) means “tyrant reptile.”
We want our younger guests to enjoy the illusion of real dinosaurs, so please don’t tell them there is really someone inside them.
We wish we could find someone with legs that look just like a dinosaur’s, but until we do, the operator’s legs will be visible. We’ve also discovered that some kids who are frightful become less so when they “see” Duncan’s and Lily’s human legs.
The operators inside Duncan & Lily have voice synthesizers allowing them to make a variety of sounds. Notice the different the sounds made by Duncan (his are deeper and more growly, more like a predator) and by Lily (more high pitched, almost bird-like).
Duncan is an only child. The Zoo doesn’t have plans for any other dinosaurs at this time.
He was named by some very generous Zoo donors, a.k.a. the Duncan Family. They also named Lily in honor of Lillian Child, the woman who donated her estate – where the Zoo now stands — to benefit the Santa Barbara community. Many Zoo animals can be named or sponsored.
A backpack holds the lightweight aluminum frame that forms their skeletons. Foam was used to construct muscles and tendons. Everything was covered by a “skin” of custom manufactured fabric that is dyed, then hand-sewed on and custom painted. The operator wears the backpack and is able to control their heads and jaws; eye blinks are run by a computer program. A video monitor allows the operator inside to see ahead via images from a pinhole video camera. The operator also wears a headset that allows them to make sounds through a voice synthesizer.
The Hollywood “creature shop” Choido (KEY-oh-do) Brothers designed and built Duncan. They’ve done animatronics, live-action puppetry, stop-motion animation, and other special effects for movies like “Elf,” “Dinner for Schmucks,” “Screamers,” “Gremlins” and others. The actual designer was once the supervisor of the Jim Henson Creature Shop.
He cost less than a brontosaurus and more than a pterodactyl. Seriously, much of the cost for all three dinosaurs was underwritten by several generous sponsors, including the Duncan Family, who are the naming sponsors.
It is a nontoxic recipe that includes water, cooking oil, peat moss, methyl cellulose (thickener used in toothpaste – and in the Ghostbusters’ gooey “slime”), vermiculite (natural mineral used as a soil conditioner), and a preservative called Glydant Anti-Microbial.
None of the animals at the Zoo sing or talk! We wanted to show how keepers work with our animals – and how they learn to communicate to each other.
Sorry! They are off exhibit except during the shows.
In addition to the show, the dinosaurs make limited appearances at the Zoo for parties and events. Contact Guest Services for availability.
Sorry! Duncan and friends have to stay at the Zoo and can’t be rented by outside groups or individuals.