Kazuya Kanemaru Chief Executive Officer, ON-ART Corp.
Every child has dreamed of seeing real dinosaurs firsthand. Now, there is a company that has brought this dream to life with cutting-edge technology. Their dinosaurs make the earth tremble with their steps, roar magnificently, and stare down the humans around them. Both children and adults alike are overwhelmed by the live show performed with realistic dinosaurs created by ON-ART Corp. We spoke with CEO Kazuya Kanamura, who says, “Especially now that virtual reality is all the rage, I wanted to show the power of making something real. We aim to give people a ‘sense of wonder,’ a sensation that cannot be put into words.”
A dinosaur in production
Kanamura, who has worked on the production of murals for commercial facilities and dioramas for museums, told us, “I wanted to make my way in the world with original works, not works that people had just ordered from me,” which led him to the idea of making dinosaurs. And they are not just any dinosaurs: these ones move around and roar realistically, too. Kanamura reflects on when he started working on the project, saying, “I wanted to try making dinosaurs because they stand at the peak of evolution among terrestrial creatures. My goal was to make creatures that evoke a sense of continuity with lions and tigers, not ostentatious movie monsters or cute little fantasy critters.”
Trial and error led to the use of strong and light carbon fiber for the frame, plastics for the exterior with finely detailed painting that makes use of all his skills cultivated thus far. Operators step inside each dinosaur to move the body using levers. Never before has the world seen such dinosaurs come to life. “It took us so many attempts and failures to create technology that I can sum up in a few words. When a big company sees a wall standing in their way, they knock it down with a bulldozer. But smaller companies like ours poke a hole in the wall with a little needle. We are confident our needle is sharp enough to go right through. So first we poke a hole. Then we peek through at what lies beyond. We make decisions quickly, and pick up little ideas on the way. This work may have been possible because our company only has 7 employees.”
Dinosaurs created by ON-ART lining up in a row
ON-ART has created 18 dinosaurs so far. Audiences can see them at an animatronic dinosaur show called DINO-A-LIVE. This includes an 8-meter-long Tyrannosaurus and an Allosaurus with razor-sharp teeth that get up close and personal. Performance, lighting, and story are all produced by ON-ART, which the company has been committed to.
Their performances are not limited to live shows, as offers have come from everywhere including television, magazines, and showrooms. “Sometimes we find whole new uses for our dinosaurs thanks to proposals from our clients. I’ve really felt that, since we put this product out there, a strong product has the power to create new jobs for itself,” said Kanamura. He says it feels as though he is chasing after dinosaurs that go their ways in search of places where they feel comfortable.
An 8-meter-long Tyrannosaurus
Kanamura goes on to tell us the advantages of starting a company in Tokyo. “We obtained patents for technology that we developed with the advice of a business navigator in Tokyo, and won the Tokyo Metropolitan Venture Technology Award Special Prize in 2009.” From a broader point of view, starting and operating a company in Tokyo in this day and age has strong appeal, he says. “Compared to a time when our ancestors risked their lives to cross the ocean, it’s a miracle that we were born in a time when we can travel abroad so easily. What’s more, Tokyo is a treasure trove of information and products, and better than anything it’s safe. I think our business is made possible because we are in this age, in this place.”
Kanamura continues saying that his future goals include making a dinosaur theme park. “Our goal is to give many people a ‘sense of wonder’ that shakes them to their very souls. Experiences that leave your mind completely blank and mouth gaping are what make for a rich life. I am certain of it.”