Thursday, October 29, 2015

Return to Backyard Terrors and Dinosaur Park

Around this time of year back in 2013, I interviewed my friend, Chris Kastner, who builds life-sized dinosaur models in his backyard!  If you haven't read that yet, go and do so now!  Well, since there, Chris has not stopped working and his dinosaur park has grown immensely.  Let's check back in on him and see how things have changed!

Chris with one of the park's Velociraptors.  Chris' park is one of the few outdoor dinosaur parks that has figured out how to present realistic feathers where necessary and still have them be weather-durable.  Other parks take note.  No excuses!

My name is Chris Kastner.  I think I've always been into art of some form. I believe I started drawing from a desire to capture what I saw on TV, movies and other places. Dinosaurs entered my art and mind at a pretty young age. I was totally hooked on the prehistoric beasts! However it was quite awhile before I was able to express my love of them and share it with many others. I think at some point we all want a life size dinosaur. I had toys, models, books..but I really finally decided the big critters were best enjoyed in 1:1 scale. I tried saving to buy one but the best were too far out of this artist's reach. So I learned to build my own. That was in 2007. It's been many trials and difficulties but now we have an established Dinosaur Park here with 38 different species!

Two of Chris' guests break up a fight between the park's Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus.

Question 1: It has been two years since we last had you on! Have there been many changes to Backyard Terrors since then?

CK: Wow..2 years already? Let's see..did we have the full size Triceratops then? lol We've grown a bit all with the support of everyone who believes in our work here and what we are doing. We did move our haunted house, The Funhouse here this year and have added other events throughout the year like Dino Park in the Dark and Trick or Treat with the Dinosaurs. 

Life-size adult Triceratops in Chris' dinosaur park.

Question 2: What models have been added?

CK: I believe we have added our 25' Triceratops, we did our Apatosaurus this past winter. " Kathy" named for my mother is 67' along with two 10' juveniles. Our Terrors of the Deep exhibit which features a Nothosaurus, Plesiosaurus duo and a large animated Mosasaurus. Then we also went ahead and opened our Mesozoic Nature Trail that has Dimetrodon, Oviraptors, Minmi, Ceratosaurus, Nothronychus, Quetzalcoatlus, Edmontosaurus, Deinonychus and..whew..we are working on a 30' Stegosaurus!  Man I'm tired! lol

Life-size, animated Mosasaurus in the marine-themed section of dinosaur park.

Question 3: Have any of the models been Improved or tweaked? Do they need any sort of maintenance or upkeep?

CK: We have continued to add the taxidermy eyes to older models, some need repainting or touchups. The feathered ones that stay outdoors in particular keep losing paint on the feathers. We've had a few guests want a tooth here there I've resculpted too.

Close-up of one of Chris' Plesiosaurus, which he used taxidermy eyes intended for crocodilians to give a realistic appearance to.
Question 4: How do you fund building all these new models? Some of them are HUGE and others implement special effects now!

CK: Donations. This place and everything in it couldn't continue without the help from all those that appreciate what we doing here and support us. Not just local friends either, we have help from all over the world, people that never have even been here support us as best they really touches my heart to bring fans of dinosaurs together to accomplish something for everyone to enjoy like this. 

Ceratosaurus, on the park's nature trail.
Question 5: When we last spoke you said your largest dinosaur in the park was either Big Al, the Allosaurus, or the Carnotaurus. Who is the biggest now and how big is he/she?

CK: Wow I guess it was a awhile back! lol We started with our 45' T. rex..but even he won't mess with our new 67' Apatosaurus! She is based on A. ajax and is around 15' tall at the top of her head.

Chris' sixty seven foot long Apatosaurus.

Question 6: Do you find Backyard Terrors has gained a lot more popularity and fame since two years
 ago? How do you advertise?

CK: It has! Jurassic World really boosted us this year, bringing dinosaurs into focus for kids again. Advertising is something we don't get to do a lot of..usually due to cost. A billboard is around 4,000.00 for a 3 month lease for example. Social media like Facebook is our biggest advertising tool, letting us keep fans updated and connect with them. 

The park's Nothronychus.  Many of the dinosaurs that Chris has built are appropriately feathered.

Question 7: What is the farthest people have traveled to see your park?

CK: Hmm..well as far as the states go we guests from just about every state. I do believe I saw Hawaii in our guestbook and I certainly saw Japan. Though I think that guest was here locally for other reasons ( family) and came to see us while here.. heh. 

Quetzalcoatlus on the nature trail.

Question 8: You also do an awesome horror-theme park with killer clowns. Do you favor one over the other? Are they open at the same time?

CK: Ah yes we do! My mom got me into Halloween big time, making costumes for us, decorating, encouraging us to be creative this time of year. In some ways it even beat out Christmas. We've done many haunt themes, Pirates, werewolves, but clowns..well clowns really let you let the crazy It's really great being able to turn that aspect loose..if only one time a year. The Funhouse actually supports the Dinosaur Park. Giving something to the older kids and adults to do. Proceeds from it are funneled back into the Park helping through the winter months when attendance all but stops. In the past our haunt had a few different venues, this year we brought it home to the Dinosaur Park, creating it's 1700 sq foot structure in one month ( Sep). The haunt is open Fri-Sat in October from 8-12am after the Dinosaur Park closes.

 A zombified elephant that Chris made for his haunted attraction, which is haunted circus-themed.

Question 9: Is Big Al still your favorite?

CK: Oh yeah! Allosaurus will always be my favorite, though every dinosaur here is special to me in some way. Many are nicknamed for friends and family. "Conrad" our Mosasaur is named after a good friend, reporter Jim Conrad who first came out and talked to me before we had gone anywhere near this far. He believe in us then and was truly interested in our efforts here. Sadly he passed away last December.

Big Al, the Allosaurus, sneaks up on an unsuspecting guest.

Question 10: Do you get inspiration from other dinosaur parks? How do you think yours hold up? Have you seen any that are more scientifically accurate than yours? (I can’t think of any off the top of my head to be honest)

CK: Things are always changing, our older/first pieces are often surpassed by newer ones. I'm always still learning and trying new things as well. A new process I've used relies on a plywood frame instead of just 2x4, it gives us a much more accurate guide to work from. Oh yeah for sure. There is at least one in Europe that has some great pieces and a few scattered about the U.S. too...never having been able to visit them myself I rely on images online..some look AWESOME! but I'm even a fan of the retro dinos too..they can show us a lot about our changing view of these magnificent animals.

Apatosaurus model being built using plywood.

If you're ever in Tennessee and feel like getting the crap scared out of you by cannibalistic clowns, or maybe you just want to take a stroll through a nature trail and see some dinosaurs, be sure to give Chris Kastner's Backyard Terrors a visit!  Check them out on facebook, too! 

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