March 16, 2011

Dinosaurs are still cool.

I think the first, vivid, memory of dinosaurs I have is from the NYS Museum (in the State Education Building on Washington Ave.) when I was in elementary school. I remember they had a woolly mammoth and a model of a giant dragonfly that kind of freaked me out.

Then came those awesome stop-motion dinos from "King Kong" (1933). All of the crazy, giant prehistoric critters taking out the unprepared crew, Kong fighting a giant snake, pterodactyl and then that epic Kong vs. T-Rex bout... Yeah, Kong remains very close to the top of my favorite movies list.

In the 1973 there was this little show called "Land of the Lost," and it was awesome! Okay, awesome is maybe a stretch, but I was fan. Marshall, Will and Holly on a routine expedition... Chaka the monkey boy! Sleestaks! And everybody's favorite rubber dino Grumpy. No where near scientifically accurate, but so much Saturday morning fun!

After that was the awesomely bad Doug McClure movie "The Land That Time Forgot" (1975). I knew it was a bad movie but I still liked it. The whole idea of an uncharted island (like in "King Kong") where dinosaurs could still exist was fascinating and appealing.

I personally was never a fan, but Ryan watched several of these next entries and I think they are worth mentioning just for the longevity of the series. in 1988 Don Bluth, Steven Speilberg and George Lucas gave us "The Land Before Time." The movie is about a young Apatosaurus named Littlefoot, who's mother is killed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Littlefoot goes in search of the "Great Valley." Along the way he meets Cera, a Triceratops; Ducky, a Saurolophus; Petrie, a Pteranodon; and Spike, a Stegosaurus. This one film spawned 12 direct-to-video sequels. That's right, TWELVE!
I really don't remember how many we actually owned (on VHS!), but I believe we still have Ryan's stuffed Littlefoot in a box in the basement.

I guess I wandered away from dinosaurs for a while, I don't recall anything outstanding until 1993 and Steven Speilberg's "Jurassic Park." Like most of the movie-going audience I was a fan, and I was impressed. The geniuses at Industrial Light & Magic and effects wizards Stan Winston Studios created big, believable, interactive dinosaurs. And for about ten years after, the influence of those cloned, neo-dinos ruled the earth. For example: "Dinosaurs" the television series from 1991 to 1994. "Walking with Dinosaurs," BBC's miniseries in 1999. "Dinosaur," the movie from Disney in 2000. "Dinotopia," both the mini-series and the series in 2002-2003. "Dinosaur Planet" - also from BBC - 2003.

A couple of years ago I got hooked on BBC's "Primeval." A cool blend of science, science fiction, action, drama and comedy. Through the appearance of temporal anomalies humans and dinosaurs could travel across time and to and from alternate worlds. The first season was definitely the best for dino interaction. As the series became more about the alternate worlds and future monsters it became less about the cool dinosaurs. The current season (now on BBC America) is pretty good even though it has less classic dinos, it does have a great cast and good writing. The CG dinosaurs from Framestore CFC, who worked on "Walking with Dinosaurs," are pretty good.

It's great having a two-year old in the house. There are so many things I get to experience again, like classic Disney movies, trips to the toy store and of course, dinosaurs!

Maddy has just discovered the wonderful world of the prehistoric by watching a new show on NickJr., "Dino Dan." Now, I have to say, I did not get the appeal of this show, but apparently it does well in the ratings with the preschool set. And if Maddy is asking to watch it, then there has to be something to it. Maddy has not yet seen "Dinosaur Train" on PBS. But I bet if she did, she'd ask to watch that too!

So yeah, dinosaurs are still cool. And its great to see them get reinterpreted every few years to keep the mystery and the excitement alive.

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