Dinosaurs (TV series)

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Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs intertitle.jpg
Created by Michael Jacobs
Bob Young
Voices of Stuart Pankin
Jessica Walter
Jason Willinger
Sally Struthers
Kevin Clash
Florence Stanley
Sherman Hemsley
Theme music composer Bruce Broughton
Composer(s) Bruce Broughton
Ray Colcord
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 65 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Michael Jacobs
Brian Henson
Producer(s) Michael Jacobs
Running time 23 minutes
Production company(s) Michael Jacobs Productions
Jim Henson Productions
Walt Disney Television
Buena Vista International
Broadcast
Original channel ABC[1][2]
Original run April 26, 1991 (1991-04-26) – July 20, 1994 (1994-07-20)

Dinosaurs is an American family sitcom that was originally broadcast on ABC from April 26, 1991 to July 20, 1994. The show, about a family of anthropomorphic dinosaurs (portrayed by puppets), was produced by Michael Jacobs Productions and Jim Henson Productions in association with Walt Disney Television and distributed by Buena Vista International, Inc.[3][4]

The show used voice actors for the characters which are performed by different puppeteers.

Origins[edit]

News stories written at the time of the show's premiere highlighted Dinosaurs' connection to Jim Henson, an American puppeteer who died the year before. "Jim Henson dreamed up the show's basic concept about three years ago," said a New York Times article in April 1991. "'He wanted it to be a sitcom with a pretty standard structure, with the biggest differences being that it's a family of dinosaurs and their society has this strange toxic life style,' said [his son] Brian Henson. But until The Simpsons took off, said Alex Rockwell, a vice president of the Henson organization, 'people thought it was a crazy idea.'"[5]

In the late 1980s, Henson worked with William Stout, a fantasy artist, illustrator and designer, on a feature film starring animatronic dinosaurs with the working title of The Natural History Project; a 1993 article in The New Yorker said that Henson continued to work on a dinosaur project (presumably the Dinosaurs concept) until the "last months of his life."[6]

The television division of the Walt Disney Company began working on the series in 1990 for CBS before the series landed on ABC, which Disney eventually acquired.[7]

Plot[edit]

Dinosaurs is initially set in 60,000,003 BC in Pangaea. The show centers on the Sinclair family: Earl Sinclair, the father; Fran Sinclair, the mother; Robbie Sinclair, the son; Charlene Sinclair, the daughter; Baby Sinclair, the baby; and Grandmother Ethyl Phillips.

Earl's job is to push over trees for the Wesayso Corporation with his friend and coworker Roy Hess where they work under the supervision of their boss B.P. Richfield.

Characters[edit]

The focus of the show's plot is the Sinclair family: Earl, Fran, Robbie, Charlene and Baby.

Main characters[edit]

Character Voice Body Face/Head Comments
Earl Sneed Sinclair Stuart Pankin Bill Barrett Tom Fisher (occasional) Dave Goelz (season 1), Mak Wilson (seasons 2-4) The patriarch of the Sinclair family, Earl is the protagonist. He is a Megalosaurus and is depicted as being thick-headed and suggestible. Earl works as a "Tree Pusher" at the WESAYSO Development Corporation.
Frances "Fran" Sinclair née Phillips Jessica Walter Tony Sabin Prince Allan Trautman The mother and homemaker of the Sinclair family. Fran is mentioned on the show as being an Allosaurus. Her four fins and wrists make her resemble a Dilophosaurus as well.
Robert "Robbie" Mark Sinclair Jason Willinger Leif Tilden Steve Whitmire The eldest of the Sinclair children, he is a Hypsilophodon. He is the only dinosaur on the show that is shown wearing shoes.
Charlene Sinclair Sally Struthers Michelan Sisti Bruce Lanoil Earl and Fran's daughter and middle-child. She is designed to be a generic-looking dinosaur (some features resemble a Protoceratops).
Baby Sinclair Kevin Clash Kevin Clash (body), Terri Harden (arms, Season 1-3) and Julianne Buescher (arms, Season 4) Kevin Clash (mouth), John Kennedy (eyes) Baby is the youngest of the Sinclair children is supposed to be a Megalosaurus as stated by Earl. In the episode "Out of the Frying Pan," Baby is shown as a Ceratosaurus. His legal name is Baby Sinclair, which was given to him by the Chief Elder.

Supporting characters[edit]

Character Voice Body Face/Head Comments
Ethyl Phillips née Hinkleman Florence Stanley Brian Henson (seasons 1-2), Rickey Boyd (seasons 3-4) Ethyl is an Edmontonia who is Fran's mother, Earl's mother-in-law, and the grandmother of Robbie, Charlene, and Baby. Ethyl comes to live with the Sinclairs, and is revealed to have a son named Stan (Fran's brother).
Roy Hess Sam McMurray Pons Maar David Greenaway Roy is Earl's co-worker at the WESAYSO Development Corporation and closest friend. He is a dull-witted Tyrannosaurus rex who also has a brother named Roy.
B.P. (Bradley P.) Richfield Sherman Hemsley Steve Whitmire Steve Whitmire Bradley P. Richfield is Earl's intimidating field boss at the WESAYSO Development Corporation. He is a Triceratops, with the horns on the frill making him look like a Styracosaurus. In "Hungry for Love," it is revealed that B.P. Richfield has a daughter named Wendy.
Monica Devertebrae Suzie Plakson n/a Julianne Buescher An Apatosaurus and semi-regular character who is the only four-legged dinosaur on the show.
Spike Christopher Meloni David Greenaway N/A He is a semi-regular character who resembles a Polacanthus with a black leather jacket. Spike is Robbie's friend who often refers to him as "Scooter."
Ralph Needlenose Various Various Various A Troodon who is a co-worker of Earl Sinclair and Roy Hess at the WESAYSO Development Corporation. The Full-Bodied costume used for Ralph is often used for one-appearance minor characters.
Gus Spikebake Various Various Various A Ceratosaurus who is a co-worker of Earl Sinclair and Roy Hess at the WESAYSO Development Corporation. The Full-Bodied costume used for Gus is often used for one-appearance minor characters.
Sid Turtlepuss Michelan Sisti John Kennedy Michelan Sisti A Psittacosaurus who is a co-worker of Earl Sinclair and Roy Hess at the WESAYSO Development Corporation. Sid Turtlepuss is seen more than the other characters. He enjoys bagels and donuts. The Full-Bodied costume used for Sid is often used for one-appearance minor characters.
Mr. Pulman Allan Trautman Bruce Lanoil (first time), Tom Fisher (later appearances) Allan Trautman A bespectacled Troodon who is a teacher at Bob LaBrea High School. The Full-Bodied costume used for Mr. Pulman is often used for one-appearance minor characters.
Mindy Jessica Lundy Star Townsend Julianne Buescher A female Corythosaurus who is the best friend of Charlene Sinclair. There are two different characters with the same name that are both friends of Charlene. There are also two unrelated characters called Mindy:
  • One green-skinned character named Mindy only appeared in "Slave to Fashion."
  • A brown-skinned character also named Mindy appeared in "Charlene & Her Amazing Humans" and "Scent of a Reptile."
Howard Handupme Kevin Clash N/A N/A A Walter Cronkite-esque Pachycephalosaurus who is the newscaster for DNN (short for Dinosaur News Network). He is one of a few characters that isn't a Full-Bodied character.
Chief Elder Various Voices Various Performers N/A Also known as the Elder-in-Chief, the Chief Elder presides over all of the government in Pangaea. It is assumed that he is the head of the Council of Elders. There had been different Chief Elders in different appearances:
  • The first Chief Elder appeared in the two-part episode "Nuts to War" where he was a Protoceratops. He was performed by Steve Whitmire and voiced by George Gaynes.
  • The Dryptosaurus Chief Elder that passed away in the episode "And the Winner Is..." is voiced by Sam McMurray and was succeeded by political analyst Edward R. Hero (performed by Allan Trautman and voiced by Jason Bernard). He was about to name Baby Sinclair, but he was dying with the Stegosaurus name announcer thinking the Chief Elder named Baby "Aagh Aagh I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair". This was the only Chief Elder that was a Full-Bodied character.
  • A suited Chief Elder that appeared in "Green Card" is performed by Mak Wilson and voiced by Joe Flaherty.
  • The Chief Elder that appeared in "The Greatest Story Never Sold" is performed by Allan Trautman and voiced by Tim Curry.
  • The Chief Elder that appeared in "The Golden Child" is voiced by Michael Dorn.
  • The Chief Elder that appeared in "Working Girl" is performed by Allan Trautman and voiced by Joe Flaherty.

Unisaurs[edit]

Outside of the recurring characters, there are a group of dinosaur characters called Unisaurs. They are customizable dinosaur characters similar to the Whatnots from The Muppet Show and the Anything Muppets from Sesame Street. Some of the Unisaurs are Full-Bodied while the others are hand-puppets. They come in different types.

The following are the Full-Bodied Unisaurs:

  • Needlenose - A tall dinosaur resembling a Troodon with an elongated snout. In addition to being used for Mr. Pulman and Ralph Needlenose, this Unisaur was used for;
  • Spikeback - A bulky Ceratosaurus with a striped back, striped tail, and a nose horn. In addition to being used for Gus Spikeback, this Unisaur was used for:
  • Unnamed Female Unisaur Class - A female Corythosaurus with a short snout, eyelashes, hair-like crest, and lighter-hued skin that was often used for Mindy. This Unisaur was also used for:

The Hand-Puppet Unisaurs are usually used for television personalities, elders, officials, audience members, and other characters that can be viewed from the waist up. Here are the following Unisaurs in that category:

  • A blue Protoceratops that was used for the first Chief Elder in "Nuts to War" and was also used for:
    • Harold Heffer from the episode "What "Sexual" Harris Meant". He was performed by Bruce Lanoil and voiced by Jack Harrell.
    • Elder #2 from the episode "Charlene's Flat World".
    • Judge D.X. Machina from the episode "Earl's Big Jackpot". Hw was performed by Bruce Lanoil.
    • Shopper from the episode "Power Erupts."
  • A green Leptoceratops with a large muzzle that was used for various characters. Sometimes has horns to make it look like a Triceratops.
  • A crinkly-green humanoid-faced dinosaur that was used for the other Chief Elders and was also used for:
  • A gray Iguanodon-faced dinosaur that was often used for Mr. Lizard (performed by Allan Trautman) and other background appearances.
  • A cleft-chinned Albertosaurus-esque dinosaur that was often used for Captain Heroic, various newscasters, and various reporters.
  • A child Unisaur that was often used for Timmy in the "Ask Mr. Lizard" TV show. Two variations of this Unisaur existed: a green one and a blue one.
  • A brown puppet version of a Needlenose that was used for Mr. Otto Lynch from "What "Sexual" Harris Meant" (performed by Allan Trautman).
  • A Stegosaurus that was used for:
    • Government Clerk from the episode "And the Winner Is..."
    • Newsboy from the episode "Charlene's Flat World".
    • USO Soldier from the episode "Nuts to War" Pt. 2.
    • Caroler from "Refrigerator Day".
    • Used several times as a student at Bob LaBrea High School.
  • A crested-brown Corythosaurus that was used for:
    • Guy in a Labcoat from the episode "Charlene's Flat World"
    • Jury Foreman from the episode "Earl's Big Jackpot"
  • A Parasaurolophus that was often used for female characters starting in "Slave to Fashion."

Episodes[edit]

Topical issues[edit]

Topical issues featured in Dinosaurs include environmentalism, endangered species, women's rights, sexual harassment, objectification of women, censorship, civil rights, body image, steroid use, allusions to masturbation (in the form of Robbie doing the solo mating dance), drug abuse, racism (in the form of a dispute between the two-legged dinosaurs and the four-legged dinosaurs), peer pressure, rights of indigenous peoples (in the form of the dinosaurs interacting with cavepeople), corporate crime, government interference in parenting, allusions to homosexuality, and pacifism.[8]

In the episode "I Never Ate For My Father," in lieu of carnivorism, Robbie chooses to eat vegetables, and the other characters liken this to homosexuality, communism, and drug abuse.[citation needed]

In the final season, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold" (a take off of The Greatest Story Ever Told) even references religion when the Sinclair family becomes eager to learn the meaning of their existence. The Elders dictate a new system of beliefs, and the entire cast (with the exception of Robbie) abandons science to blindly following the newly popular "Potato-ism".

Another religious-themed episode was "The Last Temptation of Ethyl," in which Ethyl willingly allows a televangelist to exploit her near-death experience to extort money from followers. She backs out after having a second such experience, where instead of heaven, she experiences a "place not so nice:" an existence surrounded by nothing but multiple Earl Sinclairs.

Several jokes in the series were at the expense of television shows in general. Earl often wants to watch TV rather than do something more practical, and several jokes accuse television of "dumbing down" the population and making it lazy.

Captain Action Figure shows up in children's programming that Fran mistakes for a commercial. Whenever Captain Action Figure mentions a product, the screen flashes "Tell Mommy I WANT THAT!". Before the appearance of Georgie, Dinosaurs used a puppet highly reminiscent of Barney named "Blarney" in two episodes. During his appearances, members of the Sinclair family commented on his annoying characteristics and failure to teach anything to children.

The characters will sometimes break the fourth wall as well, especially Baby. An example of such is seen in the episode "Nature Calls" (Season 3, Episode 1) when Fran and Earl spell out words in front of Baby during an argument, who, after looking at the camera and saying "This could get ugly", proceeds to spell out "They think I can't spell" with his alphabet blocks.

The series finale of Dinosaurs depicts the irresponsible actions of the dinosaurs toward their environment, and the ensuing Ice Age which leads to their demise. The episode "Changing Nature" begins with the failure of a swarm of Bunch Beetles to show up and devour a form of creeper vine. Charlene discovers that WESAYSO has constructed a wax fruit factory on the swampland that serves as the Bunch Beetles' breeding grounds, causing the extinction of the species (save for one male named Stan). Fearing a public relations fiasco more than any environmental threat, WESAYSO quickly puts Earl in charge of an attempt to destroy the vines, which have grown out of control without the beetles to keep them in check. Earl proposes spraying the planet with defoliant, which causes the destruction of the vines, but also kills off all plant life on the planet. Richfield assumes that the creation of clouds will bring rain, allowing the plants to grow back, and so decides to create clouds by dropping bombs in the planet's volcanoes to cause eruptions and cloud cover. The dark clouds instead cause global cooling, in the form of a gigantic cloudcover (simulating the effects of what the viewer would recognize as nuclear winter) that scientists estimate would take "tens of thousands of years" to dissipate. Richfield dismisses this as a "4th quarter problem" and states that WESAYSO is currently making record breaking profits from the cold weather selling blankets, heaters, and hot cocoa mix. Later, Earl apologizes to his family and Stan for his actions. The episode ends with Howard Handupme as he finishes his broadcast grimly saying "Good Night... Goodbye" to the audience.

Family surnames refer to petroleum companies - Sinclair, Phillips, and Richfield.

International screening[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the show was screened on ITV in 1992 and in reruns from 1995 to 2002 on Disney Channel. In Canada the show started airing reruns in 1992 on The Family Channel and aired them until the late 1990s. In Australia the show started airing on the Seven Network from February 1992 through to 1995. In Ireland, in the mid-1990s, it was shown on a Sunday evening on RTÉ Two (known as network 2 back then).

DVD and Streaming releases[edit]

On May 2, 2006 Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Dinosaurs: The Complete First And Second Seasons as a four-disc DVD box set. The DVD set includes "exclusive bonus features including a never-before-seen look at the making of Dinosaurs". The complete third and fourth seasons, also a four-disc DVD set, were released May 1, 2007 with special features, including the episodes not aired on US TV. Both sets are currently available only in Region 1. As of September 2012, all seasons are available for streaming on Netflix.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brian Henson's Goal - Bringing 'Dinosaurs' To Tv'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  2. ^ Du Brow, Rick (1991-02-23). "Television: The ratings success of CBS' Ed Sullivan, Mary Tyler Moore and 'All in the Family' retrospectives may doom innovative entries in the 'Twin Peaks' mode.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  3. ^ "`Dinosaurs' Takes Puppetry Into The Electronic Age". Chicago Tribune. 1994-02-03. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  4. ^ Cerone, Daniel (1991-11-17). "Primal Secrets From the World of 'Dinosaurs'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  5. ^ Kahn, Eve M. "All in the Modern Stone Age Family", The New York Times (Apr. 14, 1991). Accessed Feb. 20, 2009.
  6. ^ Owen, David. "Looking Out for Kermit", The New Yorker (Aug. 16, 1993.)
  7. ^ Grover, Ron. The Disney Touch. Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin, 1991. pp. 167-168.
  8. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (1992-02-19). "Television: ABC series sinks its teeth into witty social commentary a la 'The Simpsons' and finds its metier.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 

External links[edit]