Dinotopia (miniseries)

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For other uses, see Dinotopia (disambiguation).
Format Science fiction, fantasy
Directed by Marco Brambilla
Starring See Cast and characters
Country of origin United States
Running time 250 minutes
Original channel Disney Channel
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original airing May 12, 2002

Dinotopia is a four-hour (three-episode) TV miniseries co-produced by Walt Disney Television and Hallmark Entertainment. It is based on the fictional world of Dinotopia, a utopia in which sentient dinosaurs and humans coexist, created by American author James Gurney. The miniseries uses plot details from Gurney's first two Dinotopia books, Dinotopia and Dinotopia: The World Beneath, although it takes place in a time farther into the future. The main characters are two American teenage boys from a contemporary time frame (unlike the Victorian era castaways in the books—the film thus loses some of the Steampunk and classicism of the original books).[1] The boys crash their father's plane into the sea and get stranded on Dinotopia, where they must adjust to a new society. The story in the film contains references to many of the characters in the book series, with some of their descendents occupying key roles in the plot. The original score was composed by Trevor Jones.

The miniseries premiered as an episode of The Wonderful World of Disney anthology on May 12, 2002 on Disney Channel. It received an Emmy Award for Best Visual Effects. It was soon followed by a television series which only lasted for one season.


Plans for a Dinotopia film were previously rejected due to the expense of creating a world populated by both humans and dinosaurs. Both Columbia Pictures and Disney at one time made the attempt, but both studios abandoned the idea, Disney opting to make their own homegrown film, Dinosaur in 2000. Hallmark Entertainment chief Robert Halmi Sr. then purchased the rights after having seen Gurney’s book.


Halmi was willing to spend $80 million on the film, despite the performance of his previous fantasy miniseries, The Tenth Kingdom.[2] ABC had so much confidence in the miniseries that they began shooting episodes of the spin-off television series before the miniseries had aired.[3]

More than 75% of the scenes in the miniseries required visual effects, many of which required interaction between the live-action human actors and the animatronic or computer-animated dinosaurs. The computer-animated dinosaurs were created by a London-based company, Framestore CFC, who also did the CGI work for the (Walking with Dinosaurs) series. The series also used other visual effects techniques such as digital set extensions. Many of the sets were only partially built, the rest being done digitally, in order to create the enormous buildings used by both dinosaurs and humans in the film. Even so, the actual set for Waterfall City, Dinotopia’s capital, took up five-and-a-half acres of the back lot of England's Pinewood Studios. Jim Henson's Creature Shop provided the animatronic dinosaurs.

Although Dinotopia started out as a TV miniseries, later all the parts were combined and put on DVD as one film. Except in the UK, where the mini-series was put onto discs as separate episodes instead of a combined film.


The film opens with a lady writing a letter to who seems to be a future daughter.The scene cuts to two brothers, Karl and David Scott along with their father boarding a plane, albeit to David's reluctance to go. Karl eventually takes over the controls as his father falls asleep. They encounter a severe thunderstorm; the father wakes back up and manages to take control of the plane, but to no avail as it crashes into the ocean. Karl and David both manage to get free and swim out of the sinking plane. When Karl goes back to rescue his father, he gets pushed away by the latter. Conceding the loss, he surfaces with David in the turbulent waters. They soon discover that they are on the shore of a large uncharted island.

As they examine what appears to be an ancient fossil structure, a sudden explosion occurs and destroys it. Emerging from the smoke, is a man named Cyrus Crabb who leads the duo to a nearby village. All of a sudden, a commotion occurs; a rampaging Ankylosaurus is on the loose. The disturbance is soon quelled by a girl, who turns out to be Marion Waldo, revealing the source of the trouble to be a toothache. The brothers then join Marion and they travel with a convoy on a Brachiosaurus to leave the village.

Later on in the evening the dinos inexplicably stop in the middle of the woods as apparently something has frightened them. As the group travels along a nearby trail, they happen upon giant footprints, indicating that they're clearly not alone. They find what looks to be have been an abandoned village; since a storm is presently brewing nearby, Marion recommends that the group find shelter for the night. During the night, David has trouble falling asleep as he believes he hears noises from outside. He wakes up Karl to alert him, and when he does, the noises seemingly vanish. All of a sudden, a giant dinosaur foot comes crashing thru the roof of the room. Realizing that a herd of Tyrannosaurus Rex has descended upon the settlement, the group flees posthaste. The monsters are soon driven off by a squadron of SkyBax, led by Captain Oonu.

The group resumes their journey and soon arrive at Waterfall City, the capital of Dinotopia, a hidden civilization where humans and dinosaurs peacefully coexist. They soon meet Marion's father, Mayor Waldo Seville of Dinotopia. After signing their names onto the scroll, they then make their way to the Library where the group meet the librarian, a talking Troodon named Zippo Stenosaurus. Since the brothers are nomads, Zippo offers his place as temporary lodging. Being Dinotopian citizens, Karl and David enroll soon in Dinotopian class, with David quickly surging ahead as far as the learning curve goes. Zippo picks up on a few things such as ping-pong, thanks to Karl. The homesickness continues to grate on Karl, until finally he goes to Cyrus Crabb in order to find out how to get off Dinotopia. Cyrus agrees to help him -- on the condition that Karl steal a book from the library that contains the routes of the surrounding area. Initially Karl refuses, but then Cyrus counters by mentioning how the "Scalies" (a derogatory term used by Cyrus to refer to species of Troodon's race) bit off one of his legs in the past due to a disagreement he had with one of them. Karl finally relents and ends up stealing the book whilst Zippo and the others are attending a ceremony.

Marion tries to encourage Karl to resume his studies to which he reluctantly agrees. He arrives late for an exam and scrambles to complete the test. Cryus examines the contents of the book Karl took. When Cyrus mentions that he also needs something additional which wasn't part of the original deal between the two, Karl quickly objects. Cyrus then takes Karl outside and shows him how David has become more assimilated in the Dinotopian culture. When the test results are announced, Karl is credited with having the superior score, much to the chagrin of David. Jealous, he confronts Karl knowing that the only way he could have gotten such a high score was due to cheating. The argument then escalates and results in the two getting in a brief scuffle, which takes them over the edge of a balcony and plunging into the depths of the waterfall below. Marion begs her father to let her go after the two but is denied.

Undeterred, she embarks on the search accompanied by Zippo. She then begins by kidnapping one of the Messenger Birds with a basket and then instructing it to fly high and low to locate Karl and David. Eventually, Karl surfaces, holding an unconscious David in the river that the waterfall descends into. After setting down David to rest, Karl then sees what looks to be a pathway over the river to an ancient temple. Curious, he begins his trek across the plank. David eventually regains some consciousness again later that night as he and Karl have a discussion across the fire, only for David to descend back under again. Desperate to quench his thirst, Karl returns to the pathway and kneels down on the edge and drinks some of the water, unaware that the river is infested with a species of underwater canivores known as Mosasaurus. The Messenger Bird finally finds Karl and lands on a nearby rock to relay the message from Marion. After Karl confirms that he is the intended recepeient, the bird flies away.

Karl returns and is restocking the fire with several branches of wood when he hears the voice of Marion calling them both. She eventually rescusistates David by putting her hand on him. Zippo orders the Messenger Bird to fly back to the mainland and request a rescue team. Later on Karl and Zippo investigate the walls of the temple and find carvings..Karl then sees the tail of one of the creatures above the water and realizes that they've committed a serious violation by way of trespassing into their domain of the temple. Karl breaks camp and takes David to make his way back while Marion runs to the temple and shouts at Zippo to leave immediately. Meanwhile the river has now come alive as the agitated Mosasauraus are out in full force. Knowing that the pathway is the only hope of ever making it back to the mainland, Karl races back across with David on his shoulders, despite the repeated attempts by the creatures to ram the bridge in order for them to fall into the water. Marion and Zippo next cross the bridge but are confronted by one. While the creature is distracted with a scuffle with one of its own, Marion races by and leaps to the other side. Zippo is about to go next when one of the Mosasaurs rams the section that he's standing on and sends him into the river. It bits onto the tail and attempts to keep him submerged. A courageous Karl goes to the riverbank and manages to fish Zippo out with his bare hands to safety.

Marion climbs up a tree and scours the horizon..she soon locates the rescue party as they also locate her. They're escorted into the town where they meet Rosemary Waldo, Marion's mother. Karl goes off to care for David, while Marion and her mother do some catching up. A change of locale doesn't phase Zippo and Karl's love of ping-pong. After Karl is redirected to focus on actually helping out in the new setting, he eventually takes Marion out for a swim. The two are confronted by Rosemary about this.

During a hearing, Zippo requests an expedition to The World Beneath, to extract sunstones from the area in order to replace the currently failing ones now on the surface of Dinotopia, but he's promptly turned down by the Mayor. Cyrus is watching and taking note. At a session, Karl attempts to exit but due to the consistent pouding of the ground by the dinosaurs, he succumbs and falls to the earth. After graduation, David is assigned to train in the SkyBax Corps, while Karl is assigned to the Hatchery. David and Marion leave and go to a hilly section of the city where David is to train. He meets another cadet. Karl arrives at the hatchery and is given an egg with the number "26" on it, much to Karl's chagrin.

David's training begins by his instructor, Captain Oonu who shows them how to call a SkyBax. Karl goes to Rosemary to tell her that he didn't sign up to take care of an infant Chasmosarus. She responds by telling him to care for any responsiblity properly. David expresses apprehension to OOnu, who just looks at him and keeps walking.

Marion goes to a ledge to paint when she sees an albino Skybax being harassed by a few Pteranodon. The Sunstones are failing and nearly cause Pteranodon to fly upwards from their domain. At the hearing, Cyrus this time speaks out and dumps a bag with defunct stones onto the floor for all to see. The mayor, knowing what was said to be true, has guards arrive to escort Cyrus away. Frustrated, he flings the empty bag on the floor and storms out. He then approaches Zippo about the situation; Zippo follows him to his shop. While there, he finds items that were stolen some time ago and when he goes to report it, Cyrus knocks him out, stuffs him in a bag and leaves him in a boat in the river.

The egg hatches and Karl gives the infant the name "26". Zippo is discovered and pulled up by the authorities. David now has to jump over the ledge to get to the next phase of training. Marion attempts to calm the Skybax, but eventually she gets attacked by the Pternadon. She manages to pull away by showing her Sunstone to them as David takes her. She's banned from returning.

Karl finds a boat in broken condition but gathers materials and patches it back up, as he still has a desire to leave the island. David continues to work at honing his skills on the flying mechanism. However, this does not affect the outcome that later comes when Oonu doesn't award him. David and Marion scale the mountain and spend the night in a nest. As Karl wakes up, he finds the Chasmasaurus playing around with the toys on the floor. He puts up back in its crib, to which it eventually falls asleep.

He soon does the unthinkable: removing the sunstone from above the Hatchery. David encounters the Skybax and names him Freefall. Cyrus then gives Karl a map to help him navigate in exchange for the recently stolen sunstone, though Karl is unaware that Cyrus had cut a hole in the boat to help sabotage him. Cyrus finds its a dead stone realizing he was crossed.

Karl throws back the actual sunstone back far enough so that it lands on the roof. The Chasmosarus wakes up and instinctively goes to the shoreline where Karl had departed from. Water has start to come into the boat and Karl tries to dish it out. The infant dinosaur runs to the ledge and calls. Karl realizes that 26 was following him and tells it to leave. The dinosaur jumps into the water; Karl, knowing it hasn't learned to swim, abandones the sinking boat and rescues it. He surfaces and glances back just to see the boat finally go under.

David attempts to call a Skybax but none come. Oonu dismisses him from the Corps. Determined to try again, he goes again and this time the Skybax whom he named Freefall heeds his call and with that David gets on and they fly into the distance.

Captain Oonu and his SkyBax squadron enter the court hall to request Mayor Waldo's audience and informs him that Waterfall City is threatened with an imminent Pternadon incursion thanks to the failure of the sunstones. The mayor responds that they don't have the needed resources and that all need to be prepared to potentially face death. As the mayor makes his way out, he is greeted by a massive influx of refugees from a nearby city of Dinotopia.

David, Karl and Marion decide to return back to the temple that contains the gateway to the world Beneath. After leaving 26 in the care of Zippo, they begin their departure when inadvertently stopped by Cyrus Crabb, who advises them to turn back now while they still can to which the group refuses. Karl mentions that he knows Cyrus sabotaged his boat and Cyrus retorts that he was given a faulty sunstone so he now considers this tit-fot-tat to be even. He then gives Karl a flare gun and tells him there are much more than Mosasaurs to be concerned about.

As they travel through the forest, Marion asks Karl about the theft of the Hatchery sunstone to which he agrees that he did. Karl asks about her and David and she says that they were close. The group arrive at the entrance and proceed to a fountain. Karl looks thru his bag when a stone falls into the fountain by accident. He then takes out the flare gun and shoots it upwards to illuminate the area above them. The flare also causes the Pternadons nestled there to stir. Realizing this the group feels back from the temple to outside to behold a huge swarm of Pternadon rising in a swirl from the temple. They encounter Oonu, who places them under arrest.

At the hearing, Mayor brings twenty one violations of the laws, just as Zippo rushes in and speaks in their defense and presents his tail as evidence. Oonu and Rosemay testify in favor of Karl and David. Marion tries to get the father to free them but he insists its for the greater good. During the conversation, the lights go out as the sunstones are failing. At the next session yet again, the mayor gives the defendants to say some final thoughts to which Karl volunteers and candidly speaks about how no one is truly listened to in Dinotopia and tells him to listen now. He couldn't care less about the rules and says that his brother not be punished. He concludes his speech by saying the city is going under and something needs to be done. Cyrus notices something while going over the writings.

The judgement is rendered: Karl and David are allowed to remain in Waterfall City to complete their studies. Karl is deemed unfit to care for an infant and it will be donated to the orphange. Cyrus pays a visit to Zippo's home to make the group an offer: to accompany him on the journey to the World Beneath. In order for them to get the last book by Arthur Dennison, Cyrus mixes a rare plant substance and tells Marion to give it to the guards which puts them out giving them time to leave and go to the library. Cyrus uses this as another setup. David discovers the book the next morning, as the city guards led by Mayor Waldo go to apprehend them once and for all. They burst in and the four flee out the back door of the library.

They manage to escape capture as they find the boat that Cyrus left for them and head into a roller-coaster like ride underneath the tunnels of the city. The group locates a ship where Cyrus is waiting. He then takes them to where their means of transport- a submersible piloted by Cyrus's father when he took the journey to the World Beneath. After getting it working in short order, Cyrus asks Marion if they can use her sunstone from the necklace to help power the sub to which she agrees. Karl installs it in the sub and it powers up the machine.

Only David and Karl go as the sub can hold just three. Meanwhile, Romana flies and tells the mayor that 100,000 Pternadon are on their way towards the city and that she must warn the other cities. They find the wreckage of the plane that had crashed and search for any sign of their father. The sub emerges at the entrance to the World Beneath, which happens to be guarded by a giant prehistorice eel by the name Dunkleosteus.

They discover carvings which depict the history of the dinosaurs and how Dinotopia came to be. A vigil is held in Waterfall City; the groups starts seeing sunstones on the ground. Cyrus eventually finds the opening and everyone craws through it and finds it leads to a vast Sunstone cave. David surmises that the meteor that crashed into the earth was the sunstone cave that they're in. They then begin collecting stones.

After they finish loading the stones into the submersible, Karl and David tell Cyrus that they've carried a heavy load and that they will need to make a second trip. Cyrus responds by saying that he doesn't think the aging sub doesn't has the means to make a second trip and that means that something or someone will have to be left behind. David realizes that he's referring to Karl and him. Cyrus goes to leave and David attempts to stop him but Cyrus hits him in the stomach and throws him to the ground. Karl lunges at Cyrus but is held up by his cane. Karl says that he knew that Cyrus couldn't be trusted from the beginning and forcefully pushes the cane away from him and back at Cyrus and bars his fists. Cyrus sees this as a invitation to fight and after a brief standoff he hits Karl in the stomach with the cane and prepares to knock him down when a hand grabs his arm. Karl sees that this is his Dad and that he has survived.

Cyrus points a gun at them and Karl tells him he's not going anywhere to which Cyrus responds by shooting him in the knee. David approaches and Cyrus pulls out another gun, but is stopped as Karl tells him to let Cyrus go. The father quickly wraps a bandage around the wound and then expresses his amazement that his sons are still alive and well. He reveals that he survived by swimming out of the plane and heading for what he thought was the surface but what ended up being the surface of the World Beneath.

They know they need to find a way out but David says that there's none as Cyrus has left. Karl ssays that he won't get very far without the sunstone from Marion. The sub's engine sputters and Cyrus realizes that once again, Karl has crossed him once more. He frantically dumps out a bag of sunstones and tries fitting in various ones into the slot but none fit. He knocks over his pistol which hits the floor and fires a bullet which ricochets around the inside and then cracks the front glass causing sea water to seep in. The sea monster now heads in the direction of the sub. Cyrus looks back in horror as he sees the massive head of the eel cross the bow of his sub. Cyrus realizes that his fate is now sealed saying, "No, no..not like this." The eel turns away for a moment as Cyrus tries one last time with the controls to move the sub, but without the sunstone to power it, is dead in the water. Water now pours in and the inside is now rapidly filling with water as Cyrus strains to see what is the opening maw of the Dunkleosteus coming straight for him. The creature swallows the submersible whole.

The boys and father look and see remants of the sub float to the surface along with Cyrus's wooden leg. Cyrus is no more.

Meanwhile, the swarm of Pternadon finally arrive and begin their attack on Waterfall City, swooping and picking at random citizens. The three now search for a way out and come to a entry point that the duo deduce should lead back to the temple gateway. The father is hesitant to go back in the water having already been through a traumatic experience with the plane crash earlier but thanks to convincing on the part of David he goes along. On the count of three they all jump in and begin swimming upward, with David using the sunstone he carried from the cave to light the way. They finally reach the surface and make their way out the temple. David gets on Freefall and flies towards Waterfall City. Once they reach there, a group of Pterandons chase after them. Freefall performs a sharp turn which causes the Pternadon to fly into each other. A few more chase David into the sky and as he pulls out the stone, the Pternadon knocks it out off his hands and falls onto the gorund. Marion picks it up and runs to put it in place with Zippo following.

As she prepares to put it in, a Pternadon crashes its head through the windows and knocks her to the ground. Zippo tries to wake her but to no avail. He then takes the sunstone and puts it in the temple center stand. It illuminates the city once again and sends the Pternadon swarm fleeing in all directions.

At a ceremony, David is awarded a medal for his valor and courage in the attack. He inquires as to the whereabouts of his brother and father to which Waldo says that they haven't been located yet. The gathering is interrupted as everyone goes outside to see that Karl and his father have returned. Karl is reunited with 26 and introduces Marion to his father, who himself is still overwhelmed by his new surroundings. Zippo also introduces himself.

Mayor Waldo Seville, now with Rosemary, greets the father with glowing approval of Karl and David. The mayor proudly drops the charges against them and reinstates David back into the SkyBax Corps, while Karl is reappointed as the guardian of the infant Chasmosaurus. He then gives an impromptu speech to the citizens of how progress must never be sacrificed for the sake of tradition. But Karl has one more surprise up his sleeve: he hands the infant to his father and gets up on the wagon to unveil a motherload of sunstones to the amazement of all in attendance as he announces to all that the gateway to the World Beneath is now open again. This draws tremendous applause from everyone. The brothers embrace one another and are commended by the Waldo family. The film ends with the celebration of all in Waterfall City, Dinotopia.

Featured species[edit]

  • Ankylosaurus
  • Brachiosaurus ("Brach")
  • Chasmosaurus (incorrectly classified as a hadrosaur and mispronounced as "Chasmiosaurus", though the Mayor pronounced it correctly at the end of the series)
  • Parasaurolophus ("Overlander"/Guard)
  • Mosasaurus (more crocodilian in appearance than in real-life, with arms and legs instead of flippers)
  • Pteranodon
  • Quetzalcoatlus ("Skybax")
  • Stegosaurus
  • Dunkleosteus (resembles more of an eel-like creature than in real-life, with spikes on its face instead of armor plating)
  • Troodon (Zippo's last name is Stenosaurus, which could be a shorter version of Stenonychosaurus, which is now believed to be a species of Troodon)
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Triceratops (mentioned by Captain Oonu after the first Tyrannosaur attack)
  • Dimorphodon (portrayed inaccurately as a feathered bird, in reality, it was a pterosaur with no feathers)


  • Wentworth Miller - David Scott, a dolphinback newly arrived to Dinotopia who becomes the first human to partner with a Pteranodon.
  • Tyron Leitso - Karl Scott, a dolphinback newly arrived to Dinotopia who is partnered with a baby Chasmosaur he dubs 26.
  • David Thewlis - Cyrus Crabb, the son of the books' villain Lee Crabb
  • Katie Carr - Marion Waldo, the granddaughter of the books' protagonist Oriana Nascava
  • Jim Carter - Mayor Waldo Seville, the Mayor of Waterfall City, Rosemary's estranged husband and Marion's father.
  • Alice Krige - Rosemary Waldo, the overseer of the Hatchery, Waldo's estranged wife and Marion's mother.
  • Colin Salmon - Oonu, leader of the Skybax corps and a relative of Oolu, who held the same position in the books
  • Hannah Yelland - Romana Denison, a Skybax rider, the daughter of the books' protagonist Will Denison
  • Lee Evans - Zippo (voice), a Troodon scholar and the former partner of Sylvia of the Hatchery, a supporting protagonist in the books.
  • Terry Jones - Messenger Bird (voice)
  • Stuart Wilson - Frank Scott, the father of David and Karl, believed killed in the storm that brought his sons to Dinotopia.
  • Anna Maguire - Samantha
  • Geraldine Chaplin - Grandmother Oriana, the only character from the books to appear in person in the series.


  1. ^ [1]. Moria.co.nz, article, "Dinotopia" ?, 2002.
  2. ^ [2]. Entertainment Weekly, On the Air, "Dinotopia" October 13, 2000.
  3. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth (2002-05-10). "A Tall Order for ABC’s ‘Dinotopia’". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-09-14. 


  • Joe Nazzaro, Humans Walk With Dinosaurs in TV Miniseries Visit to James Gurney’s Fantasy Island, Starlog Fantasy Worlds (magazine), February 2002, pages 36–38

External links[edit]