The Ballad of Big Al

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The Ballad of Big Al
Big al wwd.jpg
Created by Tim Haines, Jasper James
Narrated by Kenneth Branagh
Theme music composer Ben Bartlett
Country of origin United Kingdom
Production
Producer(s) Tim Haines
Production company(s) BBC Natural History Unit
Impossible Pictures
Distributor BBC Worldwide
Broadcast
Original channel BBC
Original airing 2001
Chronology
Related shows Other shows in the Walking with... series

The Ballad of Big Al (distributed in the North American market as Allosaurus: a Walking with Dinosaurs Special) is a combination biography-sequel for Walking with Dinosaurs . It focuses on an Allosaurus (Allosaurus fragilis) named Big Al and his constant struggle to survive in a world filled with danger.

Narrative[edit]

Animals featured are:

The special begins at the University of Wyoming, showing the bones of a sauropod followed by an Allosaurus named Big Al. After the ghost of Big Al wanders the museum passing by his own skeleton and a nest of fossilized eggs, the film then travels back in time to 145 Mya showing the same nest. Al and his siblings hatch and are helped out of the nest by their mother. She brings them to a river bank and the hatchlings start to hunt for insects. When the mother leaves the hatchlings temporarily, a year-old Allosaurus comes and kills one of them (fortunately, Al isn't the victim).

Al is then shown at two years old. He is trying to hunt a flock of Dryosaurus. He hasn't yet learned how to ambush so he fails to kill one of the swifter, smaller dinosaurs. Later, he snatches a lizard from a branch. Al comes across a dead Stegosaurus and an Allosaurus waiting for death in a pit of sticky mud. Meanwhile, a female Allosaurus, attracted to the Stegosaurus carcass, also gets stuck. She struggles to free herself, but fails. Al luckily avoids the same fate as he had learnt to avoid carrion. Unable to escape, the trapped Allosaurus pair die of exhaustion, their corpses left to Anurognathus.

Five years pass, and a herd of Diplodocus are migrating across the prehistoric salt lake. Al is joined by several other Allosaurus and they attempt to bring a weak member of the herd down. Once the herd leaves the sick Diplodocus, the Allosaurs gather. Al is struck down by the neck of the Diplodocus. The pack wait for a few hours until the Diplodocus is brought down by heat exhaustion and his illness. Though they feed, within the hour an adult female Allosaurus scavenges the kill. Al takes some remnants of the carcass for himself and leaves

A year passes by, and Al is shown drinking at a pond. His presence however makes others around the pond nervous and the smell of blood he brings with him puts off a pair of Stegosaurus who were attempting to mate. Away from the pond, he discovers the scent of a female Allosaurus and issues a mating call. She is not interested, but the inexperienced Al gets too close. Al is lucky enough to escape from the ensuing fight with his life, although he sustains a torn right arm, ripped right claw and smashed ribs. Later the dry season comes, and Al is attempting to hunt a flock of Dryosaurus. Whilst ambushing them, he trips on a log and ends up breaking something in his right foot. As the dry season turns to a drought, Al's limp from the fall gets worse and his right middle toe -which he broke in the fall- has become badly infected. Soon, unable to hunt, he dies in a dried-up riverbed, where two hatchling Allosaurus are hunting for bugs and come across his emaciated carcass. He is said not to have reached full size, dying as a mature adolescent and that the process of his fossilisation preserved even his injuries including -amongst other injuries and diseases- lumps where his ribs healed after their break and the raging infection on his middle toe.

Evidence[edit]

A "making of" documentary was made called "Big Al Uncovered". It focuses on the discovery and pathologies of the Allosaurus specimen nicknamed Big Al.

Critical Reaction[edit]

The Ballad Of Big Al won two 2001 Emmy Awards [1] including Adelphoi Music Ltd's Andrew Sherriff and Ashley Bates for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Non-Fiction Program.

American and Book Versions[edit]

American[edit]

The American version was renamed Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special, along with combining the evidence with Al's life. Also they took out the one of the trapped Allosaurus and the birds and reptiles behavior, and shots of Al living in the 21st Century.

Book[edit]

A children's book was made, called Allosaurus! The Life and Death of Big Al, and it differs from both the American and UK versions in some aspects.

  • The Stegosaurus was shown dead in the show, while it was alive and struggling (trying to fight off the Allosaurus pair) and soon died in the book.
  • In the show at the sixth year, Al is hunting Dryosaurus. In the book he is hunting Othnielia.
  • Al tripped on a log in the show, while he tripped on a mound of dirt in the book.

BBC Game[edit]

The BBC launched an online Role-Playing Game involving Big Al, now replaced by the Planet Dinosaur online game.

See also[edit]

The Ballad of Big Al is part of a series of BBC documentaries that also include:

The following are Walking With... series specials:

The following are similar programs, produced by the BBC:

External links[edit]