Dinosaurs (TV series)
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|Created by||Michael Jacobs
|Voices of||Stuart Pankin
|Theme music composer||Bruce Broughton|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||65 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Michael Jacobs
|Running time||23 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Michael Jacobs Productions
Jim Henson Productions
Walt Disney Television
Buena Vista International
|Distributor||Buena Vista Television (USA)
Buena Vista International (non-USA)
|Original release||April 26, 1991– July 20, 1994|
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.. The characters were designed by Henson team member Kirk Thatcher.
Dinosaurs initially featured a laugh track: it was eventually dropped as the show grew in popularity. The show utilized voice actors for the characters, which are performed by different actors and puppeteers.
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.'"
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."
|This article needs an improved plot summary. (January 2016)|
Dinosaurs is initially set in 60,000,003 BC in Pangaea. The show centers on the Sinclair family: Earl Sinclair (the father), Fran Sinclair (née Phillips), the mother and Earl's wife, their three children—son Robbie, daughter Charlene, and Baby Sinclair—and Fran's mother, Ethyl.
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.
|This section does not cite any sources. (July 2015)|
The focus of the show's plot is the Sinclair family: Earl, Fran, Robbie, Charlene, and Baby. Character and family names throughout the series often referred to petroleum companies and/or petroleum products. For example: Sinclair, Phillips, Hess, B.P., Richfield, and Ethyl, among others.
|Earl Sneed Sinclair||Stuart Pankin||Bill Barretta
Tom Fisher (occasional)
|Dave Goelz (season 1), Mak Wilson (seasons 2-4)||Megalosaurus||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||Allosaurus||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. On rare occasions, Fran wears Fuzzy House-Slippers.|
|Robert "Robbie" Mark Sinclair||Jason Willinger||Leif Tilden||Steve Whitmire||Hypsilophodon||The eldest of the Sinclair children, he is a Hypsilophodon. Robbie's Character stands out with his trademark Bright Red Sneakers. However, there are three other Dinosaur characters that also wear shoes in this series.|
|Charlene Sinclair||Sally Struthers||Michelan Sisti||Bruce Lanoil||Protoceratops||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)||Megalosaurus||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.|
|Ethyl Phillips née Hinkleman||Florence Stanley||Brian Henson (seasons 1-2), Rickey Boyd (seasons 3-4)||Edmontonia||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). Ethyl always wears 'Granny' type House-Slippers.|
|Roy Hess||Sam McMurray||Pons Maar||David Greenaway||Tyrannosaurus rex||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||Triceratops||Bradley P. Richfield is Earl's intimidating boss at the WESAYSO Development Corporation where he oversees the "Tree Pushers." 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||Apatosaurus||An Apatosaurus and semi-regular character who is the only four-legged dinosaur on the show. She is usually seen from the neck up where it took up to three to four people to operate the neck and head.|
|Spike||Christopher Meloni||David Greenaway||N/A||Polacanthus||He is a semi-regular character who resembles a Polacanthus with a black leather jacket. Spike is one of 4 Dinosaur character that wears shoes. (Biker Boots). Spike is Robbie's friend who often refers to him as "Scooter."|
|Ralph Needlenose||Various||Various||Various||Troodon||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||Ceratosaurus||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||Psittacosaurus||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||Troodon||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||Corythosaurus||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:
|Howard Handupme||Kevin Clash||N/A||N/A||Pachycephalosaurus||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||Various species||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:
|Mr. Lizard||Allan Trautman||N/A||N/A||Iguanodon||Mr. Lizard is a gray Iguanodon who is the star of the TV series "Ask Mr. Lizard" (a parody of the television show Watch Mr. Wizard). His show helpfully taught generations of children about science that was vaguely related to scientific principles, but mostly existed as a way of ridding the world of young dinosaurs named Timmy. After the often violent death of his assistant, Mr. Lizard would cheerfully call off camera "We're going to need another Timmy!"|
The following characters are not in the Unisaurs category below:
|Gary||Steve Landesberg||N/A||N/A||Dilophosaurus||Gary is a 50 ft. Dilophosaurus dinosaur whose feet can only be seen. He appeared in the Dinosaurs episode "High Noon". He takes a romantic interest in Fran Sinclair, and challenges Earl for her.|
|Henri Poupon||Tim Curry||Allan Trautman (puppeteer)||N/A||Archaeopteryx||Henri Poupon is an Archaeopteryx appeared in the Dinosaurs episode "Getting to Know You." Henri is the father of Francois Poupon and husband of Simone Poupon. The Poupons are a family of birds who come from an unnamed country, clearly based on France. Henri is irritated by exchange student Charlene Sinclair. He is disappointed by the consumption of his own son, but feels that a big screen TV would help the healing process.|
|Blarney||Steve Whitmire||N/A||N/A||Deinonychus||Blarney is a red Deinonychus hand-puppet character on Dinosaurs, intended as a spoof of Barney the Dinosaur. He appeared in Dinosaur TV segments in two fourth season episodes -- "Terrible Twos" and "Into the Woods." Blarney is adored by young children but is less popular with older viewers. He appears on videotapes released as part of the Blarney Home Video Library. Parents who order will "get a new video delivered to their child every hour for the next decade." Titles spoof not only the Barney franchise, but other commercials for mail-order videos, from fitness and health tapes to bridge, computers, and semi-religious quests.|
|Georgie||Allan Trautman (normal voice), Edward Asner (evil voice)||Jack Tate||Allan Trautman||European hippopotamus||Georgie is an unknown dinosaur dressed as a full-bodied European hippopotamus. He is a children's TV icon who appeared in the Dinosaurs episode "Georgie Must Die." An obvious spoof of Barney the Dinosaur like Blarney, Georgie is actually a megalomaniac planning to take over the world through his financial empire and the devotion of the dinosaur children. After Earl was arrested for impersonating Georgie, Fran invited Georgie down to the police department to clear things up where he showed off his bad side when alone with Earl while stating that he was not pleased with Earl posing as him. Later that night, Earl learned about his motives from Jean-Claude and Brigitte upon them springing Earl from the police department. Earl later fought Georgie on his television show and ended up defeating him. During the credits, Howard Handupme reported that Georgie was arrested for tax evasion and racketeering following an investigation from what happened on his TV show. It was also mentioned that the Chief Elder has pardoned Earl of his crime of posing as Georgie and gave him the Key to the City. Roy Hess ended up taking his place on TV as the eponymous "Uncle Roy."|
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:
|Longsnout||Dryptosaurus||A generic green Dryptosaurus. This Unisaur was used for:
|Needlenose||Troodon||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||Ceratosaurus||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:
|Turtlepuss||Psittacosaurus||A brown turtle-headed Psittacosaurus that was used as Earl's co-worker Sid Turtlepuss. This Unisaur was also used for:
|Unnamed Female Unisaur Class||Corythosaurus||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:
|Unnamed Female Light Green Unisaur||Dryosaurus||A female Dryosaurus with a short snout, eyelashes, hair-like three crest.|
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:
|Frilled blue dinosaur||Protoceratops||A blue Protoceratops that was used for the first Chief Elder in "Nuts to War" and was also used for:
|Frilled green dinosaur||Leptoceratops||A green Leptoceratops with a large muzzle that was used for various characters. Sometimes has horns to make it look like a Triceratops.|
|Crinkly-green humanoid-faced dinosaur||Moschops||A crinkly-green humanoid-faced dinosaur that was used for the other Chief Elders and was also used for:
|Gray Iguanodon-faced dinosaur||Iguanodon||That was often used for Mr. Lizard and other background appearances.|
|Cleft-chinned Albertosaurus-esque dinosaur||Albertosaurus||That was often used for Captain Heroic, various newscasters, and various reporters.|
|Timmy-type||Mussaurus||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.|
|Duckbilled blue dinosaur||Edmontosaurus||A blue Edmontosaurus that was used for:|
|Brown needlenose||Coelophysis||A brown puppet version of a Needlenose that was used for Mr. Otto Lynch from "What "Sexual" Harris Meant" (performed by Allan Trautman).|
|Stegosaurus||Stegosaurus||A Stegosaurus puppet that was used for:
The Stegosaurus puppet was also used several times as a student at Bob LaBrea High School.
|Crested brown dinosaur||Corythosaurus||A crested-brown Corythosaurus that was used for:
|Parasaurolophus||Parasaurolophus||The Parasaurolophus puppet was often used for female characters starting in "Slave to Fashion."|
|Velociraptor||Velociraptor||The Velociraptor puppet was used in the final season.|
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||5||April 26, 1991||May 24, 1991|
|2||24||September 18, 1991||May 6, 1992|
|3||22||September 18, 1992||July 2, 1993|
|4||7||June 1, 1994||July 20, 1994|
|Lost||7||September 7, 1994||October 19, 1994|
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, and pacifism.
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 the Dinosaur 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 called FruitCo 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. B.P. 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 cloud-cover (simulating the effects of what the viewer would recognize as nuclear winter) that scientists estimate would take "tens of thousands of years" to dissipate. B.P. 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 as the result of the "cold snap." Later, Earl apologizes to his family and Stan for his actions that led to the end of the world. Baby assures Earl that no matter what happens, they will always be a family. The episode (and series) ends with a snowy darkness settling over the TV set as Howard Handupme concludes his final broadcast by grimly quoting "And taking a look at the long range forecast, continued snow, darkness, and extreme cold. This is Howard Handupme. Goodnight. Goodbye." The end credits roll with the scenes of snow falling onto the Sinclair home.
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
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.
- "Brian Henson's Goal - Bringing 'Dinosaurs' To Tv'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- 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.
- "`Dinosaurs' Takes Puppetry Into The Electronic Age". Chicago Tribune. 1994-02-03. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- Cerone, Daniel (1991-11-17). "Primal Secrets From the World of 'Dinosaurs'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- Interview with Muppet Writer Kirk Thatcher, Part 1 - The Muppet Mindset (Blog)
- Kahn, Eve M. "All in the Modern Stone Age Family", The New York Times (Apr. 14, 1991). Accessed Feb. 20, 2009.
- Owen, David. "Looking Out for Kermit", The New Yorker (Aug. 16, 1993.)
- Grover, Ron. The Disney Touch. Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin, 1991. pp. 167-168.
- 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.
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