Dinosaurs (TV series)
|Narrated by||Gary Owens (Nuts to War: Part 1 & 2)|
|Theme music composer||Bruce Broughton|
|Opening theme||Bruce Broughton|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||65 (79 segments) (list of episodes)|
|Running time||23 minutes|
|Distributor||Buena Vista Television|
|Original release||April 26, 1991 –|
October 19, 1994
Dinosaurs is an American family sitcom television series that aired on ABC from April 26, 1991, through October 19, 1994, and reruns were shown on Disney Channel. The show, about a family of anthropomorphic dinosaurs, was produced by Michael Jacobs Productions and Jim Henson Television in association with Walt Disney Television and distributed by Buena Vista International, Inc. The characters were designed by Henson team member Kirk Thatcher.
Origins and development
News stories written at the time of the show's premiere highlighted Dinosaurs' connection to Jim Henson, who had died the year before. Henson conceived the show in 1988, according to an article in The New York Times, adding he wanted it to be a sitcom, but about a family of dinosaurs. Until the success of The Simpsons, according to 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."
Aguiton wrote that ratings suffered from the show being moved to different time slots on the network. The animatronics made the show relatively expensive, with Stuart Pankin recalling that "I heard it was the most expensive half-hour TV show, at least at that point" and that this contributed to the cancellation.
Dinosaurs is initially set in 60,000,003 BC in Pangaea. The show centers on the Sinclair family: Earl Sneed Sinclair (the father), Fran Sinclair (née Phillips – the mother), their three children (son, Robbie; daughter, Charlene; and infant, 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, Bradley P. Richfield.
This section may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may interest only a particular audience.(June 2020)
The focus of the show's plot is the Sinclair family: Earl, Fran, Robbie, Charlene, Baby, and Ethyl. The family name is a reference to the Sinclair Oil Corporation, which has prominently featured a dinosaur as its logo and mascot for decades, under the now-rejected belief that petroleum deposits were formed during the age of the dinosaurs. Other character and family names throughout the series often referred to rival petroleum companies and/or petroleum products. For example: Phillips, Hess, B.P., Richfield, and Ethyl, among others.
|Earl Sneed Sinclair||Stuart Pankin||Bill Barretta
Tom Fisher (occasionally)
|Dave Goelz (Seasons 1–2)
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 Johanna "Fran" Phillips Sinclair||Jessica Walter||Mitchel Young Evans (Seasons 1–2)
Tony Sabin Prince (Seasons 2–4)
Pons Maar (occasionally)
|Allan Trautman||Allosaurus||The mother and homemaker of the Sinclair family. Fran is mentioned on the show as being an Allosaurus. On rare occasions, Fran wears fuzzy house slippers. Earl affectionately calls his wife "Frannie".|
|Robert Mark "Robbie" Sinclair||Jason Willinger||Leif Tilden||Steve Whitmire
Rob Mills (occasionally)
Julianne Buescher (eyes)
|Hypsilophodon||Earl and Fran's son and oldest child, he is a Hypsilophodon. Robbie stands out with his red varsity jacket and bright red sneakers.|
|Charlene Fiona Sinclair||Sally Struthers||Michelan Sisti
Star Townshend (occasionally)
Arlene Lorre (Season 1, episode 1 only)
|Bruce Lanoil||Protoceratops||Earl and Fran's only daughter and middle child, she is a Protoceratops. Charlene stands out by wearing sweaters, necklaces, and earrings.|
|Baby Sinclair||Kevin Clash||Terri Hardin (arms, Season 1–3)
Julianne Buescher (arms, Season 4)
|Kevin Clash (head & mouth)
John Kennedy (eyes)
|Megalosaurus||Earl and Fran's son and youngest child, he is 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. Baby is sarcastic and wisecracking. His favorite thing to do is to hit Earl on the head with a frying pan. His catch phrases are "I'm the baby. Gotta love me.", "Again!" and "Not the mama!". Earl will often call his youngest son "Junior". For a while, the character was actually christened as "Aaah Aagh I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair" (the unfortunate last words of a dying Chief Elder), but it wasn't until the end of the episode in which he received that hilariously crude name that new Chief Elder Edward R. Hero renamed him "Baby Sinclair", after one of his popular catchphrases.
Jacobs stated that the popularity of Baby contributed to the network allowing the creators to run the show as they saw fit, stating: "As long as the Baby hit his father over the head with a pot, we could use that to hide anything."
|Ethyl Hinkleman Phillips||Florence Stanley||Brian Henson (seasons 1–2)
Rickey Boyd (seasons 3–4)
Kevin Clash (occasionally)
David Greenaway (occasionally)
Julianne Buescher (face, occasionally)
|Edmontonia||Ethyl is an Edmontonia who is Fran's mother, Earl's mother-in-law, and the maternal 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 house slippers and is wheel chair bound. Ethyl enjoys making fun of Earl and hitting him with her cane.|
|Roy Danger Hess||Sam McMurray||Pons Maar (body)
Julianne Buescher (arms)
|David Greenaway||Tyrannosaurus rex||Roy is Earl's co-worker at the WESAYSO Development Corporation and best friend. He is a dimwitted Tyrannosaurus who also has a brother named Roy.|
|Bradley P. "B.P." Richfield||Sherman Hemsley||Steve Whitmire
Rob Mills (occasionally)
Allan Trautman (occasionally)
Rob Mills (occasionally)
|Styracosaurus||B.P. Richfield is Earl, Roy, Ralph, Gus, and Sid's heartless, aggressive and temperamental boss at the WESAYSO Development Corporation where he oversees the Tree Pushers. He is a Styracosaurus. In "Hungry for Love," it is revealed that Mr. Richfield has a daughter named Wendy.|
|Monica Devertebrae||Suzie Plakson||n/a||Julianne Buescher||Brontosaurus||A Brontosaurus and Fran's best friend 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 bandana, a black leather jacket, and biker boots. Spike is Robbie's best friend who often refers to him as "Scooter." Spike is a bad influence on Robbie, and is fond of manipulating his friend into doing dangerous and/or humiliating things by belittling him.|
|Ralph Quincy Needlenose||Various||Various||Various||Troodon||A Troodon who is a co-worker of Earl and Roy at the WESAYSO Development Corporation. The Full-Bodied costume used for Ralph is often used for one-appearance minor characters.|
|Gustav Joseph "Gus" Spikeback||Various||Various||Various||Ceratosaurus||A Ceratosaurus who is a co-worker of Earl and Roy at the WESAYSO Development Corporation. The Full-Bodied costume used for Gus is often used for one-appearance minor characters.|
|Sidney Tiberius "Sid" Turtlepuss||Michelan Sisti||John Kennedy||Michelan Sisti||Psittacosaurus||A Psittacosaurus who is a co-worker of Earl and Roy at the WESAYSO Development Corporation. Sid 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 Robbie, Charlene, Mindy, and Spike's 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 Charlene's best friend. 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) which is a spoof of CNN. 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 Baby's favorite TV show "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:
|Garrison "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, and challenges Earl for her.|
|Henri Charles 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||Steve Whitmire||Steve Whitmire||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 a dinosaur dressed as a full bodied European hippopotamus. He is a children's TV icon who appeared in the Dinosaurs episode "Georgie Must Die." He appears as kind hearted. 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 ended up taking his place on TV as the eponymous "Uncle Roy." Georgie, like Blarney, is also a parody of Barney.|
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 Action Figure, 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||14||7||June 1, 1994||July 20, 1994|
|7||September 6, 1995||November 10, 1995|
Although Dinosaurs is targeted at a family audience, the show touched upon multiple topical issues, which include environmentalism, endangered species, women's rights, sexual harassment, LGBT rights, 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 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, drug abuse and counter culture.
In the final season, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold" (a take-off of The Greatest Story Ever Told) 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 follow 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 Sneed 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 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, titled "Changing Nature", depicts the irresponsible actions of the dinosaurs toward their environment, and the ensuing Ice Age which leads to their demise. In the episode, a swarm of bunch beetles do not show up as expected to devour a form of creeper vine. Charlene discovers that a wax fruit factory called FruitCo has been constructed by Wesayso-controlled swampland that serves as the bunch beetles' breeding grounds, causing the extinction of the species (save for one male named Stan) who were killed off by the developers. Charlene and Stan make this information public on the news. After getting a phone call from his superiors at Wesayso who are fearing a public relations nightmare more than any environmental threat, B.P. Richfield 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 that scientists, the viewer learns, estimate would take "tens of thousands of years" to dissipate. When he gets a call from Earl, 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 is reassured by Robbie and Charlene that whatever happens, nobody is going to leave and that they will all stay together. Earl tries to assure everyone that it will work out okay, saying that dinosaurs have been on this Earth for 150 million years and it is not like they are going to just disappear. There is a brief shot of the wax fruit factory as it starts to get buried in snow. At DNN, Howard Handupme states that the weather forecast is the same. He concludes his broadcast by saying, "This is Howard Handupme. Good night. Goodbye." The ending credits roll with scenes of snow falling around the Sinclair home, signaling the start of a volcanic/nuclear winter.
The television series creators decided to make this finale as a way of ending the series as they knew the show could be canceled when they created season 4. Michael Jacobs stated that "We certainly wanted to make the episode to be educational to the audience", and as people knew dinosaurs were no longer alive, "The show would end by completing the metaphor and showing that extinction." Ted Harbert, president of ABC, expressed discomfort at the ending in a telephone call, but allowed it to go forward.
Jacobs stated that correspondence from parents revealed that "They understood the creativity in the final episode, and they were sad at the predicament we presented in the story." Pankin stated that "Everybody was at first shocked, but I think it was more of a reaction to the show ending." Pankin stated that he did not remember a significant number of audience members being angry about the ending. In 2018, Jacobs stated that the episode would have trended on social media had it been released that year.
Noel Murray of The A.V. Club stated that the episode "delivered as blunt an environmental message as any major network TV broadcast since The Lorax." Brian Galindo of Buzzfeed described it as being shocking for children.
Timothy Donohoo of CBR stated that "The show's climate change-oriented ending is also more topical than ever, as concerns over the opposite continue to bring into question humanity's carbon footprint." Donohoo also stated that "Dinosaurs became TV's most shocking finale precisely because it opted not for some moderately funny ending joke, but to subvert all expectations by advancing an important message through the protagonists' house, and their world at large, being engulfed in a fatal freeze."
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; the show also aired on CHRO-TV in the early-to-mid 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). In 1994, it was shown in Italy on Rai 1. The show has also aired on TV3, then moved in 2003 to TV2 in New Zealand, KBC in Kenya and M-Net in South Africa. In Brazil the show started airing on Rede Globo in 1992, on SBT from 2003 to 2005, on Band from 2007 to 2011, and on Canal Viva in 2014.
The first three volumes were released on VHS on December 6, 1991. 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 on May 1, 2007, with special features, including the episodes not aired on U.S. television. Both sets are currently available only in Region 1.
On September 29, 2017, Hulu acquired the streaming rights to Dinosaurs along with fellow Disney–ABC television properties Home Improvement and Boy Meets World, in addition to fellow TGIF programs Family Matters, Full House, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Perfect Strangers and Step by Step.
As of November 2020, the series has an approval rating of 96% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Its first season received a 93% approval rating: "Dinosaurs, marries astonishingly expressive puppetry with genuinely funny satire of social norms, making for a forward-thinking prehistoric sitcom." While its fourth season received more critical praise, with a 100% approval rating. Common Sense Media rated the series a three out of five stars and said: "Dino puppet-driven sitcom deals with modern issues."
|1991||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Art Direction for a Series||John C. Mula, Brian Savegar, Kevin Pfeiffer||Episode: "The Mating Dance"||Won|
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Editing for a Series – Single Camera Production||Marco Zappia||Episode: "The Mighty Megalosaurus"||Nominated|
|Television Critics Association Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming||Nominated|
|1992||Motion Picture Sound Editors||Best Sound Editing – Television Episodic – Effects & Foley||Patrick M. Griffith||Nominated|
|Environmental Media Awards||TV Comedy||Episode: "Power Erupts"||Won|
|1993||Environmental Media Awards||TV Comedy||Episode: "If You Were A Tree"||Won|
|1995||Environmental Media Awards||TV Comedy||Episode: "Changing Nature"||Won|
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[...]said Jacobs. “After the initial success of the show, they pretty much left us alone, [...]"
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- Donohoo, Timothy (July 23, 2019). "25 Years Later, Dinosaurs Still has TV's Most Shocking Finale". CBR. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
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