|Based on||Dinotopia by James Gurney|
|Written by||James Gurney
|Directed by||Marco Brambilla|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||3|
|Executive producer(s)||Robert Halmi Sr.
Robert Halmi Jr.
William P. Cartlidge
|Editor(s)||Oral Norrie Ottey|
|Camera setup||John Bailie|
|Running time||250 minutes (total)|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Original release||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 classicism of the original books). 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 Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. It was soon followed by a television series which only lasted for one season.
A pair of teenage half-brothers, Karl and David Scott, are on a flight with their father on his private plane when Karl takes over the controls, allowing his father to fall asleep. After flying into a storm, Karl struggles, causing Frank to retake control before it crashes into the ocean. Frank saves his sons, but had trouble escaping the crashed plane as his seatbelt failed to release. Karl and David wash up on the shore of a large uncharted island. Looking for help, Karl and David meet a man named Cyrus Crabb who leads them to Waterfall City, the capital of Dinotopia, a hidden civilization where human beings and dinosaurs peacefully coexist. In fact, some of the dinosaurs, notably a neurotic, but friendly Troodon named Zippo, possess human intelligence and speak perfect English. Among the many rules in Dinotopia is the edict that, once an outsider arrived, he or she was never allowed to leave. As Karl and David prepare to take their places in their new surroundings, both boys develop a strong bond with young Marion, who is on the verge of becoming a "matriarch" of the Dinotopian society. Unfortunately, the incursion of vicious carnivores, not to mention an unanticipated human villain, threaten to destroy Dinotopia and everyone living there.
- Wentworth Miller as David Scott; a dolphinback newly arrived to Dinotopia who becomes the first human to partner with a Pteranodon.
- Tyron Leitso as Karl Scott; a dolphinback newly arrived to Dinotopia who is partnered with a baby Chasmosaur he dubs 26.
- David Thewlis as Cyrus Crabb; the son of the books' villain Lee Crabb.
- Katie Carr as Marion Waldo; the granddaughter of the books' protagonist Oriana Nascava.
- Jim Carter as Mayor Waldo Seville; the Mayor of Waterfall City, Rosemary's estranged husband, and Marion's father.
- Alice Krige as Rosemary Waldo; the overseer of the Hatchery, Waldo's estranged wife, and Marion's mother.
- Colin Salmon as Oonu; leader of the Skybax corps and the grandson of Oolu, who held the same position in the books.
- Hannah Yelland as Romana Denison; a Skybax rider, the daughter of the books' protagonist Will Denison and presumably Sylvia.
- Lee Evans as Zippo; a Troodon scholar and the former partner of Sylvia of the Hatchery, a supporting protagonist in the books.
- Terry Jones as Messenger Bird (voice).
- Stuart Wilson as Frank Scott; the father of David and Karl, believed killed in the storm that brought his sons to Dinotopia.
- Anna Maguire as Samantha.
- Geraldine Chaplin as Grandmother Oriana; the only character from the books to appear in person in the series.
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. ABC had so much confidence in the miniseries that they began shooting episodes of the spin-off television series before the miniseries had aired.
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.
- 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)
- Quetzalcoatlus ("Skybax")
- Dunkleosteus (resembles more of an eel-like creature than in real-life, with spikes on its face instead of armor plating)
- Troodon (Zipeau'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)
- 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
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