Prehistoric Beast is a ten minute long experimental animated film conceived, supervised and directed by Phil Tippett in 1984. This sequence is considered as being the first film produced by the Tippett Studio, founded by Tippett himself in 1984. Made with the go motion animation technique, scenes from Prehistoric Beast were included in the 1985 full-length documentary Dinosaur!, first aired on CBS in the United States on November 5, 1985.
This short film depicts the chase and predation of a Monoclonius by a Tyrannosaurus. A Tyrannosaurus is busy eating a dead dinosaur that night and finishes. Next morning, a herd of Monoclonius is seen grazing. One member wanders into the forest to find more food. It finds a field of flowers and begins grazing. It wanders in further and starts to be hunted by the same Tyrannosaurus. The Tyrannosaurus steps on a twig, which makes the Monoclonius wary. The Monoclonius lets out a trumpet to signal the herd, then, possibly curious, keeps walking deeper into the forest. It soon stumbles upon the remains of the last dinosaur killed by the Tyrannosaurus. While the Monoclonius ponders over the carcass, the Tyrannosaurus sneaks up from behind. Tyrannosaurus attacks and bites hard on the Monoclonius' back. The Monoclonius breaks free and stabs the Tyrannosaurus in its shin, enraging it. The Tyrannosaurus manages to corner the Monoclonius near some trees. The herbivore lets out one last cry before it is presumably killed. The Monoclonius herd start to call out for their missing member, not knowing that it has been killed. The Tyrannosaurus is next seen trying to find a place to sleep and digest its meal.
Prelude of a full-length documentary
Prehistoric Beast was only released in specialized animation festivals, but it convinced Robert Guenette and Steven Paul Mark to request Tippett's skills in order to transform it in a full-length documentary. They then asked Tippett to realize new sequences with other dinosaur species, and the Prehistoric Beast material was added to the new one, resulting on Dinosaur! in 1985. Tippett had already participated in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), animating the tauntauns seen in the movie, and his experimental work on Prehistoric Beast and Dinosaur! served to the animated dinosaurs sequences he made some years later for Jurassic Park (1993).
On April 6, 2011, the Tippett Studio had published on its YouTube official channel a digital restoration of the short.
- As for the subsequent documentary Dinosaur!, Phil Tippett, while making Prehistoric Beast, received assistance from ILM stop-motion animators Randy Dutra (who made the dinosaur molds and skins) and Tom St. Amand (who made the inner articulated metallic skeletons of the dinosaurs).
- An excerpt of Prehistoric Beast was used in the educational CD-ROM Microsoft Dinosaurs.
- In the 1933 movie King Kong, a Stegosaurus attacks the movie characters and after having killed it by gun fire one of the characters identifies it as being "a prehistoric beast". An excerpt from this scene is shown in the final 1985 documentary Dinosaur!, as a reference to Prehistoric Beast, the short sequence by which it was preceded.