Dinosaurs (TV series)

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Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs intertitle.jpg
FormatSitcom
Created byMichael Jacobs
Bob Young
Voices ofStuart Pankin
Jessica Walter
Jason Willinger
Sally Struthers
Kevin Clash
Florence Stanley
Sherman Hemsley
Theme music composerBruce Broughton
Composer(s)Bruce Broughton
Ray Colcord
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes65 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Michael Jacobs
Brian Henson
Producer(s)Michael Jacobs
Running time23 minutes
Production company(s)Michael Jacobs Productions
Jim Henson Productions
Walt Disney Television
Buena Vista International
Broadcast
Original channelABC[1][2]
Original runApril 26, 1991 (1991-04-26) – July 20, 1994 (1994-07-20)
 
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Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs intertitle.jpg
FormatSitcom
Created byMichael Jacobs
Bob Young
Voices ofStuart Pankin
Jessica Walter
Jason Willinger
Sally Struthers
Kevin Clash
Florence Stanley
Sherman Hemsley
Theme music composerBruce Broughton
Composer(s)Bruce Broughton
Ray Colcord
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes65 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Michael Jacobs
Brian Henson
Producer(s)Michael Jacobs
Running time23 minutes
Production company(s)Michael Jacobs Productions
Jim Henson Productions
Walt Disney Television
Buena Vista International
Broadcast
Original channelABC[1][2]
Original runApril 26, 1991 (1991-04-26) – July 20, 1994 (1994-07-20)

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.[3][4]

The show utilized voice actors for the characters which are performed by different puppeteers.

Origins[edit]

News stories written at the time of the show's premiere highlighted Dinosaurs' connection to Jim Henson, 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.'"[5]

In the late 1980s, Jim Henson worked with illustrator/designer William Stout 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."[6]

The television division of the Walt Disney Company began working on the series in 1990 for CBS before the series landed on ABC, which Disney eventually acquired.[7]

Plot[edit]

Dinosaurs is initially set in 60,000,003 BC in Pangaea. The show centers on the Sinclair family: Earl Sinclair, the father; Fran Sinclair, the mother; Robbie Sinclair, the son; Charlene Sinclair, the daughter; Baby Sinclair, the baby; and Grandmother Ethyl Phillips.

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.

Characters[edit]

The focus of the show's plot is the Sinclair family: Earl, Fran, Robbie, Charlene and Baby.

Main characters[edit]

CharacterVoiceBodyFace/HeadComments
Earl Sneed SinclairStuart PankinBill Barretta, Tom Fisher (occasional)Dave Goelz (season 1), Mak Wilson (seasons 2-4)The 43-year-old patriarch of the Sinclair family proudly refers to himself as "The Mighty Megalosaurus". Earl is the series' lead protagonist. He is employed as a tree pusher for the WESAYSO Corporation. He is somewhat thick-headed, and is very suggestible, usually opting to do what gives the largest immediate benefit to himself or his family. He has a decent relationship with his children, often giving somewhat misguided fatherly advice to Robbie and Charlene, and going to great lengths to impress his family and placate Baby.
Frances "Fran" Sinclair née PhillipsJessica WalterTony Sabin PrinceAllan TrautmanThe 38-year-old mother and homemaker of the Sinclair family, she does nearly all of the housework in the home, especially in the kitchen. She often feels unappreciated and wishes the family would spend more time talking together. Fran is mentioned on the show and a number of merchandise packaging as being an Allosaurus. Her four fins and wrists make her resemble a Dilophosaurus as well. When she wants Earl to really listen, she calls him by his full name, which he responds to fearfully.
Robert "Robbie" Mark SinclairJason WillingerLeif TildenSteve WhitmireThe 15-year-old (He is 14 years old in the first 4 episodes) and the eldest of the Sinclair children, he is a Hypsilophodon, he often questions old dinosaur traditions for which he sees no reason, usually to Earl's dismay (See episodes "The Howling", "I Never Ate For My Father" and "Endangered Species"). He attends Bob La Brea High School, the "Home of the Rampaging Trilobites". He is very intelligent and often is the voice of wisdom when other dinosaurs show ignorance. Unlike any of the other dinosaurs in the show, he wears shoes.
Charlene SinclairSally StruthersMichelan SistiBruce LanoilThe 13-year-old middle child is designed as a generic-looking dinosaur (although her neck frill and snout somewhat resembles a Protoceratops). She is seen at school in at least three episodes (episode 38, "Charlene's Flat World", episode 41, "Getting to Know You," and episode 59 "Scent of a Reptile") but she is never seen at school with Robbie. She is fashionable and very materialistic.
Baby SinclairKevin ClashKevin Clash (body), Terri Harden (arms, Season 1-3) and Julianne Buescher (arms, Season 4)Kevin Clash (mouth), John Kennedy (eyes)Baby is the youngest of the Sinclair children (being hatched in the first episode) and is a Megalosaurus stated by Earl in the episode "Germ Warfare" (although a fantasy sequence in "Out of the Frying Pan" showed his adult self as a Ceratosaurus). He loves Fran, whom he calls "The Mama" but gives Earl (whom he refers to as "Not the Mama") a hard time. Baby will often hit Earl on the head with a frying pan or whatever else happens to be at hand. Baby refuses to declare his love for Earl even though he does genuinely love him, which is shown in the 6th episode of season 1, "The Golden Child", when he first calls Earl "daddy". His lack of respect for his father is heavily demonstrated in "License to Parent" where Baby's antics drove Earl and Fran into losing their parenting licenses. In the second-season episode "Switched at Birth" we learn that he may not be the Sinclairs' biological child, however the DNA machine's results were later shown erroneous and he is in fact their actual son. His legal name is Baby which was given to him by the Chief Elder in the episode "And the Winner Is...", but he was temporarily known as "Aaah Aagh I'm Dying You Idiot" as he was being named just as the previous Elder had a fatal heart attack.

Supporting characters[edit]

CharacterVoiceBodyFace/HeadComments
Ethyl Phillips née HinklemanFlorence StanleyBrian Henson (seasons 1-2), Rickey Boyd (seasons 3-4)The 72-year-old humanoid Edmontonia, wheelchair-using mother of Fran moved in with the Sinclairs after the episode "Hurling Day". After being persuaded by Robbie and Fran that she does not have to go through with Hurling Day, and tantalized by the prospect of making Earl's life a continual misery, Grandma Ethyl becomes a permanent member of the Sinclair household, becoming a regular guest star. She regularly takes swipes at Earl with her cane and often calls him "Fat Boy". "Hurling Day" was Ethyl's first (chronologically) episode, but her first-taped appearance was "Employee of the Month," in which she comes to visit the Sinclair home. In "Driving Miss Ethyl", she explains that with her husband and all of her friends dead, the only enjoyment she gets anymore is abusing Earl. In one of the episodes we learn that she also has a son, Stan, Fran's elder brother.
Roy HessSam McMurrayPons MaarDavid GreenawayRoy is Earl's closest friend at work and outside of work. Roy refers to Earl as his "pally boy", and is a dull-witted Tyrannosaurus rex. He also has a brother named Roy. He is also shown to have a fetish for long necks, and is blown away when he gets his first look at Monica Devertebrae, instantly smitten. He also briefly fell in love with Earl's twin sister Pearl, but broke it off in the end because she looked too much like him
B.P. (Bradley P.) RichfieldSherman HemsleySteve WhitmireSteve Whitmire42-year-old Bradley P. Richfield is Earl's large, intimidating, tyrannical and vehement boss. He is the executive supervisor of the WESAYSO Tree Pusher's Division and is a carnivorous humanoid Triceratops with the horns on the frill making him look like a Styracosaurus as well. He seems to possess intelligence far surpassing that of most of the males in the series, though he uses it most often for purely selfish and malicious reasons. His behavior is akin to that of a sociopath, and has no regard for the long-term consequences of his actions. However, he is very protective of his daughter, Wendy, going so far as to track her with a global positioning system, and eating the boys she dates without her knowledge. He enjoys terrorizing his employees, especially Earl. In almost every episode that shows the WESAYSO real estate development site, he calls in Earl Sinclair to come in to his trailer.
Monica DevertebraeSuzie Plaksonn/aJulianne BuescherAn Apatosaurus semi-regular character who debuted as a neighbor in the episode "Unmarried with Children" and the only four-legged dinosaur to be seen. She is identified by Charlene as "Brontosaurus lady". She fills the role of a strong, independent female in a "male's world" with a career and active social life and this is very intimidating and unnerving to many males. She is also the only known friend of "housewife" Fran. Monica is usually viewed from the neck up with her head in the Sinclair house and any occasional body shots would be from outside the Sinclairs' house with her body in claymation. It took four to five puppeteers to handle the movement of Monica's head and neck.
SpikeChristopher MeloniDavid GreenawayN/ARobbie's friend who debuted in "How to Pick Up Girls" as Robbie's rival. He is a semi-regular character who resembles a humanoid Polacanthus with a black leather jacket. He usually refers to Robbie as "Scooter". He has an accent and uses slang reminiscent of Andrew "Dice" Clay and is often depicted as the "bad influence" character of the series. He displays delinquent qualities like getting arrested for trespassing and showing knowledge of how to hot-wire a car, and generally having "a problem with authority." Despite this however, he never acts out of malice and is genuinely concerned for Robbie's well being despite his rebellious nature is actually a positive influence to the show. For instance, he gets Robbie to quit using Thornoids (a parody of Steroids) and attempts to get Robbie a date with his crush. He also tried to convince Robbie not to date Mr. Richfield's daughter, whom he mistakenly believed to be eating her boyfriends. He often makes wisecracks about Robbie's father, but shows respect to his mother to a degree. A running gag is that often in the kitchen of the Sinclair family trying to eat something.
Ralph Needlenose ??? ??? ???A Troodon who is a co-worker of Earl Sinclair and Roy Hess. The Full-Bodied costume used for Ralph is often used for one-appearance minor characters.
Gus Spikebake ??? ??? ???A Ceratosaurus who is a co-worker of Earl Sinclair and Roy Hess. The Full-Bodied costume used for Gus is often used for one-appearance minor characters.
Sid TurtlepussMichelan SistiJohn KennedyMichelan SistiA Psittacosaurus who is a co-worker of Earl Sinclair and Roy Hess who 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. PulmanAllan TrautmanBruce Lanoil (first time), Tom Fisher (later appearances)Allan TrautmanA bespectacled Troodon who is a teacher at Bob LaBrea High School. He is shown to have no sense of humor and strictly follows whatever science the dinosaur council enforces, which were the belief that the Earth is flat (Charlene's Flat World) and potato-ism (The Greatest Story Ever Sold). Like Ralph Needlenose, the Full-Bodied costume used for Mr. Pulman is often used for one-appearance minor characters.
MindyJessica LundyStar TownsendJulianne BuescherA 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. Mindy is more often mentioned than she appears. Charlene desires to have play dates with Mindy, such as going to the mall or rollerblading at the beach. There were also two unrelated characters called Mindy:
  • One green-skinned character named Mindy only appeared in "Slave to Fashion."
  • A brown-skinned character also named Mindy appeared in "Charlene & Her Amazing Humans" and "Scent of a Reptile."
Howard HandupmeKevin ClashN/AN/AA 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 ElderVarious VoicesVarious PerformersN/AAlso 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:
  • The first Chief Elder appeared in the two-part episode "Nuts to War" where he was a Protoceratops. He was performed by Steve Whitmire and voiced by George Gaynes.
  • The Dryptosaurus Chief Elder that passed away in the episode "And the Winner Is..." is voiced by Sam McMurray and was succeeded by political analyst Edward R. Hero (performed by Allan Trautman and voiced by Jason Bernard). He was about to name Baby Sinclair, but he was dying with the Stegosaurus name announcer thinking the Chief Elder named Baby "Aagh Aagh I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair". This was the only Chief Elder that was a Full-Bodied character.
  • A suited Chief Elder that appeared in "Green Card" is performed by Mak Wilson and voiced by Joe Flaherty.
  • The Chief Elder that appeared in "The Greatest Story Never Sold" is performed by Allan Trautman and voiced by Tim Curry.
  • The Chief Elder that appeared in "The Golden Child" is voiced by Michael Dorn.
  • The Chief Elder that appeared in "Working Girl" is performed by Allan Trautman and voiced by Joe Flaherty.

Unisaurs[edit]

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:

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:

Episodes[edit]

Topical issues[edit]

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 of parenting, allusions to homosexuality, and pacifism.[8]

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, vegetarianism, communism, and drug abuse.[citation needed]

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 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 4th 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 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. 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 cloudcover (simulating the effects of what the viewer would recognize as nuclear winter) that scientists estimate would take "tens of thousands of years" to dissipate. 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. Later, Earl apologizes to his family and Stan for his actions. The episode ends with Howard Handupme as he finishes his broadcast grimly saying "Good Night... Goodbye" to the audience.

International screening[edit]

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 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 releases[edit]

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. As of September 2012, all seasons are available for streaming on Netflix.

Popular culture[edit]

The Simpsons episode "Black Widower" references the similarity of family structure between the two shows.

Lisa: These talking dinosaurs are more real than most real families on TV.
Homer: Look Maggie, they have a baby too.
Bart: It's like they saw our lives and put it right up on screen.[9][relevant? ]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brian Henson's Goal - Bringing 'Dinosaurs' To Tv'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "`Dinosaurs' Takes Puppetry Into The Electronic Age". Chicago Tribune. 1994-02-03. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  4. ^ Cerone, Daniel (1991-11-17). "Primal Secrets From the World of 'Dinosaurs'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  5. ^ Kahn, Eve M. "All in the Modern Stone Age Family", The New York Times (Apr. 14, 1991). Accessed Feb. 20, 2009.
  6. ^ Owen, David. "Looking Out for Kermit", The New Yorker (Aug. 16, 1993.)
  7. ^ Grover, Ron. The Disney Touch. Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin, 1991. pp. 167-168.
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Silverman, David (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Black Widower" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 

External links[edit]