When Walking With Dinosaurs came out, it was unlike anything we have ever seen before. Sure, we were already used to seeing beautiful CG dinosaurs on the big screen (as evidence by my first couple reviews), but on TV? But these weren’t mere movie monsters, this was a documentary style educational program showing dinosaurs as actual animals, living their day to day lives. It was a dinosaur nature program. Nobody thought this would work, but it did, and the formula has been done several times after that.
Unfortunately, the program did fall into some controversy, with scientists calling out it’s accuracy and the show presenting theories and speculations as outright fact. Not to mention that the program did come out in the late 90’s, so by today’s standards it isn’t very accurate. But it is still an amazing piece of dinosaur pop culture and definitely deserves to be talked about.
Now, I’m going to structure this a little differently than my JP reviews. I can’t just review each individual dinosaur, I have to review the world they create around them as well. So, instead of breaking this down by genus, I’ll break it down by the time period they are trying to represent. So, to begin, we shall journey to…
What a lively time period.
Here we get a typical depiction of the Triassic era: hot, dry, and miserable. Yeah, the Triassic wasn’t exactly the best time to be around in, especially (oddly enough) if your a dinosaur, as you aren’t at the top of the foodchain yet. Speaking of which, lets meet our first dinosaur, Coelophysis.
Coelophysis was a small carnivorous dinosaur that lived in packs. The depiction seems pretty spot on, except for the fact that it is displaying cannibalistic behavior, despite the evidence for that theory has since been disproved (and modern depictions would add a covering of feathers). They do move and behave realistically, however. Just because they live in a pack doesn’t mean they are invincible. They’re more like the jackals of this time period. So, who’s the lion? Postosuchus!
Bad to the bone! Da Na Na Na Na! BBBBBBBad!
Postosuchus was basically a land crocodile, and it’s just as awesome as that sounds! He’s depicted pretty well, even though it’s stated that the Postosuchus could only walk on all fours, when we now think it stayed on two legs. One controversy about this episode as well is that the Postosuchus is shown peeing, even though modern day crocodiles don’t pee. Since there is no evidence saying they did or didn’t, I’ll let that one slide (although it is an example of this show presenting speculation as fact). The Postosuchus is seen hunting a herd of Placerias, the bovine of the Triassic.
Not the most photogenic creatures, are they?
Can’t really complain about these guys, they’re depicted as expected. Maybe they could use a bit more hair though, but I digress. We also see a cute little Peteinosaurus flying around.
I guess cute is relative.
We also see, wait, what is that?
Yeah, this episode takes place during the late Triassic, cynodonts are only known from the early Triassic. At the time, there were teeth found in this region that we thought were cynodont, but they later proved not to be. But other than this cynodont being a Doctor, it’s depicted rather well. It’s nice and furry, and kind of looks like a dog. However, this episode insinuates that mammals came after this guy. when mammals were really already established in the late Triassic and this guy should be extinct. Oh well.
Lastly we get a glimpse of what the future has to hold for dinosaurs as a giant herd of Plateosaurus comes through.
They’re depicted walking on all fours, although we now know they weren’t capable of that. Plus, Plateosaurus and Coelophysis aren’t found in the same area, but in the Triassic the world was one big continent so I guess I’ll let that slide. They do have a nice mass that many depictions don’t show. Many dinosaur portrayals like to ‘shrinkwrap’ the skin around the skeleton with no sign of muscle or fat. This depiction is refreshingly bulky, especially since I usually see Plateosaurus as some noodly skeleton with skin on it.
Alright, the next episode deals with the Jurassic period, unlike a certain park that promises Jurassic dinosaurs but is only there to show off it’s Cretaceous specimens.
Wait, I was in that park.
You didn’t see me in person, but I was there. Trust me.
Guys, shut up!
Needy Metriacanthosaurus is needy!
Is this what I’m reduced to, arguing with dinosaurs?
Anyway, let’s take a look at Walking With Dinosaurs’ depiction of Jurassic North America.
Indeed it was.
Here we get to see a much more lush habitat for the dinosaurs, and get to see some of the most spectacular creatures. This episode revolves around the sauropod dinosaur Diplodocus.
This image of Diplodocus has since become iconic and is now how many people view this creature. This is an interesting depiction as it shows theories that were new at the time. For example, it was one of the first sauropod depictions to show the neck facing horizontally instead of in a swan like position (we know know that this posture is incorrect, but since it’s showing theories that at the time were thought to be correct, I won’t deduct points). We also see iguana like spines running down it’s back. We now think these spines covered most of the back and did not just go along in a single row, but it’s still cool they added them.
Some of the more speculative information seems a bit off, like how they presented the babies living and the expected growth rate, but for a 90’s interpretation, this is a pretty solid sauropod. But he’s not the only guy we see.
A pretty standard 90’s Brachiosaurus, obviously based on Giraffatitan, but I don’t care. It’s always wonderful to see this guy move.
If you look closely on the first picture of the Diplodocus, you’ll see a tiny little pterosaur called Anurognathus. In this series it’s depicted as a Jurassic ox pecker, living on large dinosaurs and eating their ticks. This is an interesting theory, although it seems unlikely. Anurognathus was probably more like a Jurassic bat, flying around eating insects. Not to mention Anurognathus didn’t live in North America.
We also get to see Allosaurus, the most famous Jurassic carnivore.
For a 90’s Allosaurus, he’s pretty spot on. We also get to see him face off against everyone’s favorite idiot, Stegosaurus!
Darn, not again!
Stegosaurus seems fine for the most part, although he does display the ability to change the color of his plates when angered. Although not impossible, it’s still another example of showing speculation without informing the audience that it’s speculation.
We also get a look at everybody’s favorite bird obsessed dino, Ornitholestes.
Yeah, there’s a lot wrong here. First off, I applaud trying to add feather like quills to make it more bird like, but this show came out after it was discovered dinosaurs like these had feathers. Sure, at the time it was only thought that Cretaceous dinosaurs had them, but still. I will let it slide though, because feathers are VERY hard to computer animate, especially in the infancy of CGI and ESPECIALLY on a TV budget. What isn’t forgivable, however, is the horn. For a long time, Ornitholestes was reconstructed with a horn on it’s nose because of a damaged spot on the tip of the snout (and I’ll admit it was a cool look). But at thew time of this shows production, they knew better. They kept it because it looked cool.
OK, let’s stay in the Jurassic, but not on land, but under the sea.
Under the sea! Under the sea!
We start out with this nerd.
This is Eustreptospondylus. He’s not the star.
He’s just minding his own business when this happens.
It’s a Liopleurodon, Charlie!
Yep, a random Liopleurodon jumps out of the water and ruins this poor fellows day. So, what exactly is a Liopleurodon?
A magical Liopleurodon!
According to this show, kind of a Mary Sue. This series depicts the Liopleurodon as the perfect predator, and the largest to ever swim the seas. It’s depicted as being 80 ft long!!!! Uh, new flash. Liopleurodon was only about 20 ft long, making it no bigger than that dinosaur it snatched up in the beginning. So, yeah, Megalodon could still kick the mess out of yah!
We also see a plesiosaur by the name of Cryptoclidus, doing the impossible.
I wish to be a sauropod.
For some time people would speculate that plesiosaurs could come on to land to bask in the sun like seals or lay their eggs like turtles. We now know that if they did that, they would have a similar experience to a dolphin coming to shore, they would get beached and die. At least the Liopleurodon knows that.
The most accurately portrayed creature in this episode is the beautiful Opthalmosaurus.
This showidea of a reptile giving birth to live young, which was probably shocking to audiences at the time (hopefully not to scientists, however). Which makes sense, as a dolphin like creature would have never been able to make it on to land.
Ok, let’s move on to the Cretaceous!
Well, that’s a happy image to open up to.
The star of this episode is Ornithocheirus (although the species seen has since been identified as it’s own genus, called Tropeognathus). It is called the largest pterosaur to ever live.
I respectfully disagree.
The show tell us that the Ornithocheirus could reach wingspans of up to almost 40 ft! However, most scientist today doubt those claims and think is was probably half that.
We are also told that the pterosaur travels great distances to reach it’s mating grounds, speculative behavior that we have no evidence of. Look, I know that when your shooting a documentary style show about dinosaurs and you want them to act naturally you’re going to have to add some speculative behavior. But let the audience know what is true and what is speculation!
As he travels around the world, he runs into several kinds of dinosaurs, including two species of Iguanodon.
An American variant.
Love the color design.
And a European variant.
Now, I like the change of color scheme to represent different species, even though they are both Iguanodon. Many paleo artist forget this. Remember, we think of lions, tigers, and leopards as different, but they are all under the genus Panthera. Too bad the American Iguanodon has recently become it’s own genus, Dakotadon.
Something confusing about this is that the American Iguanodon runs into Polocanthus, a European ankylosaur.
Why not use Gastonia? They’re basically the same thing!
Yet the European Iguanodon runs into…
Well Raptor, we meet again. But yeah, the American Iguanodon runs into the European Polocanthus, yet the European Iguanodon runs into the American Utahraptor (it even has Utah in the name!) Would it have killed them to switch it around?
Is that the only reason you’re here?
While we’re at it, let’s take a look at you then.
Hmm, I spy a lack of feathers.
At this point in time, we knew these guys were feathered. But, it was also a time when people weren’t ready to accept it, and it was costly to animate, so most programs left them out.
Why are you even here? I really can’t read you. Well, we don’t get feathered raptors, but we do get some beautiful prehistoric birds.
She rocks in the treetops all day long…
We have one more pterosaur we need to talk about. Tapejara!
Despite displaying hypothetical behavior, I don’t see much wrong with it. Except for one thing.
It’s not a Tapejara.
This pterosaur was once thought to be a species of Tapejara, but has since been granted it’s own genus, Tupandactylus. But this happened in 2003, so you can’t blame them for not knowing the future.
Ok, where to next? Oh, this is interesting!
We come from a land down under…
We are now in Mid Cretaceous Australia, but in dino times, Australia wasn’t warm and muggy like today (the kind of place you would actually expect to see dinosaurs). Back then, Australia was in the South Pole, and it was cold and icy. Not like today, but pretty cold by dinosaur standards.
Here we follow a hibernating family of Leaellynosaura.
At the time it was pretty surprising for viewers to find out that dinosaurs could survive in cold temperatures, since most people assumed they were cold blooded. But looking back at this depiction now, we see that it is missing something.
Most depictions these days of this dino portray it with a covering of fluff. Although there is no direct evidence of this, related dinosaurs are known to have it, and if you live in a climate like that, it makes sense.
We also get the giant salamander thing, Koolasuchus.
AHHH!! KILL IT WITH FIRE!! Wait, that won’t work.
I love you if you get that joke. He’s depicted pretty well (seeing how we don’t have too much fossil remains of this guy), and I like how he has to deal with the cold temperatures as well.
We also get to see a carnivore. called a polar allosaur.
Now, at the time of this show’s creation, there wasn’t a large carnivorous dinosaur found in that area, so they kind of just assumed there would be. Thankfully, such an animal has been discovered, and we can now name this guy Australovenator.
The last big dinosaur here is the relative of Iguanodon called Muttaburrasaurus.
He seems pretty spot on for a 90’s portrayal, although I’ve seen some modern pictures of this guy completely covered in fur like feathers. But I don’t expect that in 1999.
One last thing to talk about here. We see a mammal called Steropodon here, played by a coati.
But Steropodon was, for all intensive purposes, a prehistoric platypus.
He’s a semi aquatic egg laying mammal of action!
Just food for thought.
OK, now for the big one. The extinction of the dinosaurs!
This final episode chronicles the infamous Hell Creek dinosaurs at the very end of the Cretaceous. This includes everybody’s favorite carnivore, Tyrannosaurus Rex!!!
Sorry, not you.
Yeah, the tyrannosaur model in this show is very off. It’s front side seems way too top heavy and it’s tail is too lizardy and whip-like, when it should be stiff for balance. The skull seems very off as well. None of the body parts seem to belong together. Oh well, I guess. This tyrant lizard has bigger problems on the horizon.
No, not this.
Other dinosaurs seen include Torosaurus.
I hate you.
I’m sorry, I just really hate this dinosaur. I’m glad you’re no more. They used a Torosaurus instead of Triceratops so they could focus on dinosaurs that aren’t usually in the spotlight. Come around a few years, and it turns out, Torosaurus is just a mature Triceratops! So HAH!!
Anyway, they engage in locked combat, which I guess isn’t impossible, but scientist now think the horns were too delicate to be used for anything but display.
Stop making dinosaurs boring, science!
Here comes another dinosaur whose name we don’t use anymore!
You’ve gone through a lot of names. Trachodon, Anatosaurus, here you’re Anatotitan. But finally, after many decades of arguing, we’ve decided just to call you all Edmontosaurus.
The depiction itself is pretty good. It has correct posture and a nice amount of bulk. But recently, we’ve found that Edmontosaurus had a rooster like comb on the top of it’s head.
Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of another raptor, Dromaeosaurus.
Raptor, is that you?
I’m still not sure why you keep following me, or why you can’t just stay as a Philosoraptor, but oh well. I guess I’ll talk about you next. You still have no feathers, you barely look different then the Utahraptor. In fact, I think you’re just a recoloring of the first model! Plus, Dromaeosaurus wasn’t around at the end of the Cretaceous.
Are you in cahoots with Time Traveling Cynodont?
Raptor? Were did you go? OK, let’s just move on to the next dinosaur.
We see a Quetzalcoatlus very briefly, and is shown to be a lonely member of the dwindling pterosaur family.
We hardly knew ye, feathered serpent.
Wait a minute, are those teeth? Really?
The last dinosaur we see is the armored Ankylosaurus.
One thing I like about this depiction is that it doesn’t have the all to common side spikes that so many portrayals of this dinosaur have. The head could use a bit more armor though, and the tail looks a bit more like that of a Euoplocephalus, another common error. But still, it’s miles above others I’ve seen.
And then everyone died.
Woah, this was a long one. I have a lot to consider.
Well, this show worked so hard to make these dinosaurs act as realistically as possible, portraying them as animals instead of dinosaurs. Yet, the rampant speculations and many inaccuracies just hold it back for me. It’s still a superbly handled piece of art, the first of it’s genre, but it’s far from perfect. So I’m going to give this series….
7.5 out of 10 stars.
I know, shocker.
Well, the ‘Walking With’ crew has since created many more series like this, and many other people have made there own as well, so these documentaries should keep me busy for a long time.
Hmm, no. I’ll save that one for later. I’ve got plenty of other dinosaur related material in the mean time.
How do you…? OK then, humor me. What is my next project?
Darn you Time Traveling Cynodont!
Disney’s Dinosaur is next.