Ready as I’ll ever be.
I’m afraid so.
I’ll get this out-of-the-way, I’m not very proud of my review of the first Land Before Time. I was going through a lot of writers block at the time and I forgot to make points that I wanted to. I take this opportunity to address those points and further my opinion on the Land Before Time franchise.
But that’s what I do best….
Ok, I’ll try not to make this terribly long, for your sanity and for mine, but I’m making no promises (that Ice Age review went on much longer than I expected). So here we go, let’s take a look at the dinosaurs of The Land Before Time sequels.
What? Into one of the raptors in these films?
Woah. I like it.
The Land Before Time film series is a franchise that spans from the late 80’s to the late 2000’s. If you are into dinosaurs like I am you would know that a monumental amount of paleontology progress was made in those years. These finding reflect the depictions of the dinosaurs in TLBT sequels.
I have to tell you, it’s a jumbled mess.
If you though the original film was a weird melting pot of the old and the new, you haven’t seen anything yet. The sequels mix Knightian brontosaurs, upright tyrannosaurs, kangaroo duck bills, and tail dragging everything with feathered dinosaurs and recently discovered species, not to mention very 80’s/90’s depictions of raptors and other dinosaurs. The creators can’t really change designs from the first movie because they have since become important to the characters, but mixing these old school depictions with comparatively modern understandings results in an odd depiction of the prehistoric world, almost to the point that the later films don’t even look like they belong in the same universe as the first film.
Let me provide some photographic evidence.
Sauropods in the sequels continue to look decidedly old school, with their heads held upward like a swan and tails dragging on the floor.
Now I will admit that some of the later films try to remedy this situation, by keeping the tail off the ground some of the time and lowering the neck (not to mention the fact that sauropods probably did have the ability to raise their necks high, just not to the degree or mobility seen in most media), but the predominate look for the ‘long necks’ in these films are the classic Brontosaurus body type.
Pretty much sums it up.
And yet the best sauropods are still from the first movie.
Mama Longneck is OGing it up in here.
We do get more species, however, including the suddenly popular because of Jurassic Park Brachiosaurus.
Just wait, you’ll see more JP influences.
Most of the sequels give us our dime a dozen sauropods, your usual Apatosaurus/Brachiosaurus/Diplodocus types. One of the sequels, however, has several kinds of long neck congregating together, including a cameo from an Amargasaurus!!!
One good thing about the infinite sequels is that we do get to see a great variety of prehistoric life.
The Triceratops are also pretty old school, as seen in my review of the first movie.
Cera’s dad becomes a regular character in the sequels, and his design remains the same as the first film over the course of the series.
Even new Triceratops characters adopt this design.
It’s a very old school design, that brings to mind some of the earlier depictions of the creature.
Actually, the designs are very similar to the Triceratops seen in the Disney movie Fantasia, all the way back in the 1940’s!
BTW, this is something I do wish to review soon.
So you can see, Triceratops’ design kind of sticks out like a sore thumb in the later movies. We get other ceratopsians in the films as well, although most still suffer from the same inaccuracies that Triceratops suffers from.
We get the occasional Styracosaurus cameo.
As well as one appearance from what appears to be a Chasmosaurus or a Pentaceratops.
Both are depicted with the sprawled front legs, a popular old ceratopsian trope. This is even present in newer characters, such as Mr. Thicknose, the Pachyrhinosaurus.
Duck bills and other two-legged herbivores are also pretty old school, with most of them standing on their tails like kangaroos. We get several species in the series, including:
And Saurolophus (Ducky’s species)
Although sometimes they adopt a more realistic posture for the most part they stand like a tripod. This also goes for the Pachycephalosaurus, which also appeared in the first film even though i forgot to mention them.
And they butt heads, because that’s what dome heads do (sarcasm).
Iguanodont’s, for some reason, are usually portrayed as quadrupeds, despite usually being the victim of this trope as well. For example, the Iguanodons in the films are always seen on all fours.
This also goes for Ouranosaurus.
This isn’t the case, however, with Muttaburrasaurus.
I would also like to point out that hadrosaurs are often referred to as ‘swimmers’ in the series, based on the old belief that duck bills lived most of their lives in the water. The films have offered alternative names, like ‘big mouths’ (much more appropriate) and ‘hollow horns’ for crested hadrosaurs. One name that came up was ‘duck feet’, which is very confusing unless there were actual ducks in the Mesozoic.
Of course, we still need to cover the other stock dinosaurs that appear in everything dinosaur related. Included in this list are the infamous Stegosaurus.
If you remember my opinion of Spike from the first film, you’ll know that i commend that he doesn’t immediately look like his species, which is something I commend. The adult stegosaurs, however, are pretty standard, nothing about them sets them apart from the usual portrayal of the creature. However, that usual portrayal usually isn’t all that accurate.
Yep, classic Stegosaurus.
Ankylosaurs in the film fall in the same trap, with the famous Ankylosaurus displaying my personal pet peeve when portraying the creature.
As you may know reading this blog, I hate it when ankylosaurs are shown with spikes running along their sides, which is a trait only associated with their relatives the nodosaurs, which do make appearances in this series.
The two were distinct kinds of animal, and shouldn’t be confused.
another problem with many ankylosaur portrayals is that they make them to turtle like, which does make sense from a certain point of view, but probably isn’t very accurate. I imagine an ankylosaur would move about more like a rhino than a tortoise. However, that turtle look is very much present in older dinosaur art, which these portrayals seem to be based on.
Instead of illustrations like this above, we need more illustrations like this below.
Oh well, at least their better than whatever Rooter was supposed to be.
The most interesting animals in the series, I believe, are the Sharpteeth. Over the course of several movies, the characters have run into several carnivorous dinosaurs, the most common being Tyrannosaurus.
Remember the T. rex from the first movie?
Wasn’t he awesome?
The Rexes in the sequels are pretty similar, just not quite as psychotically threatening. In the earlier sequels, the still keep that kangaroo tail dragging look to them that plagued every Tyrannosaur in the 80’s.
I’m sorry, whenever I see this look all I can think about is Barney.
And no, I’m never reviewing Barney.
Later films usually correct this, however, although they sometimes fall into this trap in even the most recent installments.
In later films we get several color morphs of Tyrannosaurus, and some fans have concluded that these are actually other genus’ of tyrannosaur; with only the green ones being actual Tyrannosaurus, with the other color morphs being Daspletosaurus or Albertosaurus.
I personally think they are all Tyrannosaurus, and the different color schemes just represents variety in the species (or more than likely, the choice of the designers).
We also get several other predators as the series progresses. The first large carnivore seen besides T. rex was a Giganotosaurus.
His inclusion is interesting, especially since this dinosaur was only recently discovered when this film came out. However, it did gain fame quickly for it possibly being bigger than T. rex (in the end Giga was only slightly bigger, and lighter built). I guess that meant that the film makers wouldn’t miss the opportunity to have one fight not one, but two Tyrannosaurs.
Which I will admit is an awesome idea.
A later large carnivore seen is Allosaurus, but his depiction has problems.
Seems OK, right? At least for a 90’s still emulating the 80’s Allosaurus. Well, this particular picture displays an animation goof, in which the Allosaurus is given three fingers. And i know what you’re asking.
How’s that a goof? Allosaurus had three fingers.
Well, for most of the movie, we see this.
Yes, this movie gives us a two-fingered Allosaurus.
I used to think it was just another tyrannosaur, but the end credits confirm it as an Allosaurus. Yet they deliberately only give him two fingers.
I just don’t get it. Why?
They gave the Giganotosaurus the correct amount of fingers, and Giga and Allo are closely related. Why mess up here? Even a 5-year-old knows the difference between a T rex and an Allosaurus was the number of fingers (among many, many, MANY other things, but that’s how kids tell the difference at first). But this is only the beginning, it gets much worse.
Given it’s popularity in Jurassic Park 3, our good friend Spinosaurus was bound to make an appearance eventually.
For an early 2000’s Spinosaurus, it’s pretty standard (what with it actually having legs to stand on). There is one glaring problem, however.
FREAKIN’ TWO FINGERS!!!!!
I mean really!! Do these designers really think that ALL theropods had two fingers? Have they been drawing T. rex for so long that they don’t know the difference anymore. I’m sorry, but this is a glaring error. Something like this shouldn’t have gotten past the design phase. let alone make it one the final product. Look, I know a lot of people would say that the film makers obviously don’t care based on the quality of these movies, but they at least cared enough to do some research and add some rather obscure dinosaurs in the films. Yet they didn’t care enough to add just one extra finger to this thing? Really?
A later movie has Spino’s less famous cousin Baryonyx, but he has a different problem. It has the right amount of fingers, but not one of them is its famous hook claw.
And really, they only superficially look like Baryonyx. They really just look like generic theropods, with nothing really standing out about them.
With the first sequels being made when Jurassic Park was a cultural phenomena, raptors were bound to show up eventually. The third film gave us our first glimpse of raptors in this universe.
Given the time, this film can be forgiven for depicting it’s raptors without feathers, and the JP influences are very obvious. But I have to admit, they really do look scary.
Raptor! I’m surprised you aren’t in your new get up.
So, what brings you to the Land Before Time universe?
What exactly do you want to point out? One of the things I see is that there are several varieties of raptors present in the film series. We get two in the third film. The brown with black stripes variety, and smaller crested ones seen in the beginning.
In the seventh film we get a grey variety.
And in the eleventh film onward we are treated to a multicolored breed of raptor.
Some fans say that the brown ones are Velociraptor, the smaller crested ones are Dromaeosaurus, the grey ones are Deinonychus, while the multicolored ones from the recent films are Utahraptor. Personally, I can’t with a clear conscious call those brown raptors Velociraptors for reason’s that should be obvious to you by now.
BTW, isn’t this a lovely picture?
However, I have realized that the grey raptors look almost exactly the same as the multicolored raptors, meaning the grey ones could be just another color morph of Utahraptor. So, according to yours truly, I believe the brown raptors are Deinonychus, while the later large raptors are all Utahraptors.
What?! Let me look at that!
Oh my god, they did it, those sons of a Baryonyx did it.
I, I can’t believe this. How can they make such a stupid and elementary mistake? It’s unfathomable to me. Is it an artistic choice? This has to be deliberate. Hey. remember when movies were putting three fingers on a T. rex because they thought the audience would think it would look weird otherwise?
Hmm, what a simpler time.
Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the smaller theropods, shall we. As you probably know, scientist now think small theropods were basically glorified ground birds, but we didn’t know that in the eighties, so expect plenty of scaly chickens.
Struthiomimus return, and they pretty much retain there design from the first film.
Except now they can talk.
They are still raving on about eggs, which still looks weird to me. I know that was an excepted theory back in the day, but now with current knowledge, it just gives me the mental image of a pack of emu’s raiding nests for their goods. Just peck on the ground for some seeds for God’s sake!
This idea is abandoned in the later sequels, as we never see this species again. instead, we get treated to Gallimimus (dubbed rainbow faces by the cast) who seem to be on pretty good terms with the herbivores.
They are also aliens. Don’t ask.
In the TV series, we get an episode featuring a Troodon, who is shown with a cry that sounds like a scream (pretty original) and with a blotchy green skin that allows it to blend in with the greenery. It also doesn’t have feathers, but it can be forgiven because raptors in this universe are already portrayed without them.
And it also has two fingers? RAAA!!!-keep it together DG.
Yeah, at first I thought this guy was a Compsognathus, since many old restorations depicted them with only two fingers, but Compy’s look like this in the Land Before Time universe.
And they have the accurate amount of fingers, for once.
However, some dinosaurs in the later films are depicted feathered. For example, the TV series adds Oviraptor into the mix (who are usually considered egg thieves, but are called fast runners by the cast; maybe the names of Oviraptor and Struthiomimus were switched in this universe). They are actually given some small amount of feathering.
I mean, it’s marginal, but it’s a start.
However, we do get one fully feathered theropod, in the form of Guido the Microraptor.
Well, he’s supposed to be a Microraptor, but he only barely meets the description. Problems include a beaked mouth, no long wing feathers, and oddly human shaped hands. But who cares, we’ve got a feathered dinosaur in the Land Before Time universe!! Remember how the creatures looked in the first one?
How much more eighties can you get?
Speaking of feathers, we do get some birds in this series as well. Archaeopteryx get’s some cameos appearances every now and again, while the prehistoric bird that got the most screen time was an Ichthyornis named Icky.
It’s kind of weird to see such a fully formed bird in this universe, as it’s really the only one seen at all.
Ok, what about the pterosaurs. In the first film I really disliked the way they were portrayed, as they embodied pretty much all my hated pterodactyl tropes. The sequel pterosaurs look a bit better, but still fall into several of the same traps.
This character is Pterano, Petrie’s uncle. Although he looks better than the other Pteranodon’s seen in the movies, he still has a lot wrong with him. For example, he walks on two legs, while pterosaurs are thought to have walked on all fours. This is at least something that Petrie does, although he alternates a lot between the two. He also seems to have a vaguely human frame, probably to make him more of a human analogue. I also like how being an (anti) villain, his wings are proportioned in a way that they look like a villainous cape when he walks (at least they’re not bat wings). One thing I do like, however, is the little ring around his neck, which seems to indicate a presence of fur.
The other pterosaurs seem to have similar problems, including Sierra, Pterano’s Cearadactylus goon.
Along with his two legged stance and weirdly human like frame, he also has the ability to grasp things with his feet like an eagle, another huge pterosaur no no.
Another member of Pterano’s crew is a pink and immensely oversized Rhamphorhynchus named…Rinkus. (Pterando-Pteranodon, Sierra- Cearadactylus, Rinkus-Rhamphorhynchus….cleaver).
But seriously, if a scientist were to find a long-tailed pterosaur this big he would flip.
We also get a Quetzalcoatlus with the same problems mentioned above.
I think I should also mention that Pterano is sometimes shown with sharp teeth when talking, something that goes against his very name. however, it may just be an instance of Toothy Bird, which you can read about here.
Sadly, even though I hoped they would stay behind in the first film, even the most recent installment of the franchise decides to add a Pteranodon/Rhamphorynchus hybrid. The fandom tries to rationalize it by calling these chimeras Harpactognathus, a recently discovered pterosaur which slightly resembles such depictions.
Though not really.
One other thing I would like to point out is that at least Pteranodon is depicted as being a leaf eater, instead of the piscovore it actually was. Although carnivorous pterosaurs appear, and I’m not certain what Rinkus and Sierra eat (judging by their teeth they’re probably meat eaters), Petrie and his family are often seen munching on Tree Stars. It is even stated that flyers use their ability to reach the highest leaves in the trees.
The pterosaurs in his series trouble me.
The later films also introduce a variety of prehistoric water life. In the fifth sequel, we are introduced to Archelon, a giant sea turtle, named Archie.
Why he’s seen living in a cave and not the ocean is anyone’s guess.
He shares his cave with a Deinosuchus, a carnivorous giant alligator. Sounds scary? No, it really isn’t.
Imagine Tress MacNeille’s cranky old lady voice on this. Takes away any sort of threat.
Don’t worry, a much more threatening Sarcosuchus appears in a later installment.
We’ve also got some more traditional aquatic prehistoric creatures, such as the Ichthyosaur Opthalmosaurus.
Given that they have a similar body shape to today’s dolphins. these creatures are portrayed as such. They are playful, hyperactive, and exhibit all that stereotypical dolphin stuff that real dolphins don’t really display. Heck, these guys even make stock dolphin sound effect cries. While I understand why they depicted these creatures as such, I’m not much of a fan of comparing these creatures as exact replicas of dolphins, especially if that means putting that sweet dolphin image on them even though dolphins are some of the most ruthless predators in the sea.
Mo, as this Opthalmosaurus is called, gets harassed by a Liopleurodon.
A magical Liopleurodon! Well, not really.
This creature owes a lot of it’s popularity to Walking With Dinosaurs, which depicted it as the ultimate killing machine, and I will admit his depiction here is pretty hardcore. He may be a bit too enthusiastic about killing a bunch of tiny land creatures however, given that his normal prey would be the size of small whales.
Now, before I end this, let’s take a look at some of the REALLY questionable creatures appearing in this series, starting with the Elasmosaurus.
Not only does this character display that swan necked Loch Ness Monster posture that would be physically impossible (this however can be forgiven seeing how ingrained that image is in the public conscious), she for no real reason other that to add a twist to the story has a shark fin on her head. That’s probably the most random thing I’ve ever seen. She even has flat teeth, making her look more like the long necked sauropods in the series. This is especially strange given the plesiosaur that appeared one film before that looks a lot more like the real thing.
Even if it, once again, looks like the Loch Ness Monster.
These small sauropod like dinosaurs are called Tiny-Saurus’, which at first seem like some sort of mythical species of dwarf Apatosaurus. However, they are based on an actual creature, Mussaurus, which means “mouse lizard”, and is the smallest dinosaur ever found. Only one problem, though. They skeleton belonged to a juvenile, meaning the adult would have been a pretty average sized dinosaur.
We do see an adult, so it would seem that this really is some lost species of pygmy sauropod, unless there really is some early sauropodomorph that was this tiny. If this species really is a Mussaurus, it would be notable for being one of the only Triassic sauropodomorphs to appear in the franchise, with the only other one being a Plateosaurus that made a cameo in the second film (and incorrectly standing upright).
Another odd looking dinosaur takes the form of Hyp, a bully character who seems to be named after Hypsilophodon, but bares very little resemblance.
I don’t think I see any actual resemblance.
OK, I may be being unfair with the feathers, but Hyp doesn’t even look like the 90’s standard for the animal.
I mean, just look at that jaw line.
Look at this image from the second movie. We see a nodosaur and a slightly off model Parasaurolophus, nothing out of the ordinary. But what are those other creatures supposed to be? The blue creature looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before, but the fans label it a Moschops.
This creature, for some reason, was very popular in the eighties.
And what about that thing on the left? Is that an 1820’s Iguanodon?
You’re not rid of me yet.
This franchise does include a few mammal species, as it should, but these guys are of place. Remember the horned gopher, and how it lived in the Cenozoic? Apparently not, because these guys are pretty far from home. Of course, that could just mean…
No, no you are not welcomed.
Oh well, we do get a few age appropriate mammals in the series.
Awww, that’s the cutest possum I’ve ever seen.
Now, I leave you with the biggest head ache this franchise has ever given us, both to the fans and paleontologists. I present to you, the Yellow Bellies.
What are these guys? I don’t know. They have feathers, so I should be happy, right? No, I’m not. If you watch the movie, you know how annoying and useless they are as characters, but that’s not what gets me. just looking at them get’s me sick. I feel like they just made up a dinosaur and hoped that a living species just might correspond to it. And by the skin of their teeth, they found one. These guys are semi-officially Beipiaosaurus.
Note the similarities, e.g. the lack of any.
This wouldn’t kill me so much if it wasn’t for the design itself. I mean, WHERE’S THE TAIL?!!
Forgot that crucial detail, huh?
I applaud them for adding feathers to a new dinosaur, but this still gets to me. The design could have been so much better. It didn’t even have to be strictly accurate, just not so sugar frosted.
However, all this does show the evolution of the franchise, and perhaps not in the way you think. We’ve gone from the first film, which had some pretty solid dinosaurs however with some painful 80’s dinosaur tropes…
…to showing recently discovered creatures like Microraptor. Really, the old and new films don’t even look like they’re from the same universe. Although advancements were made, to many old dinosaur depictions remain, and the series as a whole is a jumbled mess of the old, the new, the speculative, and the downright wrong! Scoring these films is kind of difficult, but in the end, I give them a…
5 out of 10.
I see the result of a lot of research in these films, as well as the clinging of long abandoned ideas. So I see it as half and half.
Join me next time as I collaborate with my colleagues Philosoraptor…
…as I tackle my next addition of Dinosaurs Over The Years. This time, we look at Raptors. Not Velociraptor, not Deinonychus; we’re looking at Dromaeosauridae in general.
We’ve got a lot to talk about.