When Dinosaurs Ruled The Mind #22: Dinosaur Train

(New schedule! In between big reviews of movies, television series, games, etcetera; I will post two smaller reviews, either a ‘Dinosaurs Over The Years’ , a ‘Trope-osaurus’, or something else entirely. So the schedule will be big review, small review, small review, big review. This allows me to give your more content in less time and decreases burnout.)

(This blog is not for profit. All copyrighted images belong to their respective owners and are used for review.)

Dinosaur Train is a show I wish I had as a kid. It combines two things that boys love: dinosaurs and trains. Not only that, but the show tries really hard to educate and have up to date information, and a lot of the time it succeeds. Not only that, but it really encourages the use of scientific names, even the really hard ones. In the Land Before Time generation kids referred to dinosaurs as ‘long neck’, ‘sharptooth’, and ‘three horn’; while Dinosaur Train encourages names like Palaeobatrachus and Therizinosaurus.

However, despite this, the series isn’t perfect. Even though the show tries really hard to be accurate, it does make some glaring mistakes. some of these mistakes don’t even make sense in the context of some of the things they’ve already said in the show. Really, the most obvious mistakes are made with the main characters, as they are drawn in a cartoony, exaggerated style. For the most part, the other dinosaurs are designed to be as accurate as possible. So, let’s take a look, shall we?

Like I said, pretty much all the main cast are exaggerated caricatures of their actual species. For example, look at the Pteranodon family.

The_Pteranodon_Family.jpg

These are our main characters: Mrs. Pternodon, Mr. Pteranodon, Shiny, Tiny, Don; and their adopted son, Buddy the Tyrannosaurus. As you can see, they’re pretty much stereotypical Pteranodons (except Buddy of course). Given that they’re supposed to be audience surrogates, they walk and stand like human beings (upright), when real pterosaurs walked on all fours. Of course, I can forgive that, They are supposed to be human analogues anyway. What I can’t forgive, however, is the wings.

Bat wings on a pterosaur are a big no-no, yet they are a common thing in many cartoon renditions of Pteranodon. However, if you look at an actual wing from the creature, you will be able to see the difference instantly.

This is especially jarring when the show talks about the Pteranodon scientifically, especially in regards to wingspan. You can’t really use the character models for that because they are too darn inaccurate. Another jarring fact is that none of the other pterosaurs have these wings, only the Pteranodon family. It’s one person worked on  the design of the main characters and another did the designs for the rest of the dinosaurs.

Now, let’s look at Buddy, the Tyrannosaurus.

Once again, he is designed to have the basic body structure of a human, specifically a small human child. This is evident in the arm length, the head size, and the upright stance…I’m reading way too into this am I?

Maybe you were in the Land Before Time reviews, but you shouldn't feel bad about judging a show's scientific accuracy when the point of the show is to teach scientific accuracy.

Maybe you were in the Land Before Time reviews, but you shouldn’t feel bad about judging a show’s scientific accuracy when the point of the show is to teach scientific accuracy.

I guess you’re right. Should I point out the backwards facing heel claw as well?

Go for it!

Go for it!

OK. The backwards facing heel claw is inaccurate.

Did that really accomplish anything?

Just keep goin',dude.

Just keep goin’,dude.

Alright.

Our next main character is Mr. Conductor, a Troodon.

capotreno.jpg

Being the smartest dinosaur, naturally they can invent a device that can break the laws of time and space and travel throughout the Mesozoic Era.

Not bad for someone with the intelligence of an emu. 

Sorry, sometimes I think we give Troodon a bit too much credit.

His body shape is also changed to have a somewhat human like profile, and his featherless body reminds me of those skinny alien looking depictions this dinosaur used to have. I wanted to do a ‘Dinosaurs Over The Years’ post on this guy, but figured it would be too similar to my Raptor one. So instead, I’ll show you here what Troodon used to look like.

These depictions always gave me the creeps. At least now we know it has feathers and it actually looks like a real animal.

Although he isn’t portrayed with a coat of feathers, one episode reveals he has a small tuft of them under his hat, and his mother has a full head of them.

An episode that features the Arctic also depicts a species of Troodon fully feathered.

I think this is them trying to cover their tracks for giving us a naked Troodon in the first place. Oh well, they do a lot better on the other dinosaurs. Although I do wonder how these guys would look like if depicted accurately.

Oh, cool. Thank you. 

OK, let’s move on to some of the other dinosaurs. First I’ll bring up another recurring character, Laura the Giganotosaurus.

As you can see, the attention to detail in the dinosaurs get’s a lot more evident in the other characters. Laura’s design seems pretty good, and seems to take inspiration from this commonly seen model.

Giganotosaurus02.jpg

Many of the A-list dinosaurs look pretty much exactly as you’d expect them too, so I’ll just skim over them to avoid repeating myself, and you can draw your own conclusions.

Tyrannosaurus

Brachiosaurus

Stegosaurus

Triceratops (no quills, but that’s OK)

…and so on and so forth. As you can see, the famous dinosaurs are pretty standard, with the same accurate and inaccuracies as normal. what I really want to talk about is how this show portrays some of the odder members of the dinosaur kingdom, starting with how it depicts feathered dinosaurs.

I remember when I first saw this show back in 2010, and figured that the reason the Troodon didn’t have any feathers is because feathers are really hard to do in computer animation. But then I saw the episode ‘Now With Feathers’, which introduces the concept of feathered dinosaurs. Notably, they didn’t use a dinosaur that has direct evidence of feathering, like Sinosauropteryx or Caudipteryx, but the very famous Velociraptor.

You know, I can cry and complain that the wing feathers aren’t long enough or attached to the second finger, or how the hands are in a more human like position instead of the folded bird position they should have…

You call that not complaining?

You call that not complaining?

…but honestly, I don’t care. This was 2010, which means this was probably in production back in 2008 or 2009, before all that was really a concern. The fact is, they gave Velociraptor feathers, and I was happy. This may bite them in the butt later (and you’ll see why), but at that moment I had no reason to complain.

A telling sign of the times, however, was the fact that the episode treats dinosaurs with feathers as a somewhat unusual thing, mostly based on the characters reactions. They couldn’t wrap their head around the idea that a creature other than a flying bird would need feathers. Sure, this is meant to teach an uninformed audience, but now it’s kind of snicker worthy, seeing how we now think that feathers on dinosaurs were the rule, not the exception. Really, it may have been rarer to find a dinosaur that was completely scaly.

And it’s all thanks to you, ya furry %#@!.

Anyway, we continue to see many examples of birds and feathered dinosaurs as the series goes on. This includes prehistoric birds like:

Avisaurus 

Enantiornthine (not a genus, but a group of birds that went extinct some time after the dinosaurs)

…and even the infamous Chinese bird-dinosaur Microraptor, with an entire episode focusing on it being one of the smallest dinosaurs ever (a refreshing choice over the over saturated Compsognathus).

Another cool thing this series does is that it’s not afraid to classify birds as a kind of theropod, and in fact Buddy the Tyrannosaurus makes some bonds with these characters for that fact alone. Yep, it would seem that this show was going to take every opportunity to put feathers on these guys, even if they forgot about old Troodon.

But then, this happened.

Wait, what? 

No, you were doing so well…

Yes, the show suddenly decided to have a case of Jurassic Park syndrome. Despite having a feathered Velociraptor in an earlier episode, the show runners still decide to keep these guys naked. Not even a mohawk of feathers on it’s head; straight up scaly.

Heck, even I find that embarrassing. 

Well, despite that little flub, we do continue to see some gloriously feathered characters, including:

Saurornitholestes

Hesperornis

Jeholornis

Oviraptor

Confuciusornis (complete with Fu Man Chu mustache)

…and even some beautifully feathered Therizinosaurus!!!

AWESOME!!!

We also get the infamous Archaeopteryx, although another sign of the times is the fact that it’s treated like the very first bird, or at least the very first bird like dinosaur. We now think of Archaeopteryx as a fairly standard theropod dinosaur, and similar bird like creatures have since been found in the Early Jurassic! Not only that, but feather like filaments were probably present in the earliest dinosaurs, and probably found on archosaurs long before dinosaurs!!!

Get used to it. 

Oh well, Archaeopteryx is still a cool creature to see, although I wish they waited a couple years later so they could use the actual color Archaeopteryx was, which we know at least the primary feathers were black.

Yes, we now have the ability to determine what some feathered dinosaurs color was. Isn’t science awesome?!

 Of course, we still have to deal with dinosaurs that aren’t nearly as feathered as they should be. For example, the Sinovenator (a close relative of Troodon) is only shown with tufts of feathers here and there.

All ornithomimids are also pretty devoid of feathers, especially considering we now think they took the name ‘ostrich mimic’ almost completely literally.

And if you really want to get technical, all the large theropods should have feathers too, but this show was made before Yutyrannus, so what are you going to do. Still, seeing a feathered Allosaurus would be pretty cool.

Speaking of large carnivores, we do get to see quite a few interesting ones in the series. We do have the standard Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus, but we also get a few out of the box species as well. First off, we’ll talk about the interesting depiction of Spinosaurus in this show.

Obviously, this was before the revelation of Spino’s actual figure (which is still a subject of debate that I hope get’s resolved soon) so forgive it for walking on two legs. An interesting thing about it’s depiction are the long scaly bits around it’s head and neck, probably inspired by this picture.

 They do also show Spinosaurus living pretty much exclusively on fish, which is a cool choice, if not a bit weird. It’s not weird that they’re depicting Spino as a piscovore, it’s weird they haven’t used it’s more famous fish eating relatives like Baryonyx to show this. Heck, one episode features a fishing contest, and the other dinosaur competing against Spinosaurus isn’t another spinosaur, but Megaraptor!

Well, at least he’s not a dromaeosaur. 

They probably did this because Megaraptor’s long hand claw was similar to those of spinosaurs, but the depiction is completely hypothetical.

We also see Cryolophosaurus, which was nicknamed by its discoverers ‘Elvisaurus’ (why they didn’t go with that name I don’t know), due to the shape of his peculiar crest. Knowing that, the show decides to make Cryolophosaurus a prehistoric Elvis Presley, named King.

And naturally, he sings and dances. 

I personally think this is a great idea, as it brings an otherwise pretty obscure dinosaur species into the foreground and makes a very memorable character out of him. Plus, he sings an awesomely catchy song about the function of his crest and being a theropod.

Another dinosaur we get is Masiakosaurus, a dino known for its over-sized teeth. Naturally, it has a lisp.

It’s shown as a fish eater, which is one theory for the use of those big honking teeth. Unfortunately, those teeth probably would have been a lot less noticeable on the living animal, making it look a lot less unusual.

We also get the Tyrannosaurus relative, Daspletosaurus, who for some reason always depicted as purple.

Barney The Dinosaur confirmed as Daspletosaurus.

Speaking of Barney, get a load of this Daspletosaur kid.

Hmm, looks like Barney had a child. 

 Yeah, pretty much all the children look like half toddler/half reptile hybrids, and it’s pretty weird.

Anyway, i guess it’s safe to move on to some of the other dinosaurs. how about the sauropods?

There are a lot of sauropods seen in this series, including the usual’s like Brachiosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Diplodocus. Strange enough, however, Apatosaurus and Diplodocus didn’t appear until much later in the series. Brachiosaurus was present since the beginning, but more obscure sauropods were seen before more famous ones.

This included such dinosaurs as Argentinosaurus, hailed as the largest dinosaur ever to live.

Or nah.

Another one of my personal favorite sauropods is featured, the weird-looking Amargasaurus.

We also get a cute little Sauroposeidon, one of the largest dinosaurs, being adopted by a family of Microraptor, one of the smallest.

I see what you did there. 

 Another commonly seen group of dinosaurs in the series are the ceratopsians, the horned dinosaurs. We’ve got our standard Triceratops and Styracosaurus, but we’ve also got a few weirder types as well, including Einiosaurus, the dinosaur with a bottle opener for a horn.

We also get what I think is the first media appearance of Kosmoceratops, a recently discovered ceratopsian.

This is probably because one of the scientists that worked on the fossils of this guy and named it, Dr. Scott D. Sampson, is a scientific consultant on this show and has his own segment every episode.

You cheeky little devil. 

Oh yeah, did I mention that the Kosmoceratops is a mayor in a big city in Laramidia? What’s Laramidia you may ask?

This is why the show is awesome. 

We also have the pretty famous Protoceratops, but I’m kind of disappointed in the lack of quills.

protoceratopsWeb.jpg

I guess now we can move on to hadrosaurs. We get many varieties of duck billed dinosaur, but most shown are the most famous ones, like Corythosaurus, Parasaurolophus, and Maiasaura. Most of them also stand pretty upright, contrary to modern depictions.

Some don’t take this look, and instead walk more like a T. rex; walking on two legs but with body held horizontally.

The hands also form human like fingers, which would have been impossible given that they probably formed together into a leathery hoof.

An Iguanodon shouldn’t be able to do this any better than a horse could. 

Now, let’s talk about Ankylosaurus, because for once, I’m happy.

This is how an Ankylosaurus should be armored! No side spikes, no spikes on the armor; this is how you do it.

Ankylosaurus-postcard-1000x6743-700x471.jpg

Not this…

Not this…

…Oh God No!!!

I’m sorry, I’m just really picky about Ankylosaurus, and it’s so easy to get the depiction wrong. This show put forth effort, and I’m glad they did.

But it’s still wrong.

As you can see on this toy, they give the tail a double sided club, but Ankylosaurus only had one solid club of bone.

Ankylosaurus_tail_club.jpg

The kind of tail they give the Ankylosaurus is actually that of Euoplocephalus, which also appears in the same episode as the Ankylosaurus.

The show still makes the tails on the individual dinosaurs look different, but it’s still not enough. It’s a common mistake to make.

OK, let’s take a look at pterosaurs. Now, remember how the Pteranodon’s look?

Yep.

Now, look at these guys.

You see a problem?

The other pterosaurs are devoid of bat wings, yet the Pteranodons have them. This makes comparing the two in the show very awkward, and it seems like the show knows this too. Oh well, all the pterosaurs have severe problems anyway. They walk on two legs, which would look just as weird as bats walking on their feet back feet (unless your David Peters, or Rogue the Bat). This gives them a human quality, probably to make them at least somewhat similar to the Pteranodon’s, which are audience surrogates. I’m not sure about the wingspans, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t accurate. Yep, Pterosaurs have it hard in media, almost never being portrayed the way they should be. And imagine if David Peter’s hypotheses are true. Than everybody everywhere is way off!!!

Or perhaps, David Peters is just a little bit off.

Well anyway, besides pterosaurs, this series doesn’t show just the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic. It makes sure it paints a complete ecosystem for the series. We see prehistoric insects, mammals, lizards, turtles, amphibians, fish, marine reptiles, and pretty much everything else that shared the environment with dinosaurs. I mean, the marine reptiles are pretty standard. We’ve got our plesiosaurs, our pliosaurs, our mososaurs, our icthyosaurs…

…but other creatures aren’t so stock, like entire episodes focusing on Michelinoceras (a Triassic squid-like creature) and Cretoxyrhina, a prehistoric shark.

…but then we look at some of the other creatures. When this show has a frog, they don’t just call it a frog. No, it’s a Palaeobatrachus.

All hail the hypno-Palaeobatrachus….

Oh, and it’s not a turtle, it’s an Adocus.

No joke, I knew a paleontologist who called these guys Ninja Turtles. 

You see, quote unquote ‘normal’ animals are also referred to by their scientific name. But some of the other creatures they show are really weird. The series does have mammals, like the fairly typical Mesozoic mammal Cimolestes.

 But then we get creatures like Volaticotherium, basically a Mesozoic mammalian equivalent to a flying squirrel. The episode he was featured in (being a Halloween episode) seems to liken him as more of a bat like creature. They even name him Vlad and give him a Hollywood Transylvanian accent.

So, if he’s this universe’s version of a bat…

DT_Conductor_Halloween_small.jpg

…where did Mr. Conductor get this from? 

Oh yeah, right.

But yeah, this series is great for trying to paint a complete ecosystem for the dinosaurs. Even where and when the dinosaurs lived is important. One episode features a neighborhood party where the Pteranodon’s live, and all the creatures present lived in the same time and area. The episode went on to teach ecosystems and niches in an environment.

Well, the Giganatosaurus was a guest. 

Still, despite the effort to keep up with dinosaur science, paleontology just moves too quickly. Some of the things that this series teaches have since been discredited by newer discoveries. For example, Eoraptor is shown to be a theropod, but newer theories classify it now as an early form of sauropodomorph!

Plus, two genus’ (Stygimoloch and Raptorex) have since been shown to be juvenile forms of other dinosaurs.

Man, the dinosaurs with the coolest names always get debunked. Raptorex, Stygimoloch, Dracorex, Tatankaceratops, not to mention classics like Brontosaurus, Trachodon, Stenonychosaurus, Monoclonius…

Go for it!

Ah, shut up!

Alright, sorry.

Oh well, this series still did pretty well in showing kids pretty obscure species. Heck, when the series did a Dinosaur A to Z episode, they actually made characters of those dinosaurs that you only see in Dinosaur A to Z lists! I mean really, do you ever see Jaxartosaurus and Xenotarsosaurus outside of those lists?

I mean, what exactly is a Xenotarsosaurus? 

Dinosaur Train, in the end, is an exceptional show. Not only does it create an interest in dinosaur science, but it also encourages knowledge of science in other areas, with episodes focusing on ecosystems, natural phenomena, geography, geology, conservation, and even astronomy! So basically, it’s an educational show about science, but hosted by dinosaurs! I think that’s a great way to get kids attention. And sure, it has a lot of inaccuracies, but every show about dinosaurs is going to have them, and this show goes above and beyond to be as accurate as possible. In terms of accuracy, I give this show an….

8 out of 10 points. The effort it takes to be scientific greatly outweighs the occasional featherless coelurosaur.

Still, I wonder how a bunch of Troodons can figure out how to break the rules of time and space?

Howdy Ya'll!!!

Howdy Ya’ll!

Mr. Conductor! What are you doing here. Wait, are you just Philosoraptor in disguise?

I wish.

I wish.

Oh, so it’s really you. So tell me, how did you and your fellow Troodon’s figure out how to bend the laws of space time?

Oh, I can't tell you that.

Oh, I can’t tell you that.

Why not?

Because then I'll have to kill you.

Because then I’ll have to kill you.

o_o

o_o

What you on about?

And that would be unfortunate, because you deserve a fate worse than death.

And that would be unfortunate, because you deserve a fate worse than death.

What?

I will give you a hint though, as I think you're smart enough to figure it out yourself. I have some friends in high places.

I will give you a hint though, as I think you’re smart enough to figure it out yourself. I have some friends in high places.

Oh no.

Surprise, surprise.

Surprise, surprise.

Dang it! What do you want?

Last time we met, I thought making you face your past mistakes was the way to break you. Now I know I need to take a different approach. I'm going to force you to review a movie I know you've been putting off.

Last time we met, I thought making you face your past mistakes was the way to break you. Now I know I need to take a different approach. I’m going to force you to review a movie I know you’ve been putting off.

What? Valley of Gwangi?

What? No.

What? No.

Dinotopia?

Um, no.

Um, no.

Please don’t let it be Dino Crisis. If it’s Dino Crisis I swear to God-

NO!  It's something much worse.

NO!
It’s something much worse.

You don’t mean…?

Oh yes I do...

Oh yes I do…

God Help Us All…

Walking With Dinosaurs 3D coming soon.

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