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OK, I’m going to try something new.
For movies/TV shows/anything else that has dinosaurs or prehistoric creatures in it that I want to talk about but I don’t think I can make a full review of, I’ll be doing these shorter mini reviews. I did something similar with the Dinosaur sitcom a few posts back, and I’ll be doing it a lot more in the future. They should be shorter than my normal reviews, but some may end up running a bit long if I end up finding more to talk about. But for the most part, they’ll be short and to the point. I’ll also be doing this format for media I haven’t personally seen or read but still want to talk about because of the dinosaurs.
Anyway, let’s talk about Gravity Falls.
As I said in my Disney’s Dinosaur and Fantasia review, I am a big fan of Disney and animation in general. As such, I still watch a lot of cartoons, despite being almost 20.
I haven’t breathed a word of this to my father.
Anyway, one of the cartoons currently running right now that I love the most is Gravity Falls on Disney Channel. The series revolves around a pair of twins named Dipper and Mable Pines that are sent to live with their Great Uncle (or G’runkle as they call him) Stan over the summer in a small Oregon town called Gravity Falls. While there, they run into all sorts of weird creatures, from trolls and monsters to inter-dimensional demons and psychopathic computer games. There is also an unfolding mystery surrounding the town and it’s weird occurrences, involving an ever unfolding conspiracy that may involve everybody in Gravity Falls. I love the show for a couple of reasons. First off, the characters are all completely fleshed out and identifiable. Second, the actual mystery behind the show is genuinely intriguing. Third, and probably most of all, the writing and humor is hilarious, and a lot of the jokes seem more in place in The Simpsons than in a Disney Channel cartoon.
I like this style of humor.
Of course, with a series that deals with so many different kinds of monsters and creatures, eventually something prehistoric was going to appear. So, we have an episode that deals with a Pteranodon wreaking havoc. So, what does it look like?
OK, allow me to go into irrational geek mode.
As I have made very clear on the blog before, one of my biggest pet peeves is the whole ‘Ptero-Soarer’ image that pterosaurs in media have. I’ll link you to this TVTropes page that explains things in a bit more detail.
Basically, this guy has all the cliches.
First off, I’ll just mention that all the characters refer to the creature as a ‘dinosaur’. As a paleontology geek, this sets me off immediately. I know it’s not exactly common knowledge that pterosaurs were not actually dinosaurs (at least to the public) but it is one of those mistakes that takes me out of it immediately. It just bothers me, for some reason. I know it sounds irrational, but it does.
Some people get that feeling when people refer to all pterosaurs as ‘pterodactyls’, like they do in the episode. This doesn’t bother me that much, and if they only referred to the creature as that I would be fine (what else would they call it, it’s not like it looks like any known pterosaur). But many times they do go out of their way to call the creature a dinosaur, so it still bothers me.
However, I do find it funny when a couple of the characters discuss the pronunciation of ‘Pterodactyl’. Soos (the chubby guy in the question mark T-shirt) constantly pronounces the name with a hard ‘p’. Dipper (the kid with the pine tree cap) tries to correct him, but Soos remarks that nobody actually knows how it was pronounced because no one was around in dinosaur times.
That there is some insane troll logic.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the creature itself.
Well, many a dino nerd have voiced their rage with Pteranodon depictions with teeth, even though the name Pteranodon means “winged and toothless”. And I know I’ve voiced my rage on that subject.
No, just no.
However, there actually is a pterosaur out there with the crest of a Pteranodon but a mouth full of sharp teeth. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Ludodactylus.
Yes, this is real.
But let’s be honest, the team behind this show didn’t really have Ludodactylus in mind when they designed this thing.
Other things include the leathery hairless (or should I say featherless) skin, the slit pupils added to make him look more evil, the fact that it is ABSOLUTELY HUGE…
Creature not to scale.
…but the thing that gets me more rowed up than anything is the one thing I can’t stand.
Pterosaurs didn’t have eagle talons. They could not pick up prey with their feet, they did it with their mouths. Grabbing anything with their feet would not only be impossible (the toes can’t grasp or perch), but it would also throw off the equilibrium of the animal and it wouldn’t be able to fly. I’m always seeing this cliche, fueled by old dinosaur movies that did this.
Well, most of them are old.
We also have a baby pterodactyl, in an egg that is comically over-sized.
While the group is trapped in the nest, the way they escape it is by standing right in front of it. As Soos puts it, their eyes are so far apart from each other that if you stand right in front of it they can’t see you.
That is a very hurtful stereotype.
Yeah, I’m not buying it.
Really, the only cliche this pterodactyl doesn’t display are those weird multi fingered bat wings some depictions have.
Pterosaurs were not bats.
Hey, at least it walks on all fours.
You know, if that’s any consolation.
But you may ask yourself, how did a pterosaur make it’s way into the modern world? Why, it was preserved in tree sap, of course.
And he’s not alone.
I’ll go on record in saying that I absolutely hate the trope where things that are encapsulated in some form of liquid or ice or something are still alive when freed and didn’t you know, suffocate or something. Those dino’s should be long dead.
That’s different, his healing factor kept him alive. Totally logical.
Anyway, about these dinosaurs, it’s obvious the designers or someone got all their dino knowledge from Jurassic Park.
Look at that Isla Sornian Velociraptor.
Heck, this episode actually has a lot of references to Jurassic Park. In the beginning of the episode, a mosquito is shown trapped in tree sap, foreshadowing what happens in the episode.
However, I find this to be somewhat confusing. If it was meant as a callback to Jurassic Park, then that brings to mind cloning. But, these dinosaurs didn’t come to be from cloning, they were just stuck in the tree sap. If the intended analogy was that the mosquito was also trapped in the sap, then you succeeded. But if you meant to bring to mind Jurassic Park specifically, then you’re insinuating cloning, which has nothing to do with this story.
I’m probably over thinking it.
On the Jurassic Park referencing note, Grunkle Stan comes upon these dinosaurs frozen in amber and thinks he can run a theme park off of it. The name he thinks would fit?
Seems to fit just fine.
You know, before we leave, I could have sworn there was another dinosaur in this series. Oh yeah, the one in the time travel episode.
Wait, doesn’t that look kind of familiar?
Oh, I see what you did there Disney.
So yeah, this episode may exhibit some of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to pterosaur depictions, but I’m not going to boycott it or anything. The episode is still entertaining, and the show itself is still really good. However, I know this isn’t going to be everyone’s thing, so just because I love it doesn’t mean you have too. There are plenty of things people recommend to me that I can’t get into, even though I fully admit that they’re good, they’re just not my thing.
Weird anime stuff usually tops that list for me.
Join me next time as I do another Trope-osaurus, this time dealing with those ever present dangers of volcanic activity.
Have you ever asked yourself, why is there always a volcano in the background?