In keeping with my nostalgic and obsessive-compulsive moods I’m looking back on many of my childhood favorite cartoons, most of which I haven’t seen since I was a child. I’m trying to avoid needless nostalgia and look at these shows as objectively and honestly as I can. At the same time, these aren’t meant as real reviews, this is just for fun, and I’ll be using these exact same questions for every cartoon in this series.
Dino-Riders (1988, 13 episodes)
The Skinny: The Valorians are a peaceful race of anglo (there is one black dude in the entire series) telepathic humanoids whose home planet is conquered by the Rulon Empire. The Rulons, based on their name, apparently rule pretty much everything in the known universe. 400 survivors escape the takeover on a space ship, and during the chase time travel to prehistoric Earth using the experimental Space-Time Energy Projector (S.T.E.P). Fortunately for the universe Emperor Krulos and his Rulon commanders (made up of anthropamorphisised hammer head sharks, dung beetles and cobra snakes) accidentally follow Valorians into the past. Stranded, the two groups recruited the planet’s dinosaur population into their struggle. The Valorians used their telepathy for taming dinosaurs, for peaceful riding and for domestic use, while the Rulons capture dinosaurs using large metal helmets called ‘brain boxes’ that basically hypnotize the beasts.
See the opening titles here.
Is it as good as I remember?
No. It’s pretty terrible.
Is it better then I expected?
It’s pretty much exactly what I expected.
Do I hate myself for ever liking it?
No, it’s still a cool premise
Is the animation acceptable?
It’s cheap, but the characters are usually consistent within a shot, backgrounds and foregrounds aren’t too obviously separated, and the movement is smoother then Transformers. The dinosaur and human designs are weak, but the villains are still kind of cool.
See for yourself.
Is there a MacGuffin?
Sort of, the Space-Time Energy Projector (S.T.E.P) is held by the Valorians, and sought by the Rulons, who need it to get back home.
Also, the Rulons are constantly capturing and losing a T-rex, who seldom seems to actually help them in battle. It’s actually a common plot thread.
Is there a consistent plot point that makes no sense, even within the cartoon universe’s loose rules?
Yes. Why don’t the Valorians just destroy the S.T.E.P.? Without it there’s no way for Krulos and the Rulons to get back to their time and resume ruling the universe. The Valorians seem to have no want to return to the future, even calling B.C. Earth ‘home’ in the first episode. (In the last episode, the Ice Age Adventure, the Dino Riders start to hint at perhaps wanting to return to the future, but seem more likely to be using the S.T.E.P. as a weapon)
Is there anything interesting to note as an adult?
Though the basic plot follows the various incarnations of Transformers, this is the only animated series of its kind I can think of where the heroes have already won the battle. By accidentally bringing the Rulons into the past with them they’ve basically freed the rest of the universe in the future.
The series also features an impressive voice cast including Cam Clarke (Leonardo, Kaneda), Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Rob Paulsen (Yakko, Raphael), and Frank Welker (Megatron, Nibbler).
Did I remember the theme song?
Apparently I remembered the theme to the toy ads, which features a chorus of manly men chanting “Harness the Power! Dino Riders!”. The series doesn’t have any singing in its title or closing theme.
Here are some of those ads.
Is the theme song still good?
No, it’s very, very generic.
Are the toys still cool?
Yes, very. In fact, according to the wiki the toy’s creators were commissioned by the Smithsonian to recast the dinosaurs minus the guns and walking action. I personally had a few of the smaller dinosaurs plus the battery powered Triceratops.
It’s interesting to note how accurate these toy dinosaurs were, right down to their names (except, of course, Brontosaurus, who wasn’t a real dinosaur), at least for what science knew at the time. The mixing of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs is historically wrong, and the dinosaurs on the actual show weren’t nearly as accurate (dragging tales being a big difference between the series and toys).
Here’s an archive of all the toys.
Overall score as a grown up: 4/10