STUDIO: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
MSRP: $39.99
RUNNING TIME: 690 Minutes
• Creature Shop featurette
• Character design featurette
• Easter eggs

The Pitch

, or Married… With Children, or Full
, or All In The Family… the point is, it’s like that, but with

The Humans

The voice
cast rotated quite a bit, so here’s a few of the more recognizable names: Brian
Henson, Sally Struthers, Kevin Clash. Longtime Muppet alum Allan Trautman
provided bunch of the puppeteering,
along with Mak Wilson.

Unfortunately, when archaeologists uncovered the Sinclairs’ living room,
all they found was "a series of small walls."

The Nutshell

Men are
clueless, right? When it comes to families, their wives, their own emotions,
men are about as gifted as a Caulfield. Such has been said since time
immemorial, since televised entertainment became popular. Sitcoms the world
over play off the impenetrable skulls of working-class fathers.

So here’s
a fun twist: what if that bull-headedness were because the emotional vocabulary
hadn’t yet been invented? That’s the main conceit of Dinosaurs: a few of the
mighty beasts have decided to evolve, to live in houses, to get married, raise
children, and work a daily grind. They don’t know why, exactly, or how, and it plainly
goes against their nature, but that’s what they do. Dinosaurs is about the
Sinclair family, led by the lovable and clueless Earl, who works as a
tree-pusher by day and comes home to a family he’s still trying to get used to.

"Nah, it’s not real. There’s just a really big rose bush outside."

The Package

The two seasons,
twenty-four episodes in all, are spread across four discs. Most of the bonuses
are on the first disc, and include a pair of nice featurettes. Jim Henson’s
Creature Shop is one of those studios that, like Weta, consistently impress
with their designs, and the first featurette focuses on what went into the
creation of the Dinosaurs costumes, puppets, and models.

The other
featurette digs back a little further and shows how character designer Kirk
Thatcher came up with the designs for the Sinclairs, and what changes they made
during development.

Many of
the episodes also have what they call "Dino-Eggs," which are just
nuggets of context-sensitive trivia that you can select while watching.

"Garthim! Garthim!"

The Lowdown

transposing familiar plots or characters into new situations helps the audience
connect with the material. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet takes an old story
and puts it in a context that we can at least tangentially relate to; A
Knight’s Tale
takes the modern context and injects it right into the
period setting. With Dinosaurs, the creators decided to
throw back as far as they possibly could — barring a show about protozoa — and
stick their modern dysfunctional family in the Pleistocene. What works about
this conceit is that it’s not only a cosmetic difference; the looming threat of
extinction, the adapt-or-die mentality forms an anchor for most of the comedy
and all the drama, defraying a bit of the cliché.

still remains, unfortunately, and it manifests in the characterizations. Sometimes,
playing in to the expectations makes for good observational humor. Putting a
clichéd character out of its comfort zone is a good method for turning the
humor in on itself; but, more often than not, no one but daddy Earl gets this
kind of wry treatment. The other characters exist more as part of the setting;
like dough in molds, they’re just present to fill the role of foils for Earl.

In that
way, Dinosaurs
is a lot like The Simpsons, in which Homer serves as center for a majority of
the episodes. However, Dinosaurs has only two memorable
characters: Earl and the cover child Baby. It seems to me that in their efforts
to transpose cliché they overbalanced just a tad.

You wouldn’t mind if it were slimy.

The plots
of the episodes are an interesting blend of the indignant dysfunction that is
so familiar in television nuclear families and the harmless sweetness that
hovers around most everything touched by Jim Heson, even though the man had
checked out before the show went on the air. Earl’s struggles to be both his
own man and a family man are earnest, and a softly-pointed analogy for a
certain modern gender that has a proclivity for brutish behavior.

just annoying/hilarious, depending on whether or not you dig his occasional
bouts of omniscience and prodigious self-awareness. I’m fond of both, but then
again, I’m the guy who wants to review Dinosaurs with a thesis on plot

show’s got a few other heavy matters lurking at the sides, too. Most notable is
the pro-environment message. A running gag through both the seasons deals with
the Sinclairs watching with interest as a couple of homo
adults do their darndest to invent fire, the wheel, etc. All the
while, the dinosaurs mutter to themselves how those creatures will never amount
to anything, and go back to polluting their world, knocking down trees, and
being ultra-consumers. The irony is much more bitter than the humor, but no
less present.

line, though: Dinosaurs is a fun show that deserves to be. There’s not much
interest beyond Earl, but he gets the most screen-time anyway, so it works out
all right. Plus, the puppetry is, at times, astonishing, and the production
design is much more elaborate than you normally find on a sitcom.

7.6 out of 10