Western Animation / Dino Riders

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That is awesome.

The home planet of the Valorians, a peaceful race of somewhat Elven telepathic humans, has been conquered by an evil race of lizard-, frog-, bug-, and fish-men called the Rulons. Four hundred Valorian survivors use an experimental Time Travel device to go back in time and escape, but they inadvertently drag a Rulon ship back with them. Stuck in prehistoric times, they fight each other by strapping lasers and BFGs to dinosaurs.

Holy shit, that is awesome.

Best known today for being the benefactor of Memetic Mutation (see the sentence immediately above). The dinosaur toys were eventually recycled (stripped of their armor) as a series of straight, though articulated, dinosaur models. Compare Dinosaucers, Extreme Dinosaurs, and Dino Squad for more dumb fun with dinosaurs.

Recently, it has been revealed to be in talks for a Live-Action Film adaptation, hoping to compete with Transformers.

Tropes in this series:

  • Aborted Arc: Questar and everyone look into the future with the STEP crystal to see how things are in Valoria. They saw a Viper, a Sharker and an Ant-man arguing over who will rule the Rulon Empire with Krulos missing. It seem the Empire will either break apart or civil war might erupt, but the vision is cut and we never see what happens next.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Serena use the Dreadlock's ventilation system to escape her cell.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The AMPs (Amplified Mental Projector), which the Dino-Riders use to communicate with and befriend the dinosaurs.
  • Art Evolution: Between the first two episodes by Hanho Heung-Up, the rest of the series by AKOM and the Ice Age special by Island Animation.
  • Artistic License Paleontology:
    • They had dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and Diplodocus coexisting, which were separated by millions of years' time. The line of toys also included Dimetrodon and Placerias, which were not dinosaurs and the former was long extinct before the first dinosaurs came into being (Dimetrodon is further from the dinosaurs than they are from us).
    • Also, woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and giant sloths are thrown into the mix. These were collected from the Ice Age and brought back via time travel, so at least were not intended to be contemporaries of the reptilian creatures. However, the lineup also featured an entelodont (referred to as "killer warthog"), which was already extinct before the Quaternary period let alone the Ice Age.
    • Brontosaurus. Never mind at that time it should be known as Apatosaurus, it was at the centre of a two-part storyline that had the Dino-Riders and Rulons battling over it because it was "the largest dinosaur in the world." A great idea in concept, and to an eight-year old it was an absolutely epic story, but Brontosaurus was not the largest dinosaur known to science even then — the Brachiosaurus was taller and heavier. Other species like Argentinosaurus are much larger, and Diplodocus, a frequently-seen dinosaur in the show, was longer. Here, it is depicted as a mini-sized version of the Brontosaurus — both the toy and cartoon versions of the Brontosaurus are more than twice as long and tall as the smaller sauropod.
    • The above mentioned Brontosaurus was not the only dinosaur depicted out of scale. For example, the Deinonychus was made larger and bulkier than the real one (who could hardly have carried a human on its back) but, amusingly, about the same size as the much-later-discovered Utahraptor. Kentrosaurus is also too big, about the same size as Stegosaurus instead of half as large. Not to mention Pterodactylus (referred to as "Pterodactyl") is the same size as Pteranodon, which is already portrayed as large and strong enough to carry a full-grown human.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, the Dino Riders Ankylosaurus was tiny compared to its real life counterpart, and Saurolophus was barely larger than the Deinonychus, despite the actual animal being comparable in scale to the Tyrannosaurus (the toy version is smaller than the T. rex's leg). Quetzalcoatlus is the same size as Pteranodon. And Dimetrodon was in no way large enough to cart around a rider and all that armor, and the whole "hide behind the sail and raise a seat above it as cover" trick would never work.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: While Krulos had many schemes under his belt, his favorite strategy is constantly attacking:
  • Badass Grandpa: Mind-Zei, who took out three Rulon Vipers using just his wits and martial arts. Keep in mind that Mind-Zei is blind.
  • Bad Boss: Krulos constantly yells at his underlings, physical abuses them and uses them for target practice.
    • His elite minions pick up on this — Hammerhead always order his troops by yelling at them and calling them "incompetents" or "idiots".
  • BFG: The particle beam cannon fitted on top of the Brontosaurus. It's the largest weapon in the series.
  • Big Bad: Emperor Krulos. The "Bible" for the series indicates that Krulos should not be seen humiliated or pratfalling, in order to maintain his sense of menace. The writers, alas, did not follow these instructions, and he's tossed about and embarrassed a fair deal.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Rulon dinosaurs, as a result of the Rulons using Brain Boxes to control them.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: Questar and his friends got into one to hide from the Rulons.
  • The Cavalry: The cavalry with dinosaurs and guns blazing to be precise.
  • Chest Blaster: Glide has small guns mounted in his chest-pack.
  • Clear My Name: Questar is accused of sending top secret intelligence to Rulon. He leaves to prove his innocence. However, his people believe it's a Rulon lie and Questar never truly needed to clear his name so they let him lead anyway. It was a Rulon device attached to Questar's computer that was responsible for the leaks.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The lasers of the Rulons are green, while the Dino-Riders's lasers are red. Naturally, when the Brontosaurus is brain boxed, its lasers turn from red to green despite the fact that its still equipped with the Dino-Riders' cannons.
  • Continuity Snarl: The Thanksgiving episode with a flashback sequence. Krulos orders the Dreadlock to pursue the Valorian ship in the time rift. In the pilot episode, Krulos orders the tractor beam to disengage and the Dreadlock get zapped into the past anyway.
  • Convection Schmonvection:
    • Dinosaurs are merely annoyed by laser beams. Even ones that can rip through their metal armor.
    • One episode features a Plesiosaurus swimming in lava. Seriously!
  • Deflector Shield: A planet-sized shield once protected Valoria from the Rulon's armada, but after many bombardments that lasted a very long time, it collapsed.
  • Disability Superpower: Mind-Zei, who can "see" without eyesight.
  • Distress Ball: Llahd is kidnapped many times by Rulons and constantly need rescuing.
  • The Emperor: Krulos, the emperor of the Rulon Empire.
  • Energy Weapon: Aside from the usual lasers, the Rulon created a pulse cannon and the Dino-Riders a particle beam cannon. The pulse cannon doesn't do anything new and the beam look like another laser. It does has a different sound effect though. The particle beam cannon use the STEP crystal for an energy source, but this risk of breaking the STEP.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Serena's healing ability draws from her life-force. If a patient is close to death, it will drain most of Serena's energy, severely weakening her. If used too much times in a row, it can kill her.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs
  • Evil Counterpart: Most of the early toys seem to come in pairs — a Dino Rider and Rulon version:
    • Each gets a flying mount with guns strapped to the wings. The Valorians have a Quetzalcoatlus figure; the Rulons get a Pteranodon. Though the cartoon features Serena atop a Pteranodon, and the Rulons later get a Quetzalcoatlus toy.
    • The Valorians ride a Torosaurus; the Rulons ride Triceratops. The toys have different heads, paint jobs, armor and riders, but identical bodies.
    • Small Ceratopsians are common — the Valorians ride Styracosaurus, while the Rulons get a head & Palette Swap in Monoclonius.
    • Each side gets a Deinonychus — the dinosaur toys are identical save the color of the figure's back stripes.
    • The other figures in the first series are more similar in size than anything, as they dinosaurs are completely-different — the Valorians ride Pterodactyl and Diplodocus, while the Rulons get Ankylosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. The Pterodactyl and Ankylosaurus are small-sized models with a simple harness/weapon set-up, and the Diplodocus and Tyrannosaurus are jumbo-sized, line-defining centerpieces who are packed with tons of weapons and three figures.
      • The second series gives us the Valorian Stegosaurus and the Rulon Kentrosaurus (upgraded in size to match the Stego's size), and the Valorian Pachycephalosaurus and the Rulon Saurolophus, which are also of similar scale. The Valorian Protoceratops and Rulon Placerias are also about the same size.
      • The second and third series however break the "Counterpart" set-up, as the heroes end up getting far more figures (the Brontosaurus has no counterpart, and neither do the Dimetrodon, Struthiomimus, or any of the Ice Age creatures), including a few more head and palette swaps of the Ceratopsians (Pachyrhinosaurus for the large-sized model, and Chasmosaurus for the small one).
  • Evil Is Hammy: Krulos. Being voiced by Frank Welker helps.
  • Evil Laugh: Any of the named Rulon: Krulos, Rasp, Hammerhead, Antor and so forth.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Krulos. You think his voice would have been garbled since his head is constantly bathing in a bowl of water.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: With a name like Rasp, what do you expect?
  • Five-Man Band
  • Forgot About His Powers: Too many times, a Dino-Rider forgets he has an AMP crystal to communicate telepathically with the others.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams
    • Even two different types of them: The "thermo lasers", which could burn through metal, and the "impulse lasers", which were little more effective than rubber bullets.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The AMPs (Amplified Mental Projector)
    • The STEP crystal (Space Time Energy Projector).
  • Galactic Conqueror: Krulos in his own era, as emperor of the Rulon empire.
  • General Failure: Krulos never listen to the advices of his subordinates and think that destroying the Dino-Riders is the only viable strategy.
  • Genre Blindness: Rulon suffer greatly from this:
    • Serena's cell wasn't guarded and she escaped through the air-vents.
    • Rulon is confident that no one could break through one of their back-door without the code access, so they posted no guards. Mind-Zei, who's blind, cracked the access code.
    • Tagg falls to his doom. Rasp and Hammerhead think he's dead and don't bother to look for his corpse. Tagg survives, of course.
    • Rulon captured dinosaurs that belonged to the Dino-Riders. They aren't brain boxed or restrained. The Dino-Riders use this to their advantage and control them.
    • Whenever Dino-Riders are captured by Rulon they never think of removing their AMP crystals. This lead to the Dino-Riders using their AMP to telepathically warn others or call dinosaurs for help.
  • Healing Hands: Serena's specialty with an Equivalent Exchange twist.
  • Human Aliens: The Valorians.
  • Idiot Ball: Llahd and Yungstar. Many episodes revolved on their recklessness and lead to many Distress Ball.
    • In the two-part finale, Questar is accused of transmitting secret plans to Rulon. You think the Dino-Riders would start searching Questar's computer to see if anything is wrong. No! They only do so near the end of the second episode and have to deal with a big mess in between.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Both factions are lousy shots unless the plot demands so. At which point the Dino-Riders become crack shots able to hit the Brain Box off of a moving animal without hurting it.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: The device that tempered with Questar's computer and sent secret intelligence to Rulon. While hidden under the console, it's large and constantly blink.
  • It's Pronounced Tro-PAY: Fans of the toy line will never forget the commercial announcer's pronunciation of "dip-lo-DOE-cus".
  • Large and in Charge: Krulos is tallest and largest of the Rulon Empire. His dinosaur, the Tyrannosaurus rex, is also the biggest dinosaur of the Rulons's army.
  • Large Ham: Whenever someone is taunting in battle with Questar and Krulos being the biggest hams.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Weapons other than lasers are missiles.
  • MacGuffin: The STEP (Space Time Energy Projector) Crystal, which the Valorians used to travel through time, and which Krulos and the Rulons want.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Brain Boxes, the mind control devices the Rulons used to control dinosaurs resembled metal masks.
  • Merchandise-Driven: One of the biggest examples of this — the reason for the production of the animated series was so that Tyco could launch a Dino-Riders toy line. Oddly, in some markets there was no animated series, or there was just a one-off special. Some markets (France in any case) had a comic book.
  • Mind Control: The villains used "Brain Boxes" to control their mounts, unlike the protagonists who simply befriended them... by projecting foreign thoughts into their brains.
    • At least the Dino-Riders respected dinosaurs as living creatures, seemed to be actually holding telepathic conversations with them at some points, and only recruited to their ranks those who were willing to fight alongside them while allowing other dinosaurs to remain free. To the Rulons, they were only war machines to be captured, broken in, and forced to participate in combat.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Krulos sound very much like "cruel".
  • Never Say "Die": Averted. Death words are said freely by both sides throughout the series.
  • Nonindicative Name: Rasp and the snakemen are referred as "Vipers", but they look like cobras.
  • No Indoor Voice: Hammerhead. He not only growl every line, but scream on top of his lungs.
  • Off Model: Colors, characters, dinosaurs and armaments are drawn inconsistently throughout the series.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Whenever a Frickin' Laser Beam actually manages to wound someone.
  • Palette Swap: All of the Rulons's Mooks in the cartoon are Palette Swaps of the established, named characters. Antor, Rasp and Hammerhead are quickly joined by Lokus, Skate and Krok — all six have legions of guys on the Rulon forces that look exactly like them, but for different colors. The toys were like this as well — "Name" characters got the most-spectacular dinosaurs (Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus, Triceratops, etc.), while most of the lesser-known ones got mere re-colors of established characters.
    • The toyline made this a common feature in the "Two-Packs" that were sold, featuring only humanoid characters — each was sold with one Rulon and one Dino-Rider. All six Rulon Generals had two or more characters that were just Palette Swaps, and all of the featured Valorians had at least one Swap each.
    • Rulon Examples: Krulos got two color swaps in the "Two-Packs", sharing his name but coming in different colors. Antor is the key "ant", coming with the Deinonychus- his Swaps are Sting (Ankylosaurus), Bitor (another Tyrannosaurus figure), Drone, Fire, Termite and Demon. Rasp is the key "viper", coming with the Pteranodon- his Swaps are Cobrus (T. rex add-on #2), Sidewinder (Triceratops co-rider), Fang, Rattlar and Skwirm. Hammerhead is the main "shark" figure, and gets to ride the large and pricey Triceratops- his Swaps are the similarly-colored Mako (stuck riding the much-smaller Monoclonius), Finn, Six-Gill, Dedeye and Gill. Krok is the only "Crocodile" character seen in the cartoon, and comes with the Kentrosaurus- his Swaps are Algar (ultra-rare Rulon Quetzalcoatlus rider), Kraw, Snarrl, Gorr and Gutz. Lokus is a rarely-seen "locust", and comes with the Saurolophus- his Swaps are Poxx, Buzz and Squish (all mini-pack figures). Skate is also rare, coming with the Placerias- his Swaps are Sludge and Ray.
    • Valorian/Dino-Rider Examples: Questar (coming with the Diplodocus) gets two Swaps with the same name and a different color scheme. Serena (a Brontosaurus rider) also gets one, plus another Swap named Ursus. Mind-Zei (coming with the Diplodocus) had two Swaps with the same name. Turret and Gunnur both had camouflage-colored Swaps named Quark and Boldar, respectively. Llahd, the young boy figure, comes with the Pterodactyl dinosaur, while a brown recolor named Nimbus comes with the Struthiomimus, and Mercury (a silver Swap) is a Two-Pack character. Tagg had the same body as Gunnur/Boldar, but a different head.
    • Other Valorians: Yungstar's body-type produces a spectacular number of recolors, some with his same bandana-wearing head, and others without it. They include a brown-haired Yungstar, Vega (Stegosaurus rider), Magnus (Torosaurus), Sky (Deinonychus), Nova, Aries, Proto, Orion and a rarer Llahd with the same color scheme as the Pterodactyl figure (it was occasionally released with that dinosaur). One type, unseen in the cartoon, was the Tark (Stegosaurus)/Shado (Dimetrodon) style- it also included Llava (Chasmosaurus) and Hondo. Axis rode the Edmontonia, and spun off Ion (Brontosaurus add-on), Graff and Ecco. Ayce rode the Brontosaurus also, and spun off Atlas (Pachyrhinosaurus), Neutrino and Wizz.
    • Even the "Cavemen" figures were all Swaps of each other: Grom (Woolly Mammoth), Ulk (Giant Ground Sloth), Zar (Killer Wart Hog), Kub (Sabre-Toothed Tiger), Onk, Urg, Tor and Agga.
    • The dinosaurs were not excluded, either, especially for the toys. Both sides received Deinonychus that were identical but for the color of their stripes. The Monoclonius, Styracosaurus and Chasmosaurus (a later, rare release) have the same body mold, but different heads and color schemes. The Triceratops and its Dino-Rider counterpart, the Torosaurus have the same thing going on — the former is blue and has a short frill, while the latter is brown and has a much larger frill and set of horns (later, the Pachyrhinosaurus — among the rarest toys in the line — joins them, with a gigantic central nose-horn). The Pteranodon and Quetzalcoatlus also are Swaps with different heads. The Rulons later get a straight Swap of the Quetzalcoatlus, patterned like an aircraft.
  • Petting Zoo People: The Rulon Empire consists of several alien species, all of which resemble animals: Cobras, crocodiles, hammerhead sharks, skates (related to rays), ants, locusts, and a toad.
  • Ptero Soarer: The Dino-Riders had Quetzalcoatlus (Yungstar's mount of choice), Pterodactylus, and several small Rhamphorhynchus which came with the Brontosaurus set. The Rulons had Pteranodon, and as late addition also a Quetzalcoatlus. A leopard-patterned one.
    • Serena flew a Pteranodon with a Quetzalcoatlus saddle.
  • Punny Name: Almost every Valorian character.
  • Raptor Attack: The Dino-Riders and the Rulons have Deinonychus among their forces. Until the introduction of a Rulon Quetzalcoatlus at a quite late point within the toy line's run, it was therefore the only species that was ridden by both factions. (If you only count the toys, and not the series or the comics.)
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Whenever a dinosaur is Brain Boxed, its eyes turn red. Not that they really become evil, but they are under Rulons' control.
  • Remember the New Guy: Happened a lot with both Dino-Riders and Rulons as the toy line expanded to include more characters. Most notable example; the Commandos, who didn't appear at all in early episodes but were featured prominently in the last few and starred in the Ice Age special.
  • The Rival: Aero is this to Yungstar. It's downplayed as the series goes on however.
  • Rule of Cool: The entire premise!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When the Brain Boxed's Brontosaurus main particle beam is overloaded, many Rulon troops evacuate. Antor suggest they run, but Krulos demand more power routed to the cannon. Antor wisely escape and abandon the Emperor to his fate.
  • Shark Man: Hammerhead, Mako and several unnamed Sharkers are part of the Rulon empire.
  • Snake People: Rasp, Sidewinder and whole bunch of several unnamed Vipers.
  • Silence, You Fool!: Krulos will not hear excuses from his underlings.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: As the show's short run went on, episodes seemed to centre more and more around the GI Joe-style Commando team.
  • Spiritual Successor: For the toyline Imaginext Dinosaurs.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Krulos seem to think so while he is really a General Failure.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Serena is, in fact, not the only female Dino Rider. Just the only one you won't miss if you blink.
  • The Starscream: A requirement for becoming a Rulon general, apparently — Rasp is most-notably like this, but Antor and Hammerhead also scheme for control. One episode's whole premise involved Krulos injured and near death and the three main Starscreams feuding amongst themselves to take over.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Averted. While well-known genera such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops are present, there are plenty of lesser-known ones like Kentrosaurus and Edmontonia.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Faze. He's never seen without them.
  • Time Travel
  • Too Dumb to Live: Llahd (due to his constantly making dumb decisions that got him caught) and Yungstar (the previous AND his hot-headedness!).
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Krulos' ride of choice, of course.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: After Serena saved Krulos' life, the Emperor never thanked her and demanded that Questar surrender to him in exchange for Serena.
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: Almost every episode end with Rulon retreating.
  • Weaponized Animal

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