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Western Animation: Dinosaur Train

"People, there is an episode with Therizinosaurs doing Tai-chi. There are Therizinosaurs and they are in a cartoon for kids AND THEY ARE DOING MARTIAL ARTS AND THIS IS AWESOME!!! Also, they have feathers."

Dinosaur Train is a 2009 CGI animated Jim Henson Company series airing on PBSKids created by Craig Bartlett, best known for the series Hey Arnold!.

The show focuses on the adventures of a family of pteranodon and Buddy, a dinosaur who was adopted by them as an egg. Buddy initially doesn't know what species he is, but is determined to find out. To this end, Buddy and his adoptive family go on adventures in - we promise you we are not making this up - a time-traveling train run by dinosaurs. Turns out early on that Buddy's a Tyrannosaurus rex, and he and his family and friends continue having trips through the Mesozoic to "meet all the species".

Train sports strong educational content with a focus on the basics of paleo-zoology, but also a lot of humor and fun. It is a Henson series after all. And even though the main cast is made up of cartoony creatures, the show goes way the heck out of its way to avert Artistic License - Paleontology. It's gained quite a cult following among older dinosaur fans.

Not related to other dinosaur trains you may have heard of.


Tropes:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: The Conductor's mom only wears a collar around her neck and his nephew, Gilbert only wears a conductors' hat. All the other Troodons who operate the Dinosaur Train or work at the stations wear hats.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Buddy and Don. Also Gilbert.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The Pteranodon are lime green, Buddy is safety orange, and even the more realistic (relatively speaking) animal characters can get downright psychedelic.
  • Anachronism Stew: Far milder than most (it helps to have a time-traveling train) but still present. To start with, although both Tyrannosaurus and Pteranodon were from the Late Cretaceous, Pteranodon is not known from the very end of the Late Cretaceous as Tyrannosaurus is.
    • The Buddy thing is somewhat justified in that dinosaurs time-travel and in one episode Mrs. Pteranodon says that Rexville's flowers are "prettier in this part of the Cretaceous". However, the flowering plant life is pretty anachronistic. One, the gourds are pretty similar to what they are today, and given the expected rate of evolution, gourds should look like their smallest representatives,cucumbers, at most. Two, the Conductor once mentions cacti and shows a picture of a large cactus, when in reality cacti probably didn't exist and at most were very small.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: "Hi, I'm Dr. Scott, the paleontologist. Do you remember what type of dinosaur Buddy is?"
  • Art Evolution: A mild example, but it's still there.
  • Big Eater: Tank Triceratops. Also most of the giant herbivores.
  • Broken Aesop: The show continually enforces the Aesop that birds are dinosaurs. In the episode "Dinosaur Camouflage", Buddy explicitly states that a bird is not a dinosaur.
    • May qualify as Aesop Amnesia, as Laura taught him that birds are theropod dinosaurs in a previous episode.
  • Canada, Eh?: In the episode where they go to the North Pole, the Northern Troodons behave very much like stereotypical Canadians.
  • Carnivore Confusion: One of the major educational aspects of the show is that as the main characters travel and meet various dinosaurs, they discuss with them whether they're herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. That said, we never see any animals eating other animals. Except when those other animals are fish or insects (most of the time). So the show generally follows the "fish and bugs are okay to eat" rule. Except for the "meat", which is, eerily, large piles of carrion lying around.
    • The occasional anonymous small mammal is also shown being eaten, such as by Travis, the northern Troodon seen in one episode. Another episode has a Tyrannosaurus eat a lizard.
  • Cartoon Creature: Mostly averted, to a point. That said, eh, we'll just take it on good faith what species the Pteranodon family and (to a lesser extent) Buddy are.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Buddy: "I have a hypothesis!"
    • Don: "La-la-LOOO!"
    • Mr. Conductor:
      • "Time Tunnel Approaching!"
      • "Tickets Please!"
      • "All aboard!"
      • "Bless my scales and feathers!"
  • Character Signature Song: King Cryolophosaurus apparently wrote the show's theme song.
  • Constantly Curious: Buddy.
  • Cool Train: The Dinosaur Train featured in the program is a Time Traveling train that utilizes time tunnels to take its dinosaur passengers to various locations throughout the Mesozoic Era.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Shiny, Don & Mr. Pteranodon receive the focus of a few episodes.
  • Drinking Game: Take a shot every time you hear the word "hypothesis." Don't plan on driving afterwards.
  • Edutainment Show
  • Elvis Impersonator: King Cryolophosaurus.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Averted in one episode when Buddy and friends meet a friendly shark.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: Michelinoceras.
  • Expository Theme Tune & Title Theme Tune: "Come on, Buddy, we'll take a vacation. I'll get us a ticket at Pteranodon Station. We'll travel the world in sunshine and rain and meet all the species on the... Dinosaur Train. Dinosaur Train! Dinosaur Train! Dinosaur Train! We're gonna ri-i-i-de the Dinosaur Train!"
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: Averted in "Tiny Loves Flowers."
  • Father Neptune: The old Spinosaurus.
  • Fictional Sport: Dinoball.
  • Friendly Enemy: Thurston to The Conductor
  • Friendly Rivalry: Dylan and Devlin, the double-crested Dilophosaurus twins, have one of these (although at the end they say they'll try to work together more).
  • Frogs and Toads: Palaeobatrachus.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Carla Cretoxyrhina's father is described as a "B.F.I.S." (Big Fish In the Sea).
  • Furry Confusion: The tiny green snake in one episode doesn't talk, but Sana the Sanajeh in the same episode can talk.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Literally. There's an episode that not only talks openly about poop, it actually shows a dino dropping a loaf.
    • Also, in the geyser episode, the conductor seems a little too happy in the hot springs.
    • "Mr. The Don"
  • Giant Flyer: The main characters are Pteranodon, after all. Makes sense they'd want to meet other big pterosaurs.
  • Halloween Episode: "Haunted Roundhouse" and "Big Pond Pumpkin Patch".
  • Happily Adopted: Despite the fact that Buddy is a completely different species than the rest of his family, they love each other the same.
  • I Am Who?: The first few episodes of the program focus on Buddy trying to figure out just what type of dinosaur he is. It didn't help, though, that his species was revealed in the general press for the show and was given away in the title of the story where he finds it out.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Just the Conductor and a few other Troodons on the train.
  • Imagine The Audience With Clothes On: Buddy says something like this to King Cryolophosaurus in "Troodon Train Day".
  • Interspecies Adoption: Buddy is a T. rex raised by Pteranodons.
  • Interspecies Romance: Mr. Conductor and Erma Eoraptor; Shiny and Gilbert
    • Also, Shiny and Perry Parasaurolophus (the dirty two-timer)
  • Legacy Train Conductor: The Conductor's mother was the Dinosaur Train's previous conductor. Also, the Conductor's nephew Gilbert is a junior conductor in training.
  • Leitmotif: Most of the major characters have their own specific theme that plays when they talk.
  • The Merch: It exists, but a lot of it is poorly reviewed and said to be shoddily made.
  • Mundane Utility: The Conductor, a Troodon, uses his hindclaws for punching tickets.
  • Naming Conventions:
    • Alliterative Name: This is a strong tendency for characters' names on the show. Some examples include Tiny Pteranodon, Tank Triceratops, King Cryolophosaurus, Erma Eoraptor, and Cindy Cimolestes.
    • The other tendency is to have character names that rhyme. Some examples of this are Morris Stegosaurus, Doris Tyrannosaurus, and Shiny and Tiny Pteranodon.
    • Notable examples of character names that neither rhyme nor alliterate include Buddy Tyrannosaurus and "Sonny Boy" Troodon (aka Mr. Conductor), as well as minor characters like Chester Mawsonia.
  • Nephewism: During the World Tour series, Mr. Conductor is suddenly assisted by his nephew, Gilbert.
  • No Antagonist
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. As noted in the Getting Crap Past the Radar entry above, there is an entire episode about dinosaur poop. The episode is straightforwardly entitled, "Dinosaur Poop."
  • No Cartoon Fish: Ray-finned fish, coelacanths, and some insects are okay to eat (makes sense as the main characters are Pteranodon). Gets a little awkward in the episode where Buddy and company meet a friendly shark.
  • Palette Swap: In "Dinosaurs A to Z", Hadrosaurus and Rhabdodon use the same model. Pity, then, that rhabdodontids have much larger, stronger snouts than hadrosaurs.
  • Parental Bonus: The episodes featuring King Cryolophosaurus are chock full of references to Elvis Presley. Also, Iggy Iguanodon, who speaks with a British accent, is said to possess silly walks.
  • Ptero Soarer: The Pteranodon family is... a little more "cartoony" than almost all of the other animal characters. You almost have to take it on good faith what they are.
    • For those not well aware of pterosaur anatomy, here's a picture to simply it to you (plus more anatomically accurate dinosaur characters).
    • Turned Up to Eleven in a recent episode. The Conductor claims that they're cold-blooded.
  • Raptor Attack: Averted by the Velociraptor, Archaeopteryx, Saurornitholestes and Microraptor; the Troodon, Utahraptor, and Deinonychus really lack plumage, however. Strangely, the show's website actually says that Deinonychus was a feathered dinosaur and Utahraptor probably had feathers.
    • Also averted with the northern Troodon from Dinosaurs in the Snow.
  • Running Gag: The Conductor's mother.
    • Don's obsession with holes.
  • Science Marches On: The show does its best to stay on top of current discoveries, but sometimes it finds itself the victim of this.
    • For starters, Eoraptor might not be a theropod , but a sauropod ancestor.
    • Stygimoloch may not represent a distinct creature after all, but the subadult form of Pachycephalosaurus. Whether or not it is different, young pachycephalosaurs probably had flat (if somewhat knobbly) heads, growing domes as they aged.
    • Brachiosaurus never lived in Africa. That was Giraffatitan.
    • Recent studies show ceratopsians might have had quills on their backs.
    • The character design of Sunny Sauroposeidon is clearly based on brachiosaurids a group that the taxon probably doesn't belong to after all.
  • Seldom Seen Genera: Masiakasaurus, Confuciusornis, Avisaurus, Daspletosaurus, Adocus, Proganochelys, Paramacellodus, Cryolophosaurus, Palaeobatrachus, Zhejiangopterus, Einiosaurus, Oryctodromeus, Chirostenotes, Kosmoceratops, Shonisaurus, Volaticotherium, Raptorex, Sinovenator, Sanajeh, Saurornitholestes, Cimolestes, Jeholornis, Ptilodus, Megaraptor, Hadrosaurus, Fabrosaurus, Lesothosaurus, Jaxartosaurus, Nodosaurus, Qantassaurus, Rhabdodon, Wannanosaurus, Xenotarsosaurus, Yangchuanosaurus, Zigongosaurus, and Michelinoceras. Good luck finding these in a normal documentary.
  • Shown Their Work: Putting aside the fact that there are a few anatomical brain-farts and the main cast is a bit cartoony, let's just paraphrase a sentiment from the page quote: Maniraptors with feathersnote . Heck, the fact that birds are a kind of dinosaur is a given in this series, so the show isn't making ornithologists cry either.
    • Many of the enantiornithines correctly have a pair of ribbon-shaped tail feathers instead of a modern-style tail fan, and the Hesperornis has lobed instead of webbed feet.
    • In "Dinosaur Block Party", all the animals that attend the party (ironically aside from the main characters and Laura Giganotosaurus) are known contemporaries (in fact, specifically representing the Dinosaur Park Formation) or at least from the same time range.
  • Shout-Out: Several come to mind:
    • The usage of "time tunnels" to travel through time might be a reference to classic 60s TV show The Time Tunnel.
    • Ned in the episode "Night Train" notes "dinosaurs come and go so quickly here," similar to Dorothy's remark about Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Spinosaurid Island: Happens when the family visits the Misty Sea.
    • In one episode, they look for a Diplodocus. Don finds a "hill" , Buddy rests on some "trees", Shiny meets a "snake"., and Tiny finds a "bridge". After meeting, it doesn't take long to figure ot the are all parts of a Diplodocus.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Played with - Don calls the Conductor "Mr. The Conductor" even though he never asked him to call him this and in return, he has taken to calling him "Mr. The Don."
  • Steam Never Dies: The train is a green steam locomotive shaped like a Triceratops head.
    • "Rocket Train" introduces a high-speed rocket train similar to modern locomotives, with computer technology that manages it. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one's take), it is plagued with bugs and gets beat in a race by the Dinosaur Train.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus, Pteranodon, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Troodon, Deinonychus, Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Iguanodon, Apatosaurus, Protoceratops, Oviraptor, Dilophosaurus, Archaeopteryx, Ankylosaurus, Elasmosaurus, Spinosaurus, Styracosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Ornithomimus, Gallimimus, Megalosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Corythosaurus, Maiasaura, Utahraptor, and Quetzalcoatlus.
  • "Stop Having Fun" Guys: Point of Fact guy. Of course, he's there to well, make a point. His character is listed as Mr. Disclaimer in the closing credits and he is played by Joe Purdy, a key writer and story editor for the program, whose other work includes episodes of Hey Arnold! and Arthur.invoked
  • Surprise Party: There's an episode called "Surprise Party." In it, Shiny, Tiny and Don throw a surprise party for Buddy on the Dinosaur Train and invite all of their best dinosaur friends to attend.
  • Talking Animal: Basically everything with a brain aside from certain fish and insects.
  • Taxonomic Term Confusion: The characters say "species" when "genus" would be more appropriate.
  • Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: In "Date Night," Don does this with the babysitter Keira, using Buddy as his messenger, until he finally warms up to her.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: The characters sometimes sing the show theme tune, at least the part about "We're gonna ride, ride, ride the Dinosaur Train."
  • Turtle Power: Adocus and Proganochelys.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex
  • Unexplained Accent: In universe, the German accent of Arlene Archaeopteryx and the British accent of Iggy Iguanodon seem random and incongruous. The accents make real-world sense, however, when the corresponding "Dr. Scott the Paleontologist" segments explain that Archaeopteryx fossils were mostly found in Germany and Iguanodon fossils were first discovered in England.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: It's implied that something really bad will happen if the dinosaurs ever miss the train back home, but just what is never said.
  • You Can Say That Again: Tiny in "Rocket Train."
  • You Mean Xmas: Dinosaurs celebrate Winter Solstice.
  • Youtube Poop: By none other than Jittery Dragon. Enjoy!

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alternative title(s): Dinosaur Train
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