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Film / Dinosaur! (1985)

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Deinonychus strikes again!

Dinosaur! is a 48-minute long (plus commercials) television documentary hosted by the late Christopher Reeve and featuring visual effects sequences courtesy of the then newly-formed Tippett Studio. Spun off from the studio's earlier animated short Prehistoric Beast, it features interviews with such eminent paleontologists as Jack Horner, Robert "Bob" Bakker, and Dale Russell alongside go-motion animated sequences reconstructing life in the Mesozoic era.


Includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Life for an Edmontosaurus was hazardous, and one of the things they feared the most was their eggs being stolen by other animals, particularly the Struthiomimus.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Some of the animated sequences show species from different parts of the Mesozoic era appearing together within the same scenes. Most notably, a Struthiomimus is attacked and devoured by a pair of Deinonychus despite the two species existing more than 40 million years apart. Possibly justified in that these scenes were meant to elaborate on points made in the documentary and thus may not have been intended to be taking place during the same time frame.
    • Discussed on several occasions where Reeve points out that, contrary to popular depictions, dinosaurs and cavemen did not co-exist, as the former died out over 60 million years before the earliest direct ancestors of humanity evolved.
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  • Artistic License – Geography: Due to the use of stock footage from Meteor, the continents appear in their present-day configuration rather than appearing as they would 65 million years ago when Earth is seen in full.
  • Author Appeal: Reeve was an avid dinosaur enthusiast, and at one point remarks about having been fascinated with the creatures since childhood.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Struthiomimus was a fast runner but had very little in the way of defense, making it easy prey for other, more aggressive dinosaurs.
  • Dumb Dinos: Reeve discusses this trope when talking about popular perceptions of dinosaurs before it is thoroughly debunked by the paleontological experts.
  • End of an Era: The K-T extinction event brings about an end to the dinosaurs' 160 million year reign as the dominant life-forms on Earth, and signals the beginning of the age of mammals.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs
  • Excited Show Title!: Dinosaur!
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: The scene where the Struthiomimus is cornered and killed by the Deinonychus is surprisingly gruesome for what was intended as a family-friendly primetime special.
  • Gaia's Lament: The K-T extinction event causes a catastrophic climate change that completely topples the dinosaurs' food chain in only a matter of months, leading to the destruction of 75 percent of all animal and plant life on Earth.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Reeve's narration pronounces the word "Deinonychus" as "di-no-NICK-us" rather than the usual "de-NON-ick-us".
  • Living Dinosaurs: The possibility of such is mentioned at one point, citing such alleged examples as the Loch Ness Monster and the Mokele-mbembe, although Reeve concedes that it would take something of a miracle for this to be the case. Later, he mentions that modern-day birds are the closest thing to a definitive example of the trope, having evolved from dinosaurs.
  • Meaningful Name: The word Deinonychus means "terrible claw", and it's not called that for nothing.
  • Papa Wolf: While a juvenile Edmontosaurus is out searching for food with its parents, it is sighted and nearly attacked by a Tyrannosaurus rex. Luckily, the parents hear its cries and come to its defense, with the father facing the theropod and knocking it over with its powerful tail.
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • Calculations show that Supersaurus (then known as Ultrasaurus), one of the largest known dinosaurs, would've had to have eaten more than five tons of foliage daily in order to survive. Whether it would have actually been able to do so is a mystery
    • Similarly, it is unknown how long it would have taken for an Edmontosaurus's eggs to hatch (or any dinosaur's, for that matter).
  • Science Marches On:invoked Discussed during a segment where Reeve, along with paleontologist Bob Bakker, talks about how our knowledge of dinosaurs has evolved over the previous 150 years. While they were once thought of as slow-moving creatures that dragged their tails along as they moved, it is now known that they were quite agile and did not drag their tails, instead mainly using them for either balance or defense. Similarly, it was once believed that Brontosaurus (then synonymous with Apatosaurus) was a swamp-dwelling animal that fed on watercress plants and that it was the largest dinosaur in existence, when it is now known that it was a land-dweller that fed primarily on conifer needles, and its status as the largest was upended following the discovery of the Supersaurus.
  • Speculative Biology: Paleontologist Dale Russell speculates that if the dinosaurs had not died out, they would have eventually evolved larger brains and an upright posture similar to humans.
  • Stock Footage:
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Most of the genera featured in the documentary are fairly well-known to dinosaur enthusiasts, including Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex, Deinonychus, and Edmontosaurus.
  • Stop Motion: The method used to realize the various dinosaurs.
  • Would Hurt a Child: A Struthiomimus is seen breaking into an Edmontosaurus nest and eating all but one of the eggs.


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