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Literature / The Fantastic Flying Journey

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The Fantastic Flying Journey is a children's book by Gerald Durrell, illustrated by Graham Percy. It tells the story of the Dollybutt children, Emma, Conrad and Ivan, and their adventures around the world in their Great-Uncle Lancelot's balloon, the Belladonna, as they search for their missing Great-Uncle Perceval, who vanished two years before while studying gorillas in Africa. Along the way, the children and Lancelot talk to the various animals they meet with the aid of a mysterious grey powder, an invention of Perceval's which enables them to communicate with animals.

Two years after the original book, Durrell wrote a sequel, The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure, in which Lancelot and the children travel back to the time of the dinosaurs in pursuit of the evil Sir Jasper Collywobble.

In 2001, an animated children's series was produced in the UK, based on the book. It expanded the plot, and added a villain who pursued the Dollybutt family on their journey to get her hands on the magical powder that enables them to talk with animals.


This series provides examples of:

  • Animal Stereotypes: Some are Played Straight, some are Averted and some are Deconstructed - see specific ones below.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Tanystropheus is referred to as a dinosaur, even though it actually belonged to an ancient order of reptiles called Protosauria. It also appears to have an appetite for humans, even though in real life it was probably a fish-eater.
  • Author Avatar: Great-Uncle Lancelot's appearance and mannerism resembles Gerald Durrell a lot. In the Hungarian translation he's even renamed Great-Uncle Gerry.
  • Bamboo Technology: The Belladonna runs entirely on this, and is even made of bamboo.
  • Beary Friendly: Polar Bear is surprisingly friendly with the protagonists considering that she's both a predator and a mother.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Scolosaurus in The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure. Very timid and friendly, but he's still an ankylosaur who will put up a fight against a Tyrannosaurus rex when pushed too far.
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  • Big Bad: Sir Jasper Collywobble is this in the second book.
  • Cool Airship: The Belladonna, which is 100% eco-friendly and runs on Bamboo Technology. Becomes even cooler in the sequel where it gets upgraded with a Time Machine.
  • Cool Old Guy: Great-Uncle Lancelot, despite his eccentricities, is a pretty great fellow.
  • Cowardly Lion: The Scolosaurus is a very timid dinosaur, but once he overcomes his fear, he puts up a fight against the Tyrannosaurus rex as only a fully-armored ankylosaur can.
  • Darker and Edgier: The second book. In the first book there was No Antagonist and no deaths, and most animals were relatively friendly with the protagonists; the second has an Egomaniac Hunter as its Big Bad, many dinosaurs are hostile, and the one of the first scenes is a pack of Coelophysis killed by an erupting volcano.
  • The Dragon: Throttlethumbs in The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure.
  • Dumb Muscle: Throttlethumbs is Collywobble's strong but dim-witted henchman.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Sir Jasper Collywobble. After hunting all big game of our time, he goes back in time to hunt for even greater trophies.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The reason why the sequel focuses entirely on them.
  • Evil Duo: Sir Jasper Collywoble is a cunning Egomaniac Hunter. Throttlethumbs is his Dumb Muscle henchman.
  • Family Theme Naming: Lancelot and Perceval are both named after characters from the Arthurian Legend.
  • The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: Both books have titles like this.
  • Gentle Giant: So many examples. Gorilla, Elephant, Blue Whale, Killer Whale, Polar Bear, Bison and Boa Constrictor in The Fantastic Flying Journey; Plateosaurus, Diplodocus and Scolosaurus in The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure.
  • Gentle Gorilla: Despite his menacing initial appearance, Gorilla and his family are quite friendly to Lancelot and the children once they learn the humans mean no harm.
  • Green Aesop: It's a Gerald Durrell book after all.
  • Headbutting Pachy: When the protagonists visit the Cretaceous period, they observe two male Pachycephalosaurus engaging in head-butting combat over a harem of females.
  • Herbivores Are Friendly: Zigzagged in the first book, with the gorilla, elephant, musk ox etc. being friendly but a few herbivores such as the rhino being hostile. Played mostly straight in the second book, with the herbivorous dinosaurs being friendly and the carnivores being hostile.
  • Killer Gorilla: Discussed, and then ultimately averted with Gorilla. He first appears hostile, but just tries to scare the humans away, and becomes rather friendly once he learns the humans don't mean any threat.
  • No Antagonist: The first book has no overarching villain; the biggest threat to the characters are some of the more hostile animals.
  • Predators Are Mean: Mostly averted in the first book, where many of the carnivores (e.g. Killer Whale, Polar Bear and Boa Constrictor) are acknowledged to be carnivores, but are very friendly with the main characters. Played straight in the second book, where all carnivores (Coelophysis, Tanystropheus, Allosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex) are villains, trying to eat the main human cast - the only friendly carnivore is the pterosaur Gnathosaurus.
  • Prehistoric Monster: While modern animals, even more dangerous ones, are usually portrayed in a positive light in the first book, the second book shows carnivorous dinosaurs as monstrous beasts with an appetite for humans.
  • Rhino Rampage: Rhinoceros is one of the more antagonistic animals.
  • Savage Wolves: The wolves attack a herd of musk oxen; the heroes drive them away with fireworks, but discuss that the wolves aren't evil, just hunting for food.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: The first book features many of these, including a spitting cobra, honey badger, honeyguide bird, musk ox, tapir, howler monkey, cock-of-the-rock and elephant seal. The second book features mostly Stock Dinosaurs, but also some seldom-seen Triassic species (see below).
  • Smelly Skunk: Great-Uncle Lancelot gets sprayed by one in South America. It's a surprisingly polite one who keeps apologizing after he realizes Lancelot isn't a predator.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Played straight with the spitting cobra that attacks one of the twins. Averted with Boa Constrictor, who is a Gentle Giant complaining about the bad reputation of his species.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Played straight with Tyrannosaurus rex, Allosaurus, Diplodocus, Triceratops and Plateosaurus. Averted by most of the Triassic fauna, such as Coelophysis, Tanystropheus or Phytosaurus, and using Scolosaurus instead of Ankylosaurus. Also, the most prominently featured pterosaur is the relatively obscure Gnathosaurus from the Jurassic period.
  • Time Machine: In the sequel, the Belladonna is upgraded into this.
  • Translator Microbes: The powder that allowes the characters talk to animals.
  • World Tour: The original book.

Alternative Title(s): The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure


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