Follow TV Tropes

Following

Goofy Feathered Dinosaur

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/gfd_2.png
"[Scientists], stop ruining everyone's fun when it comes to dinosaurs! I've never met a dinosaur that a scientist hasn't tried to ruin; Jurassic Park comes out and everyone's enjoying the T. rex and the velociraptors, but then Johnny Scientist jumps up and goes, "Um, actually, we did a little bit more science, and we've learned that velociraptors were 2' tall and feathered and could be trained to fetch slippers. Also, the T. rex was more of a scavenger than a hunter, and all the other dinosaurs used to bully it and knock its schoolbooks out of its tiny, pathetic arms."
Advertisement:

For centuries, dinosaurs were seen as reptilian animals and were often treated as little more than giant, hulking monsters, especially in fiction. Within the last few decades, researchers have re-evaluated these ideas. Newer research has revealed that dinosaurs were overall much more like birds than lizards— in fact, birds are themselves considered to be very specialized dinosaurs based on mountains of evidence available in the fossil record, with a line being drawn to distinguish "avian dinosaurs" (birds) from "non-avian dinosaurs" (classical prehistoric dinosaurs).

This, however... hasn't gone well with the mainstream media. People like their big, scary, roaring and sulking lizard creatures, even if the actual animals were anything but hulking monsters (in fact, most dinosaurs are and were small). Even many dinosaur enthusiasts (many who grew up on media such as Jurassic Park, which was inaccurate even at the time) are averse to the idea. Dinosaurs in media still tend to be based on older reconstructions, either because the artists didn't care enough to make them accurate, because they didn't know better, or because they simply don't like the contemporary reconstructions. Being generous, it can sometimes be attributed to budget—feathers will get blown around by wind and the motion of the animal or "expand" like a bird's wing in flight, meaning that they need to in visual media as well or else invite the Uncanny Valley, whereas a scaly or otherwise hairless animal doesn't typically have this requirement. That said, this may be laziness or overthinking on part of the animators, since body plumage tend to lay flat on the body so there would be no need to animate individual feathers (after all, there are plenty of CGI birds that clearly didn't have this issue).

Advertisement:

Feathered dinosaurs were hit hard with this stigma.

The idea of feathered dinosaurs tends to be mocked and scoffed at in media. Contrary to common belief, not all dinosaurs are theorized to have had feathers— just many theropods (almost all of them being coelurosaurs) and a few of the smaller ornithischians.note  It's also perfectly possible for dinosaurs to have had both scales and feathersnote . However, the popular view of feathered dinosaurs is a giant fluffy dinosaur with brightly coloured feathers. Tyrannosaurus rex has received most of the brunt of this issue. Due to its popularity, it's the poster-child for feathered dinosaurs, albeit highly misguidedly: paleontologists aren't quite sure whether they were fully feathered or not (or even if it had feathers), but the mainstream image is that tyrannosauruses are now "cute and cuddly". Feathered dinosaurs bring to mind fowl like chickens and ducks, rather than the equally-feathered-but-frightening modern-day raptors or extinct terror birds.note  Large ratites such as ostriches, emus, and especially cassowaries, also feathered-but-frightening, tend to be ignored in the subject of feathered dinosaurs as well (and the fact that ostriches themselves are not taken so seriously in media doesn't help), despite being the closest things to living prehistoric dinosaurs not to mention many dinosaurs resembling them such as Ornithomimus, Struthiomimus (whose name literally means "ostrich mimic"), and Gallimimus.

Advertisement:

As a consequence of the above, feathered dinosaurs in media tend to be joke characters; they're goofy looking and often goofy acting, particularly making failed attempts at flying which frequently happens with Archaeopteryx, arguably the most famous of all feathered dinosaurs.note  A major exception to this rule is the dromaeosaurs, a.k.a. raptors, which definitely had feathers due to fossil evidence (with the biggest kicker being the discovery of a tail preserved in amber, feathers and all). This may be because raptors are almost always portrayed as small, screeching Lightning Bruisers as a counteract to the "giant, roaring brutes" image— in fact, they were the very dinosaurs to break that stereotype and revive the bird-dinosaur connection theory. Feathered dromaeosaurs in media will usually be more bizarre-looking than goofy, but even then, they won't be taken as "seriously" as the classic scaly version. The short version is that feathered dinosaurs are typically only actually unintimidating because they're deliberately made to be so by people who don't like the idea of it; a real encounter with a fully-feathered Tyrannosaurus rex would be just as terrifying as with a scaly one because it's still a gigantic apex predator. If you still need some modern day perspective to this, just watch the climax of A Bug's Life and ask yourself if those cute feathers made the baby birds any less terrifying when Hopper got fed to them.

In Japanese media, however, feathered dinosaurs are more common and less likely to be depicted as goofy, with a feathered T. rex being just as much of a threat as a scaly one. This may be due to Japan's emphasis on compulsory biology education for children, which results in more familiarity with modern scientific concepts. The growth of the internet has also led to increased acceptance of the idea, to the point of complaining about the lack of feathers on certain dinosaurs, though not without a good amount of people still joking about the T. rex looking like a massive chicken (though making even the big, hulking lizard version cute and cuddly is also not unheard of).

It should be pointed out that the idea of feathered dinosaurs is not in fact as recent as many are led to believe. While definite evidence of feathers on dinosaur fossils (and broad acceptance of the idea in the paleontological community) is indeed relatively recent, well-supported speculation of feathers on certain dinosaurs is almost as old as the basic hypothesis of a bird-dinosaur evolutionary connection from the 1800s. Even without smoking gun evidence found in the late 1980s, paleontologists had been almost certain some dinosaurs had feathers and rendered them with such as far back as the 1970s.

Naturally, a subtrope of Artistic License – Paleontology. Contrast Feathered Fiend. Compare Basilisk and Cockatrice and Feathered Dragons, which are usually not seen as goofy.note  See also Creepy Hairless Animal, for when the absence of fur or feathers makes an animal scarier. See Doofy Dodo and Quacking Up for subtropes applied to avian dinosaurs.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Viz Media manga Dinosaur Hour!, two Protoceratops learn about the concept of a feathered Velociraptor and try to add plumage to a drawing of a raptor in the most ridiculous way possible. As for the real feathered Velociraptor itself, it is overly fluffy and resembles a cartoonish duckling. That doesn't stop them from viciously attacking the Protoceratops.

    Comic Books 
  • In Issue 21 of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, one of Moon Girl's taunts to her Alternate Universe counterpart Devil Girl is that Devil Dinosaur's counterpart Moon Dinosaur has more feathers than Big Bird. Moon Dinosaur himself is an aversion, however, as he is just as fierce as Devil Dinosaur.

    Comic Strips 
  • Paul Gilligan draws Pooch Café, wherein one strip has Boomer mention to Poncho that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Poncho envisions a T. rex with ridiculously small wings defecating on a car... and crushing it. Poncho agrees that the notion is difficult to believe.

    Films — Animation 
  • The only feathered dinosaurs in The Good Dinosaur are the raptors going after the T. rex's herd. Although fearsome, they are depicted as goofy rednecks, with their feathered crests resembling mullets. Unlike most examples, though, it's their lack of feathers that highlights their goofiness— their bodies look plucked and scrawny, giving them a "dumb hillbilly" look.
  • Ice Age:
    • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs had a goofy-looking Archaeopteryx which falls victim to Black Comedy. Averted by the Guanlong in the same film, who are depicted as threatening (though their feathers are really more like quills).
    • Ice Age: Collision Course has a trio of feathered, flying dromaeosaurids as the main antagonists. They appear to be somewhat smarter than the scaly dinosaurs seen in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, as they talk fluent English, but they're also goofier and less monstrous.
  • The Land Before Time does this with Guido the Microraptor from the 12th movie, who is a nervous and awkward Plucky Comic Relief; the goofy Yellow Bellies (Beipiaosaurus) from the 13th movie, who are scaredy cat comic relief types; and the neurotic and panicky Nothronychus Wild Arms from the 14th movie. The 14th movie, however, also averts this with the menacing Yutyrannus (granted, they're far more scantily-feathered than the real thing).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Jurassic Park franchise has historically had a complicated relationship with this trope.
    • The male Velociraptors in Jurassic Park III, the Indominus rex in Jurassic World, and the Indoraptor in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom all have small crests of quill-like proto-feathers, but are mostly scaly, presumably to make sure they still look threatening.
    • In the first film, a kid at fossil dig comments on Grant's assertion that birds are descended from dinosaurs with "That doesn't sound very scary! More like a six-foot turkey!" but Grant goes on to lay out why a real Velociraptor would be anything but a joke. This might be considered an aversion, were it not for the fact that the movie's raptors are themselves featherless.
    • The lack of feathers on the "modern" dinosaurs is ultimately justified, via retcon, as being a result of the genetic engineering that created them in the first place and they can only be made viable thanks to a "null gene;" coincidentally, this causes them to lack feathers. The real reason, of course, is because the dinosaurs didn't have feathers in the first film — long before the idea of feathered dinosaurs was widely accepted even as their relationship to birds was directly acknowledged in-universe — and so it wouldn't make sense in-universe for them to suddenly have them without explanation, especially in the case of the Tyrannosaurus that appears in Jurassic World, which is explicitly the original tyrannosaur from the first film rather than a newly-cloned specimen.
    • Defied with the Pyroraptor and Therizinosaurus in Jurassic World Dominion — both are given decent feathered coats, but they are also treated as legitimate threats. Special mention goes to the Therizinosaurus, which is one of the most aggressive animals in the franchise. Played With by the Moros — while it has a sparse coat of feathers and most of its scenes are goofy and lighthearted, one in the Biosyn sanctuary is shown viciously killing and eating a jerboa, making it a sort of Killer Rabbit.

    Literature 
  • Defied in Primitive War. A majority of carnivorous dinosaurs in the books are feathered, and many of them are terrifying. The Utahraptor, Tyrannosaurus, and Yutyrannus are notable examples.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted by most feathered dinosaurs in Prehistoric Planet: the troodontids are shown as agile and cunning hunters using arson hunting like firehawks, the Nanuqsaurus are portrayed like Fantastic Fauna Counterparts of gray wolves hunting Pachyrhinosaurus in the snow, and the Velociraptor are shown as elegant and fierce predators hunting on cliffs like snow leopards. Played straight, however, with the Deinocheirus, portrayed as a shaggy, moose-like swamp-dweller that comically scratches its back on trees and poops onscreen as a bit of Toilet Humor, and with the fluffy baby Tyrannosaurus, who play-fight, romp around and curiously explore their environment like a bunch of theropod kittens.

    Magazines 
  • A Muse Magazine dinosaur issue featured a Kokopelli & Company comic featuring Koko showing off various feathered theropods. Among them a feathered T. rex that clucked like a chicken.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Defied with Ixalan's dinosaurs in Magic: The Gathering. The dinosaurs on this plane are depicted with feathers, but are portrayed as dangerous predators in the wild and noble mounts and symbols of the powerful Sun Empire.

    Video Games 
  • Defied with the feathered dinosaurs in ARK: Survival Evolved, most of which are portrayed as Feathered Fiends. Yutyrannus in particular is The Dreaded, and Deinonychus is almost purposely-built to be a boss-killer due to its attributes for attacking large prey. Played for laughs in this piece of the Yutyrannus made for April Fools' Day.
  • Mostly averted in Pokémon, which has three feathered dinosaur-based Pokémon families: the Archen line, the Tyrunt line, and the -zolt line. All of them are pretty cool, both in and out of universe. It's played straighter by Arctozolt and Dracozolt, Mix-and-Match Critters that are, respectively, half-dromaeosaur/ half-stegosaur and half-plesiosaur, and look deliberately ridiculous (it's heavily implied that they are botched reconstructions).
  • Implied in both Zoo Tycoon games. In the first game, the Caudipteryx is the only feathered dinosaur and the only one that doesn't require reinforced fencing for its exhibit which makes it the most harmless animal of the dinosaur expansion pack. In the second game, the Velociraptor (which played the Raptor Attack trope straight in the original) is more accurately depicted as chicken-sized and feathered making it a 1-star animal which is harmless alongside peacocks and gazelles. In contrast, larger dinosaurs which lack feathers (including the Utahraptor, aside from a mohawk crest on the males' heads) are much more prone to and capable of escaping their enclosures and wreaking havoc in the zoo.

    Web Animation 
  • Dinosaurs: Terrible Lizards features a sparsely-feathered Tyrannosaurus that is an extremely inept predator. To be fair, all the dinosaurs in the series are equally goofy.
  • King Rexxtopher from Mighty Magiswords is a rare case of a feathered T. rex. It fits the overall wacky tone of the show.

    Web Comics 
  • Dinosaur Comics has an overlay that modified the characters to have feathers, although not in a way that’s any more scientifically accurate than the rest of the comic.
  • Girl Genius: Treylawney Thorpe encounters one, courtesy of Dina. The "completely accurate dinosauria" would be more accurate on a farm than in the Jurassic.
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, the trained velociraptors are chubby-cheeked, tropical-coloured, fluffy, coo like pigeons, and friendly. Justified in that it was a side effect of the genetic engineering and breeding that made them trainable, while the unmodified velociraptors had sleeker plumage and nastier tempers — the genes that made them friendly and trainable were also the ones that made them fluffy and cute.
  • Defied in one Sandra and Woo strip where Sandra expresses her frustration at Velociraptor being depicted without feathers. The feathered Velociraptor model in the comic is portrayed very realistically.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Somewhat applies, in that the dinosaurs are significantly less threatening than anyone remembers now that they know they were intelligent enough to get past the Medieval age before having to be rescued from the comet by a passing precursor worldship. Even the T. rex turns out to have become a domesticated hunting animal more adorable than terrifying, although still looking magnificent.
  • xkcd has many, many comics pushing back against the supposed goofiness of feathered dinosaurs. One suggests that anyone who finds them unthreatening has never fought an ostrich; another imagines a world where aliens are similarly disappointed to find out that humans weren't "cooler" and cling to wildly inaccurate understandings of our physiology. A third has a parent teasing their child for the modern depictions of raptors, but upon the child informing them of the gruesome modern theory of how raptors hunted ends up equally engrossed in dinosaur books.
  • Conversational Troping in Dumbing of Age. Dina considers Walky's statement that "My view on feathered dinosaurs is dependent on dinosaurs being awesome monsters and not just friggin' giant chickens" to possibly be worse than Joyce's Bible literalism on the subject.

    Web Videos 
  • Defied by TREY The Explainer. He goes with whatever the scientific research suggests but he is especially fond of feathered dinosaurs. He has several videos discussing them.
  • Frequently discussed on Two Best Friends Play. Any time the topic of dinosaurs came up in their Seinfeldian Conversations, at least one of them would rant about how scaly dinosaurs are so much cooler and scarier than feathered ones — and they would also insult fans who, in the past, tried to convince them otherwise. Of the crew, Matt seemed to feel particularly strongly about the issue. And if they're playing a game with actual dinosaurs in it, expect them to say something along the lines of "Look, this game has dinosaurs the way they should be — with no feathers!" This is clarified in Episode 192 of the Super Best Friend Cast as being Kayfabe. Pat explains that they do believe the new discoveries, they just prefer the old, scaly versions in an aesthetic sense.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In the episode "The Wondercabinet", Steve experiences an astral projection and decides to use it to see dinosaurs. He is somewhat disappointed to see that many of them had feathers, including a feathered T. rex that roared and clucked.
  • Darkwing Duck: In the episode "Jurassic Jumble", Darkwing gets hit with Dr. Fossil's Devolution Device and is transformed into a dinosaur, one that is covered in feathers. Despite being large and powerful in this new form, Darkwing still remains as comical as ever, and not only does Fossil ridicule his form upon sight, but actually came close to defeating him had Stegmutt, Gosalyn, and Honker did not interfere. Interestingly, this was before feathered dinosaurs became official by science.
  • Gigantosaurus has Archie the Archaeopteryx, who is the prominent feathered dinosaur in the cast. He also has an awkward personality and is always on the receiving end of slapstick humor. Season 3 introduces Missy, an eccentric Incisivosaurus. Ironically, the raptors Cror and Totor are also depicted as goofy, but they are stereotypically featherless.
  • Munro Ferguson directed How Dinosaurs Learned To Fly for the National Film Board of Canada. It's a six minute cartoon about a rotund dinosaur named Dip that amuses himself by jumping off cliffs. Though the sensation while falling approximates flying, the sudden stop at the end dulls Dip's enjoyment. However, Dip developed feathers (and lost weight) until he could fly. Some of his fellow dinosaurs developed similarly, spawning the myriad variety of birds we see today.
  • Primal: "Slave of the Scorpion" features a Goofy-Acting Feathered Dinosaur in the form of an Anzu that acts like a chicken, makes comical flamingo-like honking vocalizations, and is easily killed. Unlike most instances of this trope, the Anzu is amazingly anatomically-accurate with realistic feathering. However, the episode averts this with the fuzzy Kulindadromeus which, while harmless, behave realistically and come across as cute.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Forgive and Forget" has a new version of Truckasaurus designed with feathers "in conformance with the latest paleontological theories about dinosaurs". The crowd ends up hating it and destroying it.
      Truckasaurus II: I love you, Steven Spielberg.
    • Subverted in "Days of Future Future", where some (partially-)feathered raptors tear apart a live goat fed to them during a show.
  • Wander over Yonder somewhat downplays this with Sylvia. She's an alien resembling a feathered dinosaur, but is the tough, no-nonsense Cloudcuckoolander's Minder to her goofy partner, Wander.

Top