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Series / Dinosaur Planet

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Before it was our planet, it was theirs.

Dinosaur Planet is a dinosaur-themed Speculative Documentary Mini Series that aired on the Discovery Channel in 2003. It followed in the footsteps of the famous and highly successful Walking with Dinosaurs from BBC, and Discovery's own When Dinosaurs Roamed America (produced by much the same team).

Like the above shows, it used CGI to recreate long-extinct creatures, and placed them into real-life backgrounds. However, as opposed to its forerunners, all four of Dinosaur Planet's hour-long episodes took place in the Late Cretaceous, and each told the story of one or two main dinosaur characters:

  • "White Tip's Journey": The tale of White Tip follows a female Velociraptor trying to survive in the Mongolian desert and find a new pack after having lost her old one.
  • "Pod's Travels": A mega-tsunami results in Pod, a Romanian Pyroraptor loosing his entire pack and finding himself stranded on “Hateg Island” a strange island full of Dwarf dinosaurs.
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  • "Alpha's Egg": We follow the life of Alpha, a young female Saltasaurus, and her carnivorous adversary, Dragonfly, a male Aucasaurus.
  • "Little Das' Hunt": A young and eager Daspletosaurus tries to aid his family hunt a pair of young Maiasaura that became separated from their herd, but he constantly gets in the way, much to the annoyance of his sisters and mother. Has a soul-crushing Downer Ending.

As the above descriptions may tell, the stories seem much more fantasy-like, as opposed to being strictly scientific reenactments of prehistoric life on Earth. The "humanizing" of the dinosaurs doesn't stop at giving them names. The Narrator gives us an insight into their thoughts and feelings, and a large number of plot elements seem to have been lifted straight out of an adventure novel. Does this make the documentary more engaging or rather laughably implausible? That's for the viewer to decide.


Not to be confused with the very similarly titled Planet Dinosaur, which is a BBC production, or the cancelled Nintendo 64 game of the same name which later became Star Fox Adventures.

The show contains examples of the following tropes:

  • A Lizard Named "Liz": A Daspletosaurus named "Little Das."
  • The Aloner: Pod becomes this for a while after a mega-tsunami causes him to wash up on an island of dwarf dinosaurs, he does initially search for a pack of dwarf raptors that he encountered at the beach but after Pod runs into a single raptor he has yet to see them again (luckily he eventually does get accepted by a pack of dwarf Troodon and becomes the ruler of the island after he takes on the island's resident dwarf carnivores).
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Some Ichthyornis find the unconscious Pod on shore and are then chased away by dwarf dromaeosaurids. Then a few Allodaposuchus arrive and are about to take over the "carcass" when Pod wakes up and his intimidating size scares all the gathering predators away.
  • Anachronism Stew: Many of the animals depicted didn't yet exist in the time in which their shorts are set (most prevalent in "Pod's Travels" as the Tarascosaurus and possibly the plesiosaur are the only animals in their correct time).
  • Apocalypse How: The volcanic eruption at the end of Little Das' Hunt earns itself a class 0.
  • Apocalypse Wow: Said eruption at the end of Little Das' Hunt is pretty spectacular and horrifying.
  • Art Evolution: Compared to When Dinosaurs Roamed America.
  • Behind the Black: As Shuvuuia is chased by White Tip's pack, an Oviraptor bursts from the left side of the screen and kills it.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Almost every episode has one. White Tip ends up back where she started but with a group of youngsters that need to be taken care of, Alpha survives to adulthood and defeats Dragonfly but all her eggs drown in a flood, while Pod arguably has the happiest ending, he ends up ruling the island as the apex predator and gets a new pack when he is accepted by a group of dwarf “Troodon”, but his former pack is still gone and he'll never see his old home again.
    • Despite it being the saddest one, the ending to Little Das' Hunt can be considered this to an extent. Though the Maiasaura and Daspletosaurus, including Buck, Blaze, and Little Das, all died in the volcanic eruption, their stories will live on in their descendants: Edmontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Than many previous dino-docs. The animators must have been really proud of their blood effects.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: During the Oviraptor mating dance, the narrator says this about the older male: "I gotta give him credit for trying."
  • Bullet Time: In "Little Das' Hunt", the scene turns to slow-motion as the volcanic eruption obliterates Little Das and his family.
  • Cant Get Away With Nothing: The very minute White Tip steps away from her nest Broken Hand eats two of her eggs.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Prenocephale first show up when White Tip is trying to survive as a loner and fails to kill one. Later, Broken Hand is killed by some when he attacks them out of desperation after being evicted from the pack.
  • Death of a Child: This being a nature documentary that went for shock factor. Specifically: some Oviraptor chicks are killed by Velociraptor, some of White Tip's eggs are eaten by Broken Hand, Little Das and presumably Buck and Blaze are killed by a volcanic eruption, many baby Saltasaurus are killed by Notosuchus, Alvarezsaurus, and Aucasaurus, and Alpha's first clutch of eggs drowns.
  • Desert Island: In "Pod's Travels", Pod is left stranded on the isolated Hațeg Island, cut off from the mainland by a vast stretch of sea and home to miniature dinosaurs.
  • Downer Ending: The whole cast of Little Das' Hunt dies, no matter how young or cute they are.
  • Dumb Muscle: Allodaposuchus is said to be this.
  • Everybody Dies: "Little Das' Hunt" ends with every character being wiped out by a volcanic eruption.
  • Expy: T. rex and Edmontosaurus to Daspletosaurus and Maiasaura respectively (as stated in the program), as well as animals that use the same animation models: Alvarezsaurus to Shuvuuia, Notosuchus to Allodaposuchus, Saltasaurus to Magyarosaurus, Aucasaurus to Tarascosaurus, and the island-dwelling dwarf dinosaurs to their mainland counterparts.
  • Feathered Fiend:
    • Many dinosaurs, including Velociraptor, Oviraptor, Pyroraptor, Troodon, Ichthyornis, Alvarezsaurus and Elopteryx (called "Troodon" in the episode). The Velociraptor and Pyroraptor are portrayed as sympathetic characters, however, and the Elopteryx are also benevolent towards the main character in the episode they're shown in.
    • Averted by Shuvuuia, which only serves to get eaten by an Oviraptor.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: The Tarascosaurus stand no chance against a pissed-off Pod. Also an interesting case, since the Tarascosaurus in question are dwarf specimens, not the great mainland predators Pod once feared.
  • King of the Dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus rex only has a cameo at the end of "Little Das' Hunt". But the Daspletosaurus, Aerosteon and Tarascosaurus fill in much the same role.
  • Know When to Fold Them: The Daspletosaurus finally ends their grueling hunt of Buck at the end of their program... because they've finally regarded the volcanic apocalypse only miles away as a threat.
  • Mama Bear: The father Aucasaurus has to flash his red throat to keep his mate from going Mama Bear on his tail.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Alpha's leg gently brushes against a fallen twig, and she limps throughout the rest of the episode.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: Grass is shown growing in Europe. It's only known to have grown in India back in the Cretaceous.
  • Misplaced Wildlife:
    • Several times throughout the series but most prevalent in "Pod's Travels", with Ichthyornis and Troodon in Europe. Both species were native to North America. Though Ichthyornis was a seabird, it could have flown anywhere it wanted.
      • The European Troodon is actually Elopteryx, they just called it Troodon.
    • In an interesting case, there's absolutely no sight or mention of Gorgosaurus in the Daspletosaurus episode, even though the two genera lived in the same area and time and Gorgosaurus was quite common.
    • "Alpha's Egg" has the North African Carcharodontosaurus roaming South America. This is especially eyebrow raising as the South American Giganotosaurus is well-known, looks extremely similar, and would have been in the right region.
  • Monster Munch: The screentime of Shuvuuia consists entirely of it being chased by Velociraptor and subsequently eaten by Oviraptor.
  • Mood Whiplash: Is Little Das' Hunt supposed to be funny or tragic? We are constantly treated to the adorable Little Das' childish antics, and then... he dies, along with the rest of the cast.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Little Das ends up chasing the Einiosaurus and Maiasaura herds far out of the lowlands basically for fun. The herds end up combining into one larger herd, which ends up making it even more difficult to get to Buck later on. His mother is not pleased.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Slater mispronounces Shuvuuia as "Shuvia" (Dr. Scott Sampson later pronounces it correctly).
  • Noisy Nature: There are scenes of dinosaurs roaring at each other that just won't end.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Pod is normally an ordinary raptor, but he gets washed up on a smaller island, where he becomes the top predator...well, untill the giant pterosaurs find him, at least.
  • Oh, Crap!: Buck and Blaze when Little Das' mother shows up for the first time. Especially Blaze.
  • One-Hit Kill: Pod uses his sickle-claw effectively against a dwarf Tarascosaurus. Alpha, on the other hand, utilizes an involuntary final blow.
  • Palette Swap: Rather frequently used, such as the alvarezsaurs, sauropods, crocodilians, and troodontids.
  • Predators Are Mean: Averted. Many main characters are carnivores themselves. Larger predators still often play antagonistic roles however.
  • Ptero Soarer: The Quetzalcoatlus are depicted as scaly and with bony crests that the real creatures did not have.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: CGI dinosaurs occasionally interact with the talking head, Scott Sampson.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: The Icthyornis in "Pod's Travels" try to take a nibble from the dying dinosaur on a number of occasions. A rare case where it's played realistically, as the behavior it's shown engaging in isn't unheard of in modern seabirds.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: The Maiasaura herd and the Daspletosaurus pack haul ass once they see the pyroclastic flow heading right for them.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Shuvuuia, Prenocephale, Deltatheridium, Allodaposuchus, Pyroraptor, Tarascosaurus, Magyarosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Orodromeus, Einiosaurus, Alvarezsaurus, Aucasaurus, and Notosuchus.
  • Social Ornithopod: The secondary plot of Little Das's Hunt is about a pair of Maiasaura siblings, Buck and Blaze, who stick together for safety and support, especially considering the former's leg injury caused by a Daspletosaurus pack and seeking to find their herd. Earlier on, there is also a flock of Orodromeous where one of them is separated by a Troodon pack to make the hunt easier... and still failed at it.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: T. rex, Edmontosaurus, Velociraptor, Oviraptor, Troodon, Ichthyornis, Protoceratops, Maiasaura and the flying reptile Quetzalcoatlus.
  • Stock Footage: Footage from When Dinosaurs Roamed America and Valley of the T-Rex is used during the paleontology segments.
  • Tail Slap: Alpha does this in her final battle with the Aucasaurus pair.
  • Truth in Television:
    • The scene in which a dueling Protoceratops and Velociraptor get crushed under an avalanche of sand has been based on the actual fossil of the actual event.
    • The volcanic eruption in Little Das' Hunt was based off the discovery of a petrified forest in the Two Medicine Formation that was destroyed by a pyroclastic flow.
    • A possibly unintentional example, unmentioned in the show: Dragonfly the Aucasaurus dies by having his skull crushed by Alpha. Fast-forward 80 million years, and the first discovered specimen of Aucasaurus has a crushed skull.
  • Use Your Head: Prenocephale.