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Series / The Ballad of Big Al

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The Ballad of Big Al (Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special in America) is a two-part special released in 2000, and a spinoff of the BBC documentary series Walking with Dinosaurs. Taking place in the Jurassic plains of Wyoming 145 million years ago, the special follows the life a young Allosaurus named "Big Al". Considered to be one of the most complete Allosaurus fossils, Al's bones reveal many aspects of his life and the challenges he faced as one of the apex predators of the Jurassic.

Tropes present include:

  • Affectionate Nickname: "Big Al" was the name given to the complete allosaur skeleton that was found, partly because the paleontologists felt a little wistful Al lived fast and died young.
  • Art Evolution: Nearly every dinosaur's model and textures were given much more detail in the special, including Stegosaurus and Diplodocus. And of course the Allosaurus, being the stars of the show. Just compare the new Allosaurus model to the old one from Time of the Titans.
  • Ballad of X
  • Crossing the Desert: This trope is used for the Diplodocus attack, as well as towards the end near Al's death.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Ballad of Big Al serves as this for Allosaurus, which originally only featured as an "antagonist" in "Time of the Titans".
  • Death of a Child:
    • One of Al's baby siblings is killed.
    • Technically Al himself, who died as a maturing juvenile.
  • Had to Be Sharp: Allosaurs lived in an extremely harsh world, and getting to adulthood was not an easy task — Al failed.
  • Mucking in the Mud: In one scene two Allosaurus are lured into a mud trap by a Stegosaurus carcass and by the end of the day, both of them are dead and being eaten by tiny Pterosaurs. Al avoids the same fate because he learned to avoid carrion and the large carnivores it attracts.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Big Al struggles to survive the harsh Jurassic world, often failing more hunts than succeeding and barely escaping death that have claimed other Allosaurus. He manages to live long enough to reach sexual maturity, but his life is cut short when he suffers a fatal injury on his middle toe, preventing him from hunting during the worst part of the dry season. With no food or water to sustain himself, Big Al dies without reaching his full potential or passing on his genes to the next generation. The only bright spot in his brutal short life is that his skeleton will be well-preserved for paleotologists to get best idea of an Allosaurus's life, and becoming one of the most completed specimen on display.
  • Shown Their Work: The second part of the special, which deals with how we learned all this stuff about Al and Allosaurus in general.
  • Special Effects Evolution: When compared to the original series, the dinosaur models are more detailed, the puppets are more convincing, and most notably the shots are far more dynamic with a lot of camera movement, something the original series was keen to avoid. There's also a lot less use of composited bushes and shrubs to hide foot contacts.
  • Spinoff: The Ballad of Big Al is a spinoff of Walking With Dinosaurs, and Big Al itself came with a Making Of... documentary that took a look at the basis of the show and the science behind it.
  • Tempting Fate: Al's a horny teen, but the mature female he approaches is in a real bad mood, and he finds out quickly that female Allosaurus are more vicious than any other dino he'll ever come upon.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Summarizes Big Al's later life. First, he winds up with broken ribs and a torn claw after an attempt to mate ended with the female violently rejecting him. Later, he breaks his right middle toe after a failed hunting attempt and it gets infected. Too weak to hunt, he slowly dies from starvation and dehydration.

Alternative Title(s): The Ballad Of Big Al