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Western Animation / Dino-Riders

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That is awesome.

The home planet of the Valorians, a peaceful race of somewhat elven telepathic humans, has been conquered by an evil race of lizard-, frog-, bug-, and fish-men called the Rulons. Four hundred Valorian survivors use an experimental Time Travel device to go back in time and escape, but they inadvertently drag a Rulon ship back with them. Stuck in prehistoric times, they fight each other by strapping lasers and BFGs to dinosaurs.

Truly an awesome sight to behold.

Originally airing in First-Run Syndication (as part of the Marvel Action Universe block), the show is best known today for being the benefactor of Memetic Mutation. The dinosaur toys were eventually recycled (stripped of their armor) as a series of straight, though articulated, dinosaur models (they were even endorsed by the Smithsonian Institution). Compare Dinosaucers, Extreme Dinosaurs, DinoZaurs, Dinosaur King and Dino Squad for more fun with dinosaurs.


Recently, it has been revealed to be in talks for a Live-Action Film adaptation, hoping to compete with Transformers.

Tropes in this series:

  • Aborted Arc: Questar and everyone look into the future with the STEP crystal to see how things are in Valoria. They saw a Viper, a Sharker and an Ant-man arguing over who will rule the Rulon Empire with Krulos missing. It seem the Empire will either break apart or civil war might erupt, but the vision is cut and we never see what happens next.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Serena use the Dreadlock's ventilation system to escape her cell.
  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Averted in the Ice Age line. Neanderthals are correctly portrayed as separate from early Homo sapiens (referred to as "Cro-Magnons").
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Every single Rulon is evil.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The AMPs (Amplified Mental Projector), which the Dino-Riders use to communicate with and befriend the dinosaurs.
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  • Art Evolution: Between the first two episodes by Hanho Heung-Up, the rest of the series by AKOM and the Ice Age special by Island Animation. The switch from Hanho to AKOM was accompanied with brighter colors and flatter designs. With Krulos' suit going from dark red to pink.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology:
    • They had dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex and Diplodocus coexisting, which were separated by millions of years' time. The line of toys also included Dimetrodon and Placerias, which were not dinosaurs or even proper reptiles and the former was long extinct before the first dinosaurs came into being. (Dimetrodon is further from the dinosaurs than they are from us. Placerias, on the other hand, at least lived in the late Triassic.)
    • Also, woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and giant sloths are thrown into the mix. These were collected from the Ice Age and brought back via time travel, so at least were not intended to be contemporaries of the reptilian creatures. However, the lineup also featured "killer warthog" Archaeotherium, which was actually an entelodont that already went extinct long before the Pleistocene. Plus Smilodon, Doedicurus (cartoon only), and Megatherium are depicted living alongside woolly mammoths and Neanderthals.
    • Brontosaurus. Never mind at that time it should be known as Apatosaurus, it was at the centre of a two-part storyline that had the Dino-Riders and Rulons battling over it because it was "the largest dinosaur in the world." A great idea in concept, and to an eight-year old it was an absolutely epic story, but Brontosaurus was not the largest dinosaur known to science even then — the Brachiosaurus was taller and heavier (one wonders why they couldn't have used that instead of Brontosaurus). Other species like Argentinosaurus are much larger, and Diplodocus, a frequently-seen dinosaur in the show, was longer. Here, it is depicted as a mini-sized version of the Brontosaurus — both the toy and cartoon versions of the Brontosaurus are more than twice as long and tall as the smaller sauropod. Brontosaurus is now officially a separate genus form Apatosaurus thanks to re-examining its skeleton for differences. However, this makes the franchise's portrayal even more glaring as Brontosaurus excelsus was shorter than both Apatosaurus and Diplodocus.
    • The above mentioned Brontosaurus was not the only dinosaur depicted out of scale. For example, the Deinonychus was made larger and bulkier than the real one (who could hardly have carried a human on its back), ironically putting it at about the same size as the much-later-discovered Utahraptor. Kentrosaurus is made about the same size as Stegosaurus instead of half as large, though this also ironically makes it more similar to Dacentrurus. Not to mention Pteranodon and Pterodactylus (referred to as "Pterodactyl") are both portrayed as large and strong enough to carry a full-grown human, although the latter is smaller than the former. And Dimetrodon was in no way large enough to cart around a rider and all that armor, and the whole "hide behind the sail and raise a seat above it as cover" trick would never work. Plus, Smilodon was certainly not as big as a Pachyrhinosaurus.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, the Dino Riders Ankylosaurus was tiny compared to its real life counterpart, and Saurolophus was barely larger than the Deinonychus, despite the actual animal being comparable in scale to the Tyrannosaurus (the toy version is smaller than the T. rex's leg). Quetzalcoatlus is the same size as Pteranodon. And Megatherium is big as both the Archaeotherium and the Smilodon, even though it's actually taller than a woolly mammoth when standing on two feet (here, it's only half the size of the mammoth).
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: While Krulos had many schemes under his belt, his favorite strategy is constantly attacking:
  • Bad Boss:
    • Krulos constantly yells at his underlings, physically abuses them and uses them for target practice.
    • His elite minions pick up on this — Hammerhead always order his troops by yelling at them and calling them "incompetents" or "idiots".
  • Beast Man: The Rulon Empire consists of several alien species, all of which resemble animals: Cobras, crocodiles, hammerhead sharks, skates (related to rays), ants, locusts, and a toad.
  • BFG: The particle beam cannon fitted on top of the Brontosaurus. It's the largest weapon in the series.
  • Big Bad: Emperor Krulos. The "Bible" for the series indicates that Krulos should not be seen humiliated or pratfalling, in order to maintain his sense of menace. The writers, alas, did not follow these instructions, and he's tossed about and embarrassed a fair deal.
  • Clear My Name: Questar is accused of sending top secret intelligence to Rulon. He leaves to prove his innocence. However, his people believe it's a Rulon lie and Questar never truly needed to clear his name so they let him lead anyway. It was a Rulon device attached to Questar's computer that was responsible for the leaks.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The lasers of the Rulons are green, while the Dino-Riders's lasers are red. Naturally, when the Brontosaurus is brain boxed, its lasers turn from red to green despite the fact that its still equipped with the Dino-Riders' cannons. If the laser color could be adjusted easily, then it may be done just to avoid confusion & possible "friendly fire".
  • Continuity Snarl: The Thanksgiving episode with a flashback sequence. Krulos orders the Dreadlock to pursue the Valorian ship in the time rift. In the pilot episode, Krulos orders the tractor beam to disengage and the Dreadlock get zapped into the past anyway.
  • Convection Schmonvection:
    • Dinosaurs are merely annoyed by laser beams unless the plot requires otherwise. Even ones that can rip through their metal armor.
    • One episode features a Plesiosaurus swimming in a boiling sulfur pit.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: As stated below (see Equivalent Exchange), Serena's ability to heal other beings draws from her own life force and can leave her drained or become life-threatening to her if she overdoes it.
  • Deflector Shield: A planet-sized shield once protected Valoria from the Rulon's armada, but after many bombardments that lasted a very long time, it collapsed.
  • Disability Superpower: Mind-Zei, who can "see" without eyesight.
  • Distress Ball: Llahd is kidnapped many times by the Rulons and constantly needs rescuing.
  • The Emperor: Krulos, the emperor of the Rulon Empire.
  • Energy Weapon: Aside from the usual lasers, the Rulons created a pulse cannon and the Dino-Riders a particle beam cannon. Aside from its first demonstration, the pulse cannon doesn't do anything new and the beam look like another laser. It does have a different sound effect though. The particle beam cannon used the STEP crystal for an energy source, but this risked breaking the STEP.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Serena's healing ability draws from her life-force. If a patient is close to death, it will drain most of Serena's energy, severely weakening her. If used too many times in a row, it can kill her.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs
  • Evil Counterpart: Most of the early toys seem to come in pairs — a Dino Rider and Rulon version:
    • Each gets a flying mount with guns strapped to the wings. The Valorians have a Quetzalcoatlus figure; the Rulons get a Pteranodon. Though the cartoon features Serena atop a Pteranodon, and the Rulons later get a Quetzalcoatlus toy.
    • The Valorians ride a Torosaurus; the Rulons ride Triceratops. The toys have different heads, paint jobs, armor and riders, but identical bodies.
    • Small Ceratopsians are common — the Valorians ride Styracosaurus, while the Rulons get a head & Palette Swap in Monoclonius.
    • Each side gets a Deinonychus — the dinosaur toys are identical save the color of the figure's back stripes.
    • The other figures in the first series are more similar in size than anything, as they dinosaurs are completely-different — the Valorians ride Pterodactyl and Diplodocus, while the Rulons get Ankylosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. The Pterodactyl and Ankylosaurus are small-sized models with a simple harness/weapon set-up, and the Diplodocus and Tyrannosaurus are jumbo-sized, line-defining centerpieces who are packed with tons of weapons and three figures.
    • The second series gives us the Valorian Stegosaurus and the Rulon Kentrosaurus (upgraded in size to match the Stego's size), and the Valorian Pachycephalosaurus and the Rulon Saurolophus, which are also of similar scale. The Valorian Protoceratops and Rulon Placerias are also about the same size.
    • The second and third series however break the "Counterpart" set-up, as the heroes end up getting far more figures (the Brontosaurus has no counterpart, and neither do the Dimetrodon, Struthiomimus, Edmontonia, or any of the Ice Age creatures), including a few more head and palette swaps of the Ceratopsians (Pachyrhinosaurus for the large-sized model, and Chasmosaurus for the small one).
  • Evil Laugh: Any of the named Rulon: Krulos, Rasp, Hammerhead, Antor and so forth.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Krulos. You think his voice would have been garbled since his head is constantly bathing in a bowl of water.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: With a name like Rasp, what do you expect?
  • Forgot About His Powers: Too many times, a Dino-Rider forgets he has an AMP crystal to communicate telepathically with the others.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The AMPs (Amplified Mental Projector)
    • The STEP crystal (Space Time Energy Projector).
  • Galactic Conqueror: Krulos in his own era, as emperor of the Rulon empire.
  • General Failure: Krulos never listen to the advices of his subordinates and think that destroying the Dino-Riders is the only viable strategy.
  • Genre Blindness: The Rulons suffer greatly from this:
    • Serena's cell wasn't guarded and she escaped through the air-vents.
    • The Rulons are confident that no one could break through one of their back-doors without the code access, so they posted no guards. Mind-Zei, who's blind, cracked the access code.
    • Tagg falls to his doom. Rasp and Hammerhead think he's dead and don't bother to look for his corpse. Tagg survives, of course.
    • The Rulons captured dinosaurs that belonged to the Dino-Riders. They aren't brain boxed or restrained. The Dino-Riders use this to their advantage and control them.
    • Whenever Dino-Riders are captured by Rulons they never think of removing their AMP crystals. This lead to the Dino-Riders using their AMP to telepathically warn others or call dinosaurs for help.
  • Good Taming, Evil Taming: The heroes tame their dinosaurs using telepathy while the villains used mind control helmets on theirs. In the first episode, this comes back to bite them when one of the heroes shoots the helmet off of the villains' Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  • Handicapped Badass: Mind-Zei, who took out three Rulon Vipers using just his wits and martial arts. Keep in mind that Mind-Zei is blind.
  • Headbutting Pachy: The Valorians/Dino-Riders use pachycephalosaurus to smash large rocks with their domed heads. They're also mentioned to be used for clearing rubble, presumably the same way. Both actions would have likely have caused the dinosaurs harm.
  • Healing Hands: Serena's specialty with an Equivalent Exchange twist.
  • Idiot Ball: Llahd and Yungstar. Many episodes revolved on their recklessness and lead to many Distress Ball.
    • In the two-part finale, Questar is accused of transmitting secret plans to the Rulons. You think the Dino-Riders would start searching Questar's computer to see if anything is wrong. No! They only do so near the end of the second episode and have to deal with a big mess in between.
    • Krulos in the finale. He finally has the STEP crystal and can return to the future, but he decides to remain so he can destroy the Dino-Riders before leaving. It never crossed his mind that he could do both: return to the future to get reinforcements, then go back to the past and destroy the Dino-Riders with the armada.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Both factions are lousy shots unless the plot demands so. At which point the Dino-Riders become crack shots able to hit the Brain Box off of a moving animal without hurting it.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: The device that tempered with Questar's computer and sent secret intelligence to Rulon. While hidden under the console, it's large and constantly blink.
  • Large and in Charge: Krulos is tallest and largest of the Rulon Empire. His dinosaur, the Tyrannosaurus rex, is also the biggest dinosaur of the Rulon army.
  • Large Ham: Whenever someone is taunting in battle with Questar and Krulos being the biggest hams.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Weapons other than lasers are missiles.
  • MacGuffin: The STEP (Space Time Energy Projector) Crystal, which the Valorians used to travel through time, and which Krulos and the Rulons want.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Brain Boxes, the mind control devices the Rulons used to control dinosaurs resembled metal masks.
  • Merchandise-Driven: One of the biggest examples of this — the reason for the production of the animated series was so that Tyco could launch a Dino-Riders toy line. Oddly, in some markets there was no animated series, or there was just a one-off special. Some markets (France in any case) had a comic book.
  • Mind Control: The Rulons used "Brain Boxes" to control their mounts. To them, they were only war machines to be captured, broken in, and forced to participate in combat. Unlike the Dino-Riders who respected dinosaurs as living creatures, seemed to be actually holding telepathic conversations with them at some points, and only recruited to their ranks those who were willing to fight alongside them while allowing other dinosaurs to remain free.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Krulos sound very much like "cruel".
  • Nonindicative Name: Rasp and the snakemen are referred as "Vipers", but they look like cobras.
  • No Indoor Voice: Hammerhead. He not only growl every line, but scream on top of his lungs.
  • Off-Model: Colors, characters, dinosaurs and armaments are drawn inconsistently throughout the series.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Whenever a Slow Laser actually manages to wound someone.
  • Palette Swap: All of the Rulons's Mooks in the cartoon are Palette Swaps of the established, named characters. Antor, Rasp and Hammerhead are quickly joined by Lokus, Skate and Krok — all six have legions of guys on the Rulon forces that look exactly like them, but for different colors. The toys were like this as well — "Name" characters got the most-spectacular dinosaurs (Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus, Triceratops, etc.), while most of the lesser-known ones got mere re-colors of established characters.
    • The toyline made this a common feature in the "Two-Packs" that were sold, featuring only humanoid characters — each was sold with one Rulon and one Dino-Rider. All six Rulon Generals had two or more characters that were just Palette Swaps, and all of the featured Valorians had at least one Swap each.
    • Rulon Examples: Krulos got two color swaps in the "Two-Packs", sharing his name but coming in different colors. Antor is the key "ant", coming with the Deinonychus- his Swaps are Sting (Ankylosaurus), Bitor (another Tyrannosaurus figure), Drone, Fire, Termite and Demon. Rasp is the key "viper", coming with the Pteranodon- his Swaps are Cobrus (T. rex add-on #2), Sidewinder (Triceratops co-rider), Fang, Rattlar and Skwirm. Hammerhead is the main "shark" figure, and gets to ride the large and pricey Triceratops- his Swaps are the similarly-colored Mako (stuck riding the much-smaller Monoclonius), Finn, Six-Gill, Dedeye and Gill. Krok is the only "Crocodile" character seen in the cartoon, and comes with the Kentrosaurus- his Swaps are Algar (ultra-rare Rulon Quetzalcoatlus rider), Kraw, Snarrl, Gorr and Gutz. Lokus is a rarely-seen "locust", and comes with the Saurolophus- his Swaps are Poxx, Buzz and Squish (all mini-pack figures). Skate is also rare, coming with the Placerias- his Swaps are Sludge and Ray.
    • Valorian/Dino-Rider Examples: Questar (coming with the Diplodocus) gets two Swaps with the same name and a different color scheme. Serena (a Brontosaurus rider) also gets one, plus another Swap named Ursus. Mind-Zei (coming with the Diplodocus) had two Swaps with the same name. Turret and Gunnur both had camouflage-colored Swaps named Quark and Boldar, respectively. Llahd, the young boy figure, comes with the Pterodactyl dinosaur, while a brown recolor named Nimbus comes with the Struthiomimus, and Mercury (a silver Swap) is a Two-Pack character. Tagg had the same body as Gunnur/Boldar, but a different head.
    • Other Valorians: Yungstar's body-type produces a spectacular number of recolors, some with his same bandana-wearing head, and others without it. They include a brown-haired Yungstar, Vega (Stegosaurus rider), Magnus (Torosaurus), Sky (Deinonychus), Nova, Aries, Proto, Orion and a rarer Llahd with the same color scheme as the Pterodactyl figure (it was occasionally released with that dinosaur). One type, unseen in the cartoon, was the Tark (Stegosaurus)/Shado (Dimetrodon) style- it also included Llava (Chasmosaurus) and Hondo. Axis rode the Edmontonia, and spun off Ion (Brontosaurus add-on), Graff and Ecco. Ayce rode the Brontosaurus also, and spun off Atlas (Pachyrhinosaurus), Neutrino and Wizz.
    • Even the "Cavemen" figures were all Swaps of each other: Grom (Woolly Mammoth), Ulk (Giant Ground Sloth), Zar (Killer Wart Hog), Kub (Sabre-Toothed Tiger), Onk, Urg, Tor and Agga.
    • The dinosaurs were not excluded, either, especially for the toys. Both sides received Deinonychus that were identical but for the color of their stripes. The Monoclonius, Styracosaurus and Chasmosaurus (a later, rare release) have the same body mold, but different heads and color schemes. The Triceratops and its Dino-Rider counterpart, the Torosaurus have the same thing going on — the former is blue and has a short frill, while the latter is brown and has a much larger frill and set of horns (later, the Pachyrhinosaurus — among the rarest toys in the line — joins them, with a gigantic central nose-horn). The Pteranodon and Quetzalcoatlus also are Swaps with different heads. The Rulons later get a straight Swap of the Quetzalcoatlus, patterned like an aircraft.
  • Panthera Awesome: The Ice Age lineup adds in the saber-toothed cat Smilodon.
  • Ptero Soarer:
    • The Dino-Riders had Quetzalcoatlus (Yungstar's mount of choice), Pterodactylus, and several small Rhamphorhynchus which came with the Brontosaurus set. The Rulons had Pteranodon, and as late addition also a Quetzalcoatlus. A leopard-patterned one. In the cartoon, Serena flew a Pteranodon with a Quetzalcoatlus saddle.
    • Size issues aside, the pterosaurs are amazingly accurate for their time, including having pycnofibres and, in the cartoon, being quadrupedal.
    • The Pterodactylus or Pterodactyl has a crest and resembles a downsized version of the Quetzalcoatlus, to the point you might think it was a juvenile of the latter genus. It gets more confusing in that Pterodactylus would turn out to have a crest (made of flesh rather than bone) over a decade later.
  • Punny Name: Almost every Valorian character.
  • Raptor Attack:
    • The Dino-Riders and the Rulons have Deinonychus among their forces. Until the introduction of a Rulon Quetzalcoatlus at a quite late point within the toy line's run, it was therefore the only species that was ridden by both factions. (If you only count the toys, and not the series or the comics.)
    • The Deinonychus is made larger than its real-life counterpart roughly 5 years before Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park made raptor-upscaling a popular trend. This becomes confusingly ironic when you consider that Jurassic's Velociraptors were allegedly based on Deinonychus.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Whenever a dinosaur is Brain Boxed, its eyes turn red. Not that they really become evil, but they are under Rulon control.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Happened a lot with both Dino-Riders and Rulons as the toy line expanded to include more characters. Most notable example; the Commandos, who didn't appear at all in early episodes but were featured prominently in the last few and starred in the Ice Age special.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Among the Rulons are humanoid snakes and crocodiles.
  • The Rival: Aero is this to Yungstar. It's downplayed as the series goes on however.
  • Rule of Cool: The entire premise!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When the Brain Boxed's Brontosaurus main particle beam is overloaded, many Rulon troops evacuate. Antor suggest they run, but Krulos demand more power routed to the cannon. Antor wisely chooses to escape and abandon the Emperor to his fate.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the episode, "Dino-Riders in the Ice Age", the Commandoes have brought back several prehistoric mammals and Kub, Grom might join up with the Rulons (he's last seen running off in the same direction as them) and the Dino-Riders have fixed the S.T.E.P. which means that Krulos will try twice as hard to steal it.
  • Shark Man: Hammerhead, Mako and several unnamed Sharkers are part of the Rulon empire.
  • Snake People: Rasp, Sidewinder and whole bunch of several unnamed Vipers.
  • Silence, You Fool!: Krulos will not hear excuses from his underlings.
  • Title Drop: From the pilot episode:
    "We're not Valorians anymore, we're Dino-Riders!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: Llahd (due to his constantly making dumb decisions that got him caught) and Yungstar (the previous AND his hot-headedness!).
  • Ungrateful Bastard: After Serena saved Krulos' life, the Emperor never thanked her and demanded that Questar surrender to him in exchange for Serena.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Almost every episode ends with Krulos and the Rulons retreating.