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"People, there is an episode with Therizinosaurs doing Tai-chi. There are Therizinosaurs and they are in a cartoon for kids AND THEY ARE DOING MARTIAL ARTS AND THIS IS AWESOME!!! Also, they have feathers."

Dinosaur Train is a still-running CGI animated Jim Henson Company series airing on PBS Kids, created by Craig Bartlett (yes, that Craig Bartlett who's also best known for creating the series Hey Arnold! and Ready Jet Go!). It first aired in 2009.

The show focuses on the adventures of a family of pteranodon and Buddy, a dinosaur who was adopted by them as an egg. Buddy initially doesn't know what species he is, but is determined to find out. To this end, Buddy and his adoptive family go on adventures in a time-traveling train run by dinosaurs. Turns out early on that Buddy's a Tyrannosaurus rex, and he and his family and friends continue having trips through the Mesozoic to "meet all the species".

Train sports strong educational content with a focus on the basics of paleo-zoology, but also a lot of humor and fun. It is a Henson series after all. And even though the main cast is made up of cartoony creatures, the show goes way the heck out of its way to avert Artistic License – Paleontology. It's gained quite a cult following among older dinosaur fans.


The show aired five seasons of 100 episodes over the span of 11 years. It also has various TV specials: Dinosaur Big City, Dinosaurs A to Z, Dinosaur Train Submarine Adventure, etc, but they are really just multiple episodes strung together to make a one-hour special. A proper 85-minute feature film entitled Dinosaur Train: Adventure Island was announced by Craig Bartlett, and premiered on PBS on April 12, 2021.



  • Aborted Declaration of Love: In "Gilbert Visits the Nest", before Gilbert goes back home, Shiny is about to tell him that she likes him, but she says "I like you....visiting! I like you visiting!" and gives an awkward laugh.
  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: The Conductor's mom only wears a collar around her neck, while his nephew, Gilbert, only wears a conductor's hat. All the other Troodon who operate the Dinosaur Train or work at the stations wear hats.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Buddy and Don. Also Gilbert.
  • Aerith and Bob: There are dinosaurs that have normal names (Gilbert, Don, Cory, Annie, etc), and then we have characters with names like Tiny and Shiny.
  • Alliterative Name: A lot of the dinosaur characters have one.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: The Conductor's mom is like this quite a bit.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The Pteranodon are lime green, Buddy is safety orange, and even the more realistic (relatively speaking) animal characters can get downright psychedelic.
  • Anachronism Stew: Far milder than most (it helps to have a time-traveling train) but still present. To start with, although both Tyrannosaurus and Pteranodon were from the Late Cretaceous, Pteranodon is not known from the very end of the Late Cretaceous as Tyrannosaurus is.
    • The Buddy thing is somewhat justified in that dinosaurs time-travel and in one episode Mrs. Pteranodon says that Rexville's flowers are "prettier in this part of the Cretaceous". However, the flowering plant life is pretty anachronistic. One, the gourds are pretty similar to what they are today, and given the expected rate of evolution, gourds should look like their smallest representatives,cucumbers, at most. Two, the Conductor once mentions cacti and shows a picture of a large cactus, when in reality cacti probably didn't exist and at most were very small.
    • When did a train ever exist in prehistoric times? Trains were invented CENTURIES after the dinosaurs died.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: "Hi, I'm Dr. Scott, the paleontologist. Do you remember what type of dinosaur Buddy is?"
  • Art Evolution: A mild example, but it's still there.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Generally averted as best it can, but exceptions exist, such as few dinosaurs having feathers.
  • Bee Afraid: Averted in "Tiny Loves Flowers."
  • Big Eater: Tank Triceratops. Also most of the giant herbivores.
  • Big Little Brother: Tiny is the oldest and smallest of the Pteranodon siblings, whereas Buddy is the youngest but, by virtue of his species, will grow to become the largest.
  • Black Comedy: In "Zeppelin: Crater," the Pterosaur family and Mr. Conductor visit a crater that may have been created by an asteroid. They discuss the idea of something like that happening again. Mr. Conductor says his mother told him that something like that is very rare and not something to worry about. Buddy comments "I mean, what are the odds an asteroid would ever hit us?"
  • Broken Aesop: The show continually enforces the Aesop that birds are dinosaurs. In the episode "Dinosaur Camouflage", Buddy explicitly states that a bird is not a dinosaur.
    • May qualify as Aesop Amnesia, as Laura taught him that birds are theropod dinosaurs in a previous episode.
  • Canada, Eh?: In the episode where they go to the North Pole, the Northern Troodons behave very much like stereotypical Canadians.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Shiny is unable to confess how she truly feels to Gilbert.
  • Carnivore Confusion: One of the major educational aspects of the show is that as the main characters travel and meet various dinosaurs, they discuss with them whether they're herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. That said, we never see any animals eating other animals. Except when those other animals are fish or insects (most of the time). So the show generally follows the "fish and bugs are okay to eat" rule. Except for the "meat", which is, eerily, large piles of carrion lying around.
    • The occasional anonymous small mammal is also shown being eaten, such as by Travis, the northern Troodon seen in one episode. Another episode has a Tyrannosaurus eat a lizard.
  • Cartoon Creature: Mostly averted, to a point. That said, eh, we'll just take it on good faith what species the Pteranodon family and (to a lesser extent) Buddy are.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Buddy: "I have a hypothesis!" / "Do you mind if we compare features? It's kinda my thing."
    • Don: "La-la-LOOO!"
    • Mr. Conductor:
      • "Time Tunnel Approaching!"
      • "Tickets Please!"
      • "All aboard!"
      • "Bless my scales and feathers!"
  • Character Signature Song: King Cryolophosaurus apparently wrote the show's theme song.
  • Chroma Key: This technique is sometimes used in the Dr. Scott the Paleontogist segments.
  • Constantly Curious: Buddy.
  • Cool Train: The Dinosaur Train featured in the program is a Time Traveling train that utilizes time tunnels to take its dinosaur passengers to various locations throughout the Mesozoic Era.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Shiny, Don & Mr. Pteranodon receive the focus of a few episodes.
  • Description Cut: In "Best Ever Babysitter," Mr. and Mrs. Pteranodon talk about how their sure everything's fine with their kids because they all get along with the babysitter Kiera so well. Cut to the kids nearly overwhelming Kiera with their arguing about what activity they want to do.
  • Diurnal Nocturnal Animal: Played with - the Troodons claim to be nocturnal, like their real-life counterparts and even have a song about it. Yet they are still shown most of the time operating the Dinosaur Train during the day.
  • Drinking Game:
    • Take a shot every time you hear the word "hypothesis." Don't plan on driving afterwards.
    • Have another each time a dinosaur or other creature's eating habits are referenced as to what type of "vore" they are, be they an herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore.
    • If you really want to cause some liver damage, take a shot every time someone says, "To the Dinosaur Train!"
    • Have a sip whenever Buddy and another dinosaur (or other creature) of another species compare features.
  • Edutainment Show: An educational show about dinosaurs.
  • Elvis Impersonator: King Cryolophosaurus.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Averted in one episode when Buddy and friends meet a friendly shark.
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Come on, Buddy, we'll take a vacation. I'll get us a ticket at Pteranodon Station. We'll travel the world in sunshine and rain and meet all the species on the... Dinosaur Train. Dinosaur Train! Dinosaur Train! Dinosaur Train! We're gonna ri-i-i-de the Dinosaur Train!"
  • Father Neptune: The old Spinosaurus.
  • Fictional Sport: Dinoball.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: It's strongly implied that the Conductor always knew that Buddy is a Tyrannosaurus rex and could have just told him, but let him figure it out for himself because he knew it would mean more to him than for him to just tell him.
    Conductor: Yep. I had a feeling he was a T. rex.
  • Friendly Enemy: Thurston to The Conductor.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Dylan and Devlin, the double-crested Dilophosaurus twins, have one of these (although at the end they say they'll try to work together more).
  • Fun with Acronyms: Carla Cretoxyrhina's father is described as a "B.F.I.S." (Big Fish In the Sea).
  • Furry Confusion: The tiny green snake in one episode doesn't talk, but Sana the Sanajeh in the same episode can talk.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The main group of kids has two males, Buddy and Don, and two females, Tiny and Shiny.
  • Giant Flyer: The main characters are Pteranodon, after all. Makes sense they'd want to meet other big pterosaurs.
  • Good Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Pteranodon are excellent parents to Buddy, Tiny, Shiny, and Don.
  • Green Aesop: In "Crystal and King Benefit Concert," said concert is held as a means of spreading the word that the Big Pond is being overfished, resulting in an over-abundance of small fish, due to the larger fish having been fished too much. Fortunately, there's still enough left to correct the situation, so long as everyone gets the word.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Just the Conductor and a few other Troodons on the train.
  • Halloween Episode: "Haunted Roundhouse" and "Big Pond Pumpkin Patch".
  • Happily Adopted: Despite the fact that Buddy is a completely different species than the rest of his family, they love each other the same.
  • Hey, That's My Line!: The Conductor does it in "Fossil Fred" when Mrs. Pteranadon declares "Next stop, Big Pond!"
  • I Am Who?: The first few episodes of the program focus on Buddy trying to figure out just what type of dinosaur he is. It didn't help, though, that his species was revealed in the general press for the show and was given away in the title of the story where he finds it out.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Buddy says something like an inversion to this to King Cryolophosaurus in "Troodon Train Day".
  • Interspecies Adoption: Buddy is a T. rex raised by Pteranodons.
  • Interspecies Romance: Mr. Conductor and Erma Eoraptor; Shiny and Gilbert
    • Also, Shiny and Perry Parasaurolophus (the dirty two-timer)
  • Legacy Character: The Conductor's mother was the Dinosaur Train's previous conductor. Also, the Conductor's nephew Gilbert is a junior conductor in training.
  • Leitmotif: Most of the major characters have their own specific theme that plays when they talk.
  • Mundane Utility: The Conductor, a Troodon, uses his hindclaws for punching tickets.
  • Naming Conventions:
    • Alliterative Name: This is a strong tendency for characters' names on the show. Some examples include Tiny Pteranodon, Tank Triceratops, King Cryolophosaurus, Erma Eoraptor, and Cindy Cimolestes.
    • The other tendency is to have character names that rhyme. Some examples of this are Morris Stegosaurus, Doris Tyrannosaurus, and Shiny and Tiny Pteranodon.
    • Notable examples of character names that neither rhyme nor alliterate include Buddy Tyrannosaurus and "Sonny Boy" Troodon (aka Mr. Conductor), as well as minor characters like Chester Mawsonia.
  • National Animal Stereotypes: Many animals speak with accents based on countries in which their fossils have been found.
  • Nephewism: During the World Tour series, Mr. Conductor is suddenly assisted by his nephew, Gilbert.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Subverted. Deanna Deinosuchus is specifically stated to be a dangerous predator towards the Pteranodon, but ultimately friendly when she's not hungry.
  • No Antagonist: There are no real antagonists in the show. The closest we get is Thurston Troodon, who is a friendly rival to Mr. Conductor.
    • Keenan Chirostemotes and Remy Ramphorhynchus are sorta bullies but even they aren't too bad.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. There is an entire episode about dinosaur poop. The episode is straightforwardly entitled, "Dinosaur Poop." It is also considered a changing point in the history of PBS Kids shows, as more and more shows on the block aimed at toddlers began openly discussing using the bathroomnote , when a decade prior to this episode airing, it was rare to find a show for toddlers on the block that did this.
  • No Cartoon Fish: Ray-finned fish, coelacanths, and some invertebrates are okay to eat (makes sense as the main characters are Pteranodon). Gets a little awkward in the episode where Buddy and company meet a friendly shark.
  • Palette Swap: In "Dinosaurs A to Z", Hadrosaurus and Rhabdodon use the same model. Pity, then, that rhabdodontids have much larger, stronger snouts than hadrosaurs.
  • Parental Bonus: The episodes featuring King Cryolophosaurus are chock full of references to Elvis Presley. Also, Iggy Iguanodon, who speaks with a British accent, is said to possess silly walks.
  • Potty Emergency/Potty Dance: Happens to Tiny in "Dinosaur Poop" a few times. She also experiences one at the end of the episode.
    Tiny: Uh oh. Mom, I gotta go potty.
    Mom: Okay honey, off you go to the restroom.
    (Tiny gets out of her seat and bounces up and down on her way to the bathroom)
  • Predators Are Mean: Typically averted.
  • Primal Fear: Shiny is badly afraid of the dark and doesn't react well in "Mom Was a Kid?" when Annie asks her to join her in exploring a deep, dark cave. She eventually flies away in terror and returns to the nest, saying she's done playing with Annie for the day, and possibly forever.
  • Ptero Soarer: The Pteranodon family is... a little more "cartoony" than almost all of the other animal characters. You almost have to take it on good faith what they are.
    • For those not well aware of pterosaur anatomy, here's a picture to simply it to you (plus more anatomically accurate dinosaur characters).
    • Turned Up to Eleven in a recent episode. The Conductor claims that they're cold-blooded. Even those who doubt warm-blooded non-neornithine dinosaurs don't contest that pterosaurs had a warm-blooded metabolism.
  • Rail Enthusiast: Pretty much everyone on the show is enthusiastic about trains, especially the Dinosaur Train.
    I can't explain, but I won't complain! I only know that I love trains!
  • Raptor Attack: Averted by the Velociraptor, Archaeopteryx, Saurornitholestes and Microraptor; the Troodon, Utahraptor, and Deinonychus really lack plumage, however. Strangely, the show's website actually says that Deinonychus was a feathered dinosaur and Utahraptor probably had feathers. Also averted with the northern Troodon from Dinosaurs in the Snow.
  • Running Gag:
    • The Conductor's mother and the doting way in which she treats her son, though sometimes embarrassing him.
    • Don's obsession with holes.
    • At least with all the songs that made it onto the "Dinosaur Jams" album, there's a running gag with every song sung by the Conductor. He says that something reminds him of a song, resulting in the Pteranodon kids/Buddy asking for him to sing it, only for him to insist that they couldn't possibly want to hear him sing. They beg for him to sing it and he immediately launches into song, with everyone else present soon joining in.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Masiakasaurus, Confuciusornis, Avisaurus, Daspletosaurus, Adocus, Proganochelys, Paramacellodus, Cryolophosaurus, Palaeobatrachus, Zhejiangopterus, Einiosaurus, Oryctodromeus, Chirostenotes, Kosmoceratops, Shonisaurus, Volaticotherium, Raptorex, Sinovenator, Sanajeh, Saurornitholestes, Cimolestes, Jeholornis, Ptilodus, Megaraptor, Hadrosaurus, Fabrosaurus, Lesothosaurus, Jaxartosaurus, Nodosaurus, Qantassaurus, Rhabdodon, Wannanosaurus, Xenotarsosaurus, Yangchuanosaurus, Zigongosaurus, Protopteryx, Haplocheirus, Glyptops, Beelzebufo, Goniopholis, Pterodaustro, Effigia, Fruitafossor, Riojasaurus, Zupaysaurus, Castorocauda, Polycotylus, Michelinoceras, Qianzhousaurus, Nemicolopterus, Cretaceogekko, Changyuraptor and Deinocheirus. Good luck finding these in a normal documentary.
  • Shout-Out: Several come to mind:
    • The usage of "time tunnels" to travel through time might be a reference to the classic 60s TV show The Time Tunnel.
    • Ned in the episode "Night Train" notes "dinosaurs come and go so quickly here," similar to Dorothy's remark about Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.
    • King Cryolophosaurus is just one big Elvis reference.
    • The title of "Remember the Alamosaurus" is a reference to the phrase "Remember the Alamo!" from after the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar, killing most of the Texians and Tejanos inside. However, the Alamosaurus was not named after the Alamo and was not found in Texas until after its naming.
  • Shown Their Work: Putting aside the fact that there are a few anatomical brain-farts and the main cast is a bit cartoony, let's just paraphrase a sentiment from the page quote: Maniraptors with feathersnote . Heck, the fact that birds are a kind of dinosaur is a given in this series, so the show isn't making ornithologists cry either.
    • Many of the enantiornithines correctly have a pair of ribbon-shaped tail feathers instead of a modern-style tail fan, and the Hesperornis has lobed instead of webbed feet.
    • In "Dinosaur Block Party", all the animals that attend the party (ironically aside from the main characters and Laura Giganotosaurus) are known contemporaries (in fact, specifically representing the Dinosaur Park Formation) or at least from the same time range.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Played with - Don calls the Conductor "Mr. The Conductor" even though he never asked him to call him this and in return, he has taken to calling him "Mr. The Don."
  • Steam Never Dies: The train is a green steam locomotive shaped like a Triceratops head. "Rocket Train" introduces a high-speed rocket train similar to modern locomotives, with computer technology that manages it. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one's take), it is plagued with bugs and gets beat in a race by the Dinosaur Train.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus, Pteranodon, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Troodon, Deinonychus, Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Iguanodon, Apatosaurus, Protoceratops, Oviraptor, Dilophosaurus, Archaeopteryx, Ankylosaurus, Elasmosaurus, Spinosaurus, Styracosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Ornithomimus, Gallimimus, Megalosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Corythosaurus, Maiasaura, Utahraptor, Dimetrodon and Quetzalcoatlus.
  • "Stop Having Fun" Guys: Point of Fact guy from the Dr. Scott Sampson segments. Of course, he's there to well, make a point. His character is listed as Mr. Disclaimer in the closing credits and he is played by Joe Purdy, a key writer and story editor for the program, whose other work includes episodes of Hey Arnold!, Ready Jet Go!, and Arthur.invoked
  • Supreme Chef: Carson Carcharodontosaurus.
  • Story Arc: Several, including "Dinosaurs A to Z", "Dinosaur Train Submarine", "Adventure Camp", "Classic in the Jurassic", "Zeppelin" and "What's at the Center of the Earth?". A common rule of thumb is that episodes that are part of an arc will be titled "Arc Title: Episode Subject". For example, "Zeppelin: Waterfall".
  • Surprise Party
    • There's an episode called "Surprise Party." In it, Shiny, Tiny and Don throw a surprise party for Buddy on the Dinosaur Train and invite all of their best dinosaur friends to attend.
    • There's another one, "Rocket Train Surprise Party," in which the kids and the others on the Dinosaur Train hold one for the Conductor after the kids learn that it's his birthday and he hasn't had a birthday party since he was a kid.
  • Talking Animal: Basically everything with a brain aside from certain fish and insects.
  • Taxonomic Term Confusion: The characters say "species" when "genus" would be more appropriate.
  • Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: In "Date Night," Don does this with the babysitter Keira, using Buddy as his messenger, until he finally warms up to her.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: The characters sometimes sing the show theme tune, at least the part about "We're gonna ride, ride, ride the Dinosaur Train."
  • This Is My Side: Mr. Pteranodon does this in "New Neighbors" when the lambeosaurs move in start eating all the leaves off the oak trees.
    Mr. Pteranodon: See this line? Ha! Well, these are my trees. You cannot eat them. This side is Pteranodon Terrace! Okay?! Come on, kids.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: "Dinosaur Train: Zeppelin Adventure" is a two-part special featuring the latest innovation from Dinosaur Train Industries: a zeppelin. It doesn't seem to travel through time, but it can take the characters places that the train and the submarine can't. It comes complete with its own catchy theme tune.
  • Time Paradox: Averted. Despite all the time-traveling, the characters never get out of sync with their own time and thus never meet past or future versions of themselves or return to their own time through a time tunnel that brings them back to a time before they had left. Also, the "present" Cretaceous era seems to be in lockstep with the "past" Triassic and Jurassic eras such that when the Pteranodon family visits a friend in the past, they are never brought to a point in the past that is before the time when they had met their friend.
  • Time-Travel Romance: An extreme example; the Conductor — a Troodon, one of the last dinosaurs, is in a relationship with Erma — an Eoraptor, one of the first dinosaurs. They live nearly 200 million years apart — the same time difference as it would be if, say, a Stegosaurus started dating a HUMAN — but it's very clear that they love each other.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tiny and Shiny. Tiny likes to go on adventures, while Shiny is more feminine and prefers to stay behind.
  • True Blue Femininity: Shiny is a Girly Girl who is blue.
  • Turtle Island:
    • When the family visits the Misty Sea, they mistake Spinosaurus for an island.
    • In one episode, they look for a Diplodocus. Don finds a "hill" , Buddy rests on some "trees", Shiny meets a "snake" and Tiny finds a "bridge". After meeting, it doesn't take long to figure ot the are all parts of a Diplodocus.
  • Turtle Power: Adocus and Proganochelys.
  • Unexplained Accent: In-universe, the German accent of Arlene Archaeopteryx and the British accent of Iggy Iguanodon seem random and incongruous. The accents make real-world sense, however, when the corresponding "Dr. Scott the Paleontologist" segments explain that Archaeopteryx fossils were mostly found in Germany and Iguanodon fossils were first discovered in England.
  • Unnamed Parent:
    • The names of the Pteranodon family's parents have never been revealed —- They are called "Mom" and "Dad" by their kids and "Mrs. Pteranodon" and "Mr. Pteranodon" by everybody else.
    • Also unnamed is the Conductor's Mother, whom characters simply call "Mrs. Conductor" or "the Conductor's Mother."
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Zeppelin: Crater" has both "holy herbivores!" and "leapin' lambeosaurs!"
  • Vagueness Is Coming: It's implied that something really bad will happen if the dinosaurs ever miss the train back home, but just what is never said. However, "Trains, Submarines and Zeppelins" puts paid to this, showing you can always just wait for another train... or other vessel.
  • Vehicle Title: The title Dinosaur Train refers to the train the characters ride often.
  • You Can Say That Again: Tiny in "Rocket Train."
  • You Mean "Xmas": Dinosaurs celebrate Winter Solstice.


Video Example(s):


Dinosaur Train - Buddy

In the theme song of "Dinosaur Train," Buddy hatches from an egg in the Pteranodon nest and wonders what he's doing there. But Mrs. Pteranodon assures him that even though all dinosaurs have different features, this is still his family and she's still his mom.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / InterspeciesAdoption

Media sources:

Main / InterspeciesAdoption