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Mickey Mouse Dinosaurs



     A man in line to see Lost World at my local theater passed
out.  He went down hard, like a cold-cocked boxer.  They called
an ambulance, but by the time it got there the movie had started
and the man had gone inside.  They rolled the stretcher into the
theater but came out scratching their heads.  The man was hiding
to avoid treatment; to avoid missing Lost World.  
     I had something of the same anticipation because, since John
Horner was advising, I thought I might see virtually realized,
true dinosaur behavior.  Perhaps, I thought, a T. rex will wade
across a shallow lake and be confronted by a colony of angry
nesting maiasaurs.  I imagined David Lean-like panoramas.  I
imagined reality.  Even without Horner, I had grounds for hope. 
In Jurassic Park, at least, dinosaurs were portrayed often
without human reference, naturally.  The sauropod on the hill
reaching up to eat, the panorama of duckbills down at the lake,
brachiosaurs(?) lifting up heads above the canopy, all these at
least gave the impression of real life.  This approach had great
power and I hoped the director would use it again.  After all,
doesn't everybody know that a tiger glimpsed in a jungle is more
exciting than a dozen seen pacing stereotypically in a cage.  The
human reference marrs our appreciation of nature.
     This is what happened in Lost World.  Spielberg's priorities
seem to be first, to thrill the audience; second, to make camp
Hollywood references to the genre (monster films); and lastly, to
portray dinosaurs as true creatures.  But he has miscalculated. 
The greatest thrill in JP was the quite awe of extinct nature
realized.  The Lost World dinosaurs are chased, and chained by
humans.  They chase and eat humans.  In only a couple of shots
(eg., the stegosaurs) do we see something like true behavior.
     But all of this is of limited interest to us.  It is, after
all, a Hollywood product.  However, there were some things in LW
which, I feel, point out weaknesses in our own approach to
dinosaur behavior.  That is, we are unable to imagine them
without invoking modern analogues.  There are no living animals
which behave like dinosaurs because there are no animals which
share their life history.  A good example from LW of the fallacy
of analogizing ancient behavior is the lair of the T. rex. 
Surely a rex would eat at the site of the kill/carrion.  But in
LW we are expected to believe that it drags food back (with its
tiny arms, I suppose) to its lair to feed its baby.  And there,
with the baby left alone, you know the stench of rotting meat
would not attract a thousand predators (even as the T. rex adults
go hunting in thick forest at night).  It makes more sense for
baby to travel with the parents (by the way, I wonder why the
compies didn't eat baby rex).  And in another thread _we_ seem
unable to imagine hadrosaur behavior without reference to modern
analogues.  Hadrosaurs, we imagine, are just like modern plain
animals.  They survive just like the zebras because there are so
many of them and because T. rex kill rates are akin to lion kill
rates.  This is a broad and unfounded assumption whose only
appeal is that we see it happening today.  But T. rex and
hadrosaurs had very different life histories than lions and
zebras.  On what basis would we expect them to be at all
analogous?  The selective environment for zebra and lions is
speed.  We witness only the latest chapter of an evolutionary
arms race in which winners and losers are determined by how fast
they can run (among other things).  This was _not_ the case in
rex v. hadrosaur.  It is accepted (I'm assuming) that hadrosaurs
were really slow.  So, the selective environment was completely
different, i.e., not based on speed.  Therefore, we cannot assume
that chases on the plain had a similar outcome.  It just is not
analogous.
    Lost World is a stereotypical monster movie. But the box office
doesn't demand truth.  We do and so must avoid easy, stereoptypical,
modern analogues of non-analagoes behaviors.