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Re: Dinosaur Planet

"Sticht, Aaron" <Aaron.Sticht@qwest.com>writes:

> I have to agree with Jane's observation about the volcanoes.  Granted
there was a segment of the show depicting a pyroclastic flow that was pretty
intriguing which helped connect how a bunch of Maiasaura were discovered
covered in ash and mud, however I think that having a smoking mountain in
the background of every show depicting prehistoric times is a bit clichéd.

Yes, but that's the point, isn't it?  If volcanoes were indeed there in that
place and time, there's no harm in showing it.  These days, I'm actually
pleased to see a dinosaur show that doesn't spend half of its running time
on the Chixulub asteroid.  However I do think that the timing of the
geothermal blasts seemed more than coincidental, as if aliens were pushing
remote switches to cook the pterosaurs on cue.

> Overall however considering there were some really really bad dinosaur
programs produced in the late 80's and early nineties, having fresh new
approaches to the lives and times of our saurian friends presented to us
even with the flaws in the presentation is a good thing.

Hear, hear!

> Can anyone recall the series Dinosaur! Narrated by Christopher Reeve?  Not
the best in animation or in detail, it all seemed so early 70's Land of the
Lost to me!

Oh, my.  You won't get my vote on that  statement.  There was a one hour
special called "Dinosaur!" that Reeve hosted, and I must say that the
stop-motion dinosaurs in it (by Phil Tippet, later to work on "Jurassic
Park") were the best ever produced in a documentary up to that time, and
certainly the highlights of the show (aside from the guilty pleasure of
seeing the caveman dinosaur movie clips).  Compare this to other dinosaur
documentaries of the period, such as the four part "Dinosaur!" with Walter
Cronkite and some very limited puppets, and you'll see that Reeve's
"Dinosaur!" wins the bake-off any day of the week.

Tippet's "Dinosaur" work achieved scenes of sublime atmosphere and bloody
horror, although the footage could be faulted for somewhat cartoonish
characterizations in some of the dinosaurs.  There was also a conscious
attempt to mimic the awkward cinema verite camera work and framing of nature

More recently, there are many shows one could point to that have presented
valid information but have failed miserably in depicting the dinosaurs,
trying to get away with museum robots, shaky camera work, and inappropriate
stock footage from other programs.  Now the balance is often swung the other
way, with amazing technique convincingly putting across misconceptions as
fact.  In my opinion, some of the more effective dinosaur documentaries
prior to the recent computer graphic boon were those that utilized cartoon
animation, such as the PBS series, "The Dinosaurs," hosted by Barbara (Agent
99) Feldon.

Regarding the fiendishly wrong "_Maiasaura_" in "Dinosaur Planet," consider
the difference between the  "Maiasaura_" "Sketch" and the "360 View" in the
"Interactive Dinosaur Viewer" program at
Rotate "_Maiasaura_" in the "360 View" so that it faces left like the
"Sketch."  Then click back to "Sketch."  Yikes!!  The sketch is good, but
the 360 view (as seen in "Dinosaur Planet") is a horror!  What gives?  Who
broke its nose?  Who swapped its legs for those of a camel?  Did Dr. Evil
hack into the files and mess with the poor thing?  I pity the sketch artist
who is getting "credit" for the "design" of these malformed animals.

But, yes, the Gobi.  Ah, there's a place worth spending some time.  Sure,
the animals are hypervocal, but I'll just assume the editors cut out those
stretches of time when the animals weren't screeching and honking at one
another.  I am so pleased to see so many little feathered theropods, along
with the ornithischians and a couple of the other wee beasties besides, and
FINALLY a documentary actually covering the spectacular "fighting
dinosaurs."  Hey, a dinosaur show depicting behavior for which there is
actual evidence!  What a concept!

I had thought that _Velociraptor_ and _Protoceratops_ were buried alive
_during_ a torrential downpour, rather than some time later as a result of
that.  Is the depicted scenario accurate to the best of our knowledge?
Minor quibble: I do believe that the "fighting dinosaurs" actually show the
dromaeosaur sickle claw lodged in the _Protoceratops_ throat, not the belly
(as Scott Sampson states).  See
http://www.dino-nakasato.org/en/special97/Fight-e.html.  Quibble aside, I
think Scott Sampson made a great host.  He comes off as knowledgeable and he
has an infectious passion for paleontology, which should really connect with
the viewers.  Are they taking note for _People_ magazine's "100 most
beautiful people" issue?

"Dino Guy" Ralph W. Miller III
Docent at the California Academy of Sciences
proud member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Where can I get a job like the technicians in the background in Scott
Sampson's "lab" where I get paid to watch animated dinosaurs?  %^)