Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In Which Trish *Finally* Gets a Look at 3/4ths of "Dinosaur Revolution"!

Yes, I finally saw it.  Out of the kindness of the YouTube elves, since there is not one scrap of evidence that this miniseries will be available in it's original televised form on DVD in America anytime soon.  And with the second episode completely missing, that single episode having been deleted by Discovery Networks (because content providers cracking down on the internet know no logic).  So here are my thoughts, well over a year after anyone could possibly care!  Huzzah and Happy New Year!

Bit of background, first.  The story of "Dinosaur Revolution" (also known by the less-confounding title, "Reign of the Dinosaurs") begins several years ago when a teaser image of concept art appeared on the Internet.  (This was occasionally credited to Pixar, possibly having been conflated with contemporary teaser art from "The Good Dinosaur".)  At the time, we were given sky-high promises about the upcoming miniseries.  Most exciting among these were the promise that this would be a narrative dinosaur film with no dialogue or vocal narration at all, that the dinosaurs would be the most scientifically accurate animals to date, and that noted paleoartists and animators would be contributing to the project.  It was not referred to as a serious documentary, but would instead be a series of short animated vignettes of life in the Mesozoic.  One of the earliest previews shows what they initially intended for the series.

In short, this sounded like the dinosaur animation that I'd been longing for since, like, forever.  And that I'm still longing for because "Dinosaur Revolution" isn't it.

But it comes really damn close to it.  A lot of what's bad about the miniseries has been blamed on executive meddling, so let's tackle the not-so-good parts of "Dinosaur Revolution" first.

There are, to be sure, segments with excellent animation.  There are also segments with very sloppy animation, with "floaty" physics and wonky walk-cycles, and the inconsistency can get jarring.  I didn't have as much of a problem with the more stylized aspects of the series that most people did, looking back at reviews of the series from the time.  That said, there were a couple of scenes that had me thinking, "really?"  Most of them have to do with the non-dinosaur characters, like the weirdly dolphin-like Mosasaur and the pterosaur mother with her babies...  Hey, you know that scene in "The Land Before Time" with the cute baby pterosaurs going after the one berry?  There's a scene in "Dinosaur Revolution" that is the exact diametric opposite of it. <8(

The narration is oftentimes just awful, sounding exactly like what you'd imagine the end-result of a long string of bad decisions from wimpy execs would.  It just keeps showing up again and again, stating the stunningly obvious, and getting in the way right when I was most enthralled with the visuals.

Then you have the segments where Coachella Tupac hologram scientists talk about *sort-of* sciencey-stuff in a very fake looking science lab set.  Oh dear, these were indeed very silly.  Now, it's always fun to have Scott Sampson talk about dinosaurs in a television show, and I like how they interviewed Scott Hartman.  It would have been very nice to have the show's contributors talk about their reasoning behind the animated sequences after each episode.  Apparently, this was the original plan, but the network caved and decided to throw the interviews randomly in during the show itself.  Like the narration, these segments just interrupt the dinosaurs we're here to see.

There's also that damned strange ending.  Spoilertext: You cry for the mother Troodon desperately trying to save her last egg. But then, there is flash-forward to modern times with some incredibly sh*ttily animated birds to show that all is well and some Maniraptors made it! Man, if they had just stopped there it'd be fine. But they end on a very, very different note - and you cry again.

The other big point of contention people had with "Dinosaur Revolution" has to do with the tone.  Discovery shot itself in the foot advertising this as a straight, serious documentary.  Indeed, it feels as though they took the animated segments, which are as a whole essentially like a more rigorously accurate original "The Land Before Time", and tried to force them into a dead-serious science documentary by adding the narration and interview segments.  The end result is jarring, to say the least.

So, basically, the main criticisms I have with "Dinosaur Revolution" have to do with what it isn't, and what the networks tried to force it to be.  Ignoring all that, there is a lot to love in the miniseries.

First off, these animated dinosaurs look absolutely fantastic.  I dare say they may be the most believable CGI creatures this side of "District 9" - when the animation is at it's best, at least.  I love how they're allowed to look and behave much stranger then we're used to seeing in this kind of CGI dinosaur series.  It's not always realistic but it's believable, and that's what counts.

Most significantly, in many ways, "Dinosaur Revolution" reminded me of the "a paleoartist is going to inevitably be wrong about what dinosaurs really looked like anyway, so why be wrong and boring?" philosophy of Brian Engh's astonishing Sauroposeidon illustration.  Or the illustrations in All Yesterdays, come to think of it.  It's mind-blowing at times, and I hope the re-edit of the miniseries (with the facepalm-worthy title, "Dinotasia") is closer to the original vision for the series.

Overall, what I liked in "Dinosaur Revolution", I liked a lot.  I'll try to ignore the rest. 

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Sketch of the Day!  The very first entry in Sketch of the Day 2013!  A pretty Troll bride-to-be and the difference between the "Jurassic Park" and "Dinosaur Revolution" T. rexes.

1.1.13 Sketchbook Page

3 comments:

raptor_044 said...

"And with the second episode completely missing, that single episode having been deleted by Discovery Networks (because content providers cracking down on the internet know no logic)."

Try these: http://www.tubeplus.me/player/1964325/Dinosaur_Revolution/season_1/episode_2/The_Watering_Hole/%22

"So here are my thoughts, well over a year after anyone could possibly care!"

To quote Bolin, "Crazy talk is coming outta your mouth right now". I care about your dino-related thoughts no matter when you think of them.

"In short, this sounded like the dinosaur animation that I'd been longing for since, like, forever. And that I'm still longing for because "Dinosaur Revolution" isn't it."

What about "Phil Tippett's Prehistoric Beast"? Or did you mean a whole series (as opposed to 1 short)?

"There's a scene in "Dinosaur Revolution" that is the exact diametric opposite of it. <8("

Which scene? Doesn't sound familiar, but then it's been a while.

"You cry for the mother Troodon desperately trying to save her last egg...But they end on a very, very different note - and you cry again."

Like a Don Bluth movie (Ba-dum ching)! I kid of course, I love his 80s work. ;)

BTW, you forgot to mention 1 of the best things about DR: The epic theme song ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBKOxMi47-Q )!

-JD-man

Albertonykus said...

Good to see your thoughts on this show!

Ryan DeLuca said...

Check out Dinotasia on dvd or blu ray. I just got it on blu ray for xmas and it is the exact animation from Dinosaur Revolution without so much interruption from those talking head narrators. It is actually narrated moderately well by Wernor Herzog. http://www.amazon.com/Dinotasia-Blu-Ray-Werner-Herzog/dp/B008LW254S/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1357781350&sr=8-2&keywords=dinotasia
Some of the footage is missing and a bit of it is chopped up and redone but I found it much more watchable than dinosaur revolution. I have episode 2 and while it is the best of the show, the talking head paleontologist holograms ruin it for me.