Blast from the Past
Growing up I was a dinosaur-crazed kid who collected dinosaur toys and read all the dinosaur books and wanted to become a paleontologist. They really captured my imagination, and I was pretty old, maybe twelve, when I finally replace the Tyrannosaurus-Rex poster on my wall with Nirvana. But for most of my childhood I was obsessed with the prehistoric world. It was like science fiction, but real. Monsters used to roam our planet, and it really happened and we can dig up their bones!
I even have a hard time deciding where to start talking about the subject, so I will make this easy on myself. Here’s my Top 5 list of anything dinosaur related. Enjoy!
5. “One Million Years B.C.” This movie is rightfully famous for its breathtaking stop motion creatures by Ray Harryhausen. I was very young (I would say five) when my Dad took my sister and me to see it in a “club theater”, which was just a room with a couple of plastic chairs and a VCR. I remember my jaw dropping as the brontosaurus walked through the background (it was the first dinosaur that appeared in the movie). I couldn’t believe my eyes. I can easily trace my love of (horror) movies back to that afternoon.
Here’s a clip of the iconic Ceratosaurus/Triceratops fight. Without question a high point in film history.
4. Dino-Riders. The coolest of the Saturday-morning cartoons! Never really caught up with my friends, and the action figures were much harder to come by than Masters of the Universe. I had this beauty, which was the only Deinonychus toy in my near 150 piece dinosaur collection (it was a rare species to come across for sure!)
Also, there’s a stunning collectors’ site, maintained by some really dedicated fans. Bravo to whoever runs this page!
3. “The Dinosaur Filmography” by Mark F. Berry. It’s the perfect book to flip open and discover a forgotten gem. The reviews are funny, yet the job of cataloging all the films that featured dinosaurs is taken seriously. Clearly, it’s impossible to keep it a 100% up to date (see: Jurassic World) but it’s such an enjoyable read that I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!
2. Dinosaur World. I’ve always been fascinated by life-size dinosaur parks. Dinosaur World is off of I-4, about an hour away from Orlando, and my wife and I drive by it every time we visit her Dad. Stopped there a couple of times, and I love how clumsy and outdated some of the statues look. It’s part roadside attraction, part museum, and a lot of fun.
1. Jurassic Park. I was, based on my scientific research, the perfect age when the movie came out in 1993: I was eleven. I remember what a huge event it was, sitting in the theater with my family and friends, opening night. For the younger generations it must be hard to imagine how groundbreaking the CGI effects were at the time. We’ve NEVER seen anything like that. We’ve never before seen anything on screen that didn’t have to be built in the real world. To us, the dinosaurs in Spielberg’s classic truly looked alive. That said, even back then I found the science behind the movie exciting, the characters great, and the raptors scary as shit. This movie was much more than its special effects.
There are many honorable mentions that didn’t make the top 5: The Land Before Time, Vladimir Obruchev’s novel ‘Plutonia’ (which was one of the first books I read on my own), or the “Denver” cartoon series that didn't age well, but instead turned into a fantastic 80's time capsule with its skateboarding cool kids and their awesome haircuts and sunglasses.