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"Dinosaur King" is Prehistoric Poop

by on September 24, 2008

I’m not sure what’s worse about Dinosaur King: the fact that such an abysmally bad toy commercial disguised as a cartoon was made at all, or the fact that the few, clumsily inserted factoids in each episode means it probably qualifies as “educational and informational programming.” About the only good thing about it is its low price, so parents won’t have to spend too much money on the pre-teen kids screaming for it.

Max, Rex, and Zoe with Chomp, Ace, and Paris, and I needed to look that up even though I watched all 5 episodesDinosaur King is what you get if you take Pokémon, replace the names of the lead characters, replace the video game monsters with dinosaurs, and suck out whatever meager charms were to be had in the original. All the episodes are the same: some Dinosaur King tchotchke is found in some remote corner of the world, leading to a dinosaur battle over it between the show’s good guys (the D-team) and bad guys (the Alpha team). Occasionally, one of the D-team members Learns a Lesson, too. Repeat ad infinitum (or at least for the five episodes contained on this DVD, which is the first of what threatens to be many). There’s also one or two quasi-educational tidbits bolted onto each episode. (Did you know that the Great Wall of China is one of the greatest architectural marvels ever built?) They’re exactly the kind of clumsily handled faux-educational bits that the under-appreciated Teacher’s Pet lampooned in every episode, except Dinosaur King seems serious about it.

The animation is sub-Pokémon level, loaded with animation tricks to keep costs down, like infinitely recycled sequences, badly done pan-imation, and animation almost as limited as those old Clutch Cargo shows that superimposed filmed lips over still images. For some reason, Dinosaur King also opted to do the dinosaurs in CGI. The end results aren’t as scratch-your-eyes-out awful as Dragonlance, although the reason why is probably that the poorly animated CGI dinosaurs don’t interact with anything but each other. Using the CGI also allows the show to pad each episode’s running time with a few transformation sequences as the cute, cel-drawn dinos turn into their giant, photorealistic versions.

Big Chomp with his kid. I've forgotten his name already.The DVD manifests the same cheap production values as the show. For some odd reason, the TV-Y7 age rating badge was left in each episode, as though 4Kids or Sega couldn’t be bothered to remove them or Shout! Factory couldn’t afford to. At least each episode contains chapter stops to allow marathon viewers to skip over the opening credits easily. The soundtrack is only in English. (Not that the show could possibly be much better in the original Japanese.) The only extras are two commercials: one brief bit of nonsense ostensibly about Triceratops and one trailer for the Dinosaur King Nintendo DS video game.

TV commercial cartoons have been around for decades, and odds are they won’t go away any time soon. However, shows like G.I. Joe and Transformers at least managed to give us characters to care about, and Pokémon had its endearingly odd bits, like the highly developed Pokémon ecosystem or the thousands of Officer Jennys and Nurse Joys sprinkled throughout the world. In contrast, Dinosaur King has pathetically little to recommend it. I’d have to hit Ratatoing before finding a cartoon that’s worse. Everything about this DVD stinks of a cheap cash grab. I let my curiosity get the better of me when I volunteered to pick up this title; don’t make the same mistake with your money.

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