walking with dinosaurs (1999)

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Before WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (1999, Dir. Tim Haines & Jasper James) there was…

64,000,000 YEARS AGO (1981, Dir. Bill Maylone).

Produced by the National Film Board of Canada with stop-motion animation by Bill Maylone, this short docu-drama concerns life in the late Cretaceous, just before the end of the reign of the dinosaurs. Featured creatures include Ornithomimus, Edmontosaurus, Ankylosaurus​, Triceratops and, of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex.

In his forward to Roy P. Webber’s The Dinosaur Films of Ray Harryhausen (McFarland Press, 2004), Maylone writes that he first began shopping 64,000,000 YEARS AGO around to various studios in 1975 and faced numerous rejections before eventually finding a benefactor in the Canadian NFB.

Though inspired by the stop-motion animation of Harryhausen, it should be said that Maylone’s style is much closer to that of claymation master Will Vinton (see Vinton’s own short, Dinosaurs, from the year before, 1980) then that of the articulated models used by Harryhausen. This is particularly evident in the T. Rex which, as even Mark F. Berry observed in his The Dinosaur Filmography (McFarland Press, 2002), looks a tad more cartoonish here then usually presented.

world-venturings  asked:

Hey, do you have any documentaries or movie recommendations on dinosaurs? Thanks :)

Oh I have loads! Please keep in mind the date when each of these was made - it has a huge influence on how the dinosaurs were reconstructed; we’ve learned a lot in the past fifteen years alone, and it’s important to keep that in mind and take some of the reconstructions with grains of salt. 

But my favorites would have to be: 

Walking With Dinosaurs (1999, BBC) 
When Dinosaurs Roamed America (2001, Discovery Channel) 
The Ballad of Big Al (2001, BBC) 
Walking with Beasts (2001, BBC) 
Chased By Dinosaurs (2002, BBC)
Dinosaur Planet (2003, Discovery Channel)
Walking with Monsters (2005, BBC)
Prehistoric Park (2006, ITV)
Planet Dinosaur (2011, BBC)
Dinosaur Revolution (2011, Discovery Channel) 
Dinosaur 13 (2014, Independent Film by Todd Douglas Miller)
T. rex Autopsy (2015, National Geographic)

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Stegosaurus - “Roof/Covered Lizard”

1. Walking with Dinosaurs (1999)
2. When Dinosaurs Roamed America (2001)
3. Jurassic Fight Club (2008)
4. Planet Dinosaur (2011)

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Before WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (1999, Dir. Tim Haines & Jasper James) there was…

DINOSAURS: THE TERRIBLE LIZARDS (1971, Dir. Wah Chang)

DINOSAURS: THE TERRIBLE LIZARDS is a 10-minute educational short film conceived and directed by special-effects artist Wah Chang (1917-2003). Chang’s first special-effects job was the ill-fated King Kong parody THE LOST ISLAND (1934, Dir. LeRoy Prinz) that was never finished - and is now tragically lost - due to the film going over budget.

In the late 1950s, Chang formed his own special-effects company, Project Unlimited Inc., which he co-founded with Gene Warren and Tim Baar. Together these men went on to do the bulk of the special-effects work on both the original THE OUTER LIMITS (1963-1965) and STAR TREK (1966-1969) television series. Chang also worked for acclaimed science-fiction director George Pal on such films as THE TIME MACHINE (1960) and 7 FACES OF DR. LAO (1964) - the later of which I’ll have to post about at some point here as it features one of the finest Loch Ness Monsters ever committed to film.

Pal recommended Project Unlimited to the late great B-movie producer Jack H. Harris (1918-2017) who inquired about stop-motion dinosaur effects on a film, DINOSAURUS! (1960), that Harris was making for Universal-International with his directing partner Irvin Yeaworth. This experience in turn inspired Chang to make DINOSAURS: THE TERRIBLE LIZARDS nearly a decade later.

While technically a documentary what makes DINOSAURS: THE TERRIBLE LIZARDS notable as a precursor to WALKING WITH DINOSAURS is its decidedly cinematic quality. As Mark F. Berry notes in The Dinosaur Filmography (McFarland Press, 2002)…

“The Pteranodons, for instance, do not merely glide through blank sky, but are instead shown in the background of a dramatic up-angle shot of Lambeosaurus. When T. rex and the Styracosaurus are distracted by the volcanic eruption, Chang doesn’t just cut back and forth but offers some nifty composites of the stop-motion dinosaurs staring at the real volcano. Even the simplest shots demonstrate Chang’s artist eye.” (p. 84)  

For DINOSAURS: THE TERRIBLE LIZARDS, Chang manufactured all the stop-motion puppets himself while the animation was executed by Doug Beswick. While not as dynamic or as polished as the animation of Ray Harryhausen or Jim Danforth, the strength of Chang’s work was his ability to do an awful lot with very little. A key example of this was Chang’s budget saving technique for manufacturing multiple ceratopsians for this short. In this case Chang produced a single body and then several interchangeable upper-jaws which could be swapped in and out allowing for Chang to produce a film which featured not only the classic Triceratops but also Chasmosaurus, Styracosaurus, and Monoclonius.

Chang’s ability to produce striking work with a meager budget proved to be an additional​ boon a few years later when he recycled many of the dinosaurs made here for Sid and Marty Krofft’s LAND OF THE LOST (1974–1976).

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Before WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (1999, Dir. Tim Haines & Jasper James) there was…

MUTTABURRASAURUS; LIFE IN GONDWANA (1993, Dir. Norman Yeend & Graham Binding)

This is another half-hour educational documentary on Australian dinosaurs, created by Sydney based stop-motion artists and model makers Norman Yeend and Graham Binding. Shot on 35mm film in Binding’s garage, the various animals were all constructed by Yeend who used foam latex rubber, with machined aluminium, ball & socket armatures inside.

However, unlike ONCE UPON AUSTRALIA (1995, Dir. Nick Hilligoss), which was solely stop-motion animation, MUTTABURRASAURUS is closer to NBC’s DINOSAUR! (1985, Dir. Robert Guenette) in that it used short stop-motion vignettes to illustrate the scientific theories of various paleontologists who appeared as talking heads in the documentary.

In total Yeend and Binding shot 10 minutes of stop-motion animation which together told the story of a juvenile Muttaburrasaurus separated from his herd. Heading out into the wider world he encounters numerous other creatures including Kakuru, a flock of feasting pterosaurs, a mother Plesiosaurs, a heard of fleeing Leaellynasaura and an abelisaurid-like Rapator before being reunited with his heard at a communal watering hole at sunset.

Because the animation sequences were shot to be viewed as a single complete short, Yeend tells me that MUTTABURRASAURUS was released theatrical in Australia as a short film shown before screenings of the 1993 traditionally animated movie WE’RE BACK! A DINOSAUR’S STORY (Dir. Dick Zondag, Ralph Zondag, Phil Nibbelink & Simon Wells). It was later released on VHS.

Today MUTTABURRASAURUS is a rare film, but Yeend has uploaded much of the animation sequences on to YouTube, albeit in 3-minute clips. Seen here is the sequence where the juvenile Muttaburrasaurus heads down to the beach after being separated from his heard. It was the first sequence I ever saw and is one of the short’s best overall.
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So part of what got it in my head that it was time to rewatch WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (1999, Dir. Tim Haines & Jasper James) was honestly all of last week's​ posts about Disney’s DINOSAUR (2000, Dir. Ralph Zondag & Eric Leighton) and how similar the two are. Both were long gestating projects deemed financially undoable but which were finally brought to fruition as a result of the success of JURASSIC PARK (1993, Dir. Steven Spielberg). Both touted their use of life-like CGI dinosaurs composited into live-action photographed environments and both were a massive success as well as, in many ways, the final crescendo of 90s Dino-Mania (though you could reserve that distinction for JURASSIC PARK III [2001, Dir. Joe Johnson] too).

Of course WALKING WITH DINOSAURS and DINOSAUR are also very different productions too. After all one is a documentary, a work of non-fiction, while the other is a theatrical film, a work of fiction. Different. Right? Well not so fast… The line which separates dinosaur movie from dinosaur documentary isn’t always so clear.

Sure some productions like PLANET DINOSAUR (2011, Dir. Nigel Paterson) - often referred to as the thematic successor of 1999’s WALKING - is unquestionably a documentary. It may feature scenes of CGI dinosaurs tearing about but these are primarily illustrative with the bulk of the program actually dominated by paleontologists talking shop. In contrast programs like MARCH OF THE DINOSAURS (2011, Dir. Matthew Thompson) and DINOTASIA (2012, Dir. David Krentz) are attempts to tell a story about dinosaurs first and educate second. That puts them closer to films like Disney’s DINOSAUR or, more to the point, 2013’s WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (Dir. Neil Nightingale & Barry Cook). Of course, one might argue that it is the anthropomorphization of the dinosaurs in the later two films that truly separates them from that of a documentary but remember both Disney’s DINOSAUR and the 2013 WALKING WITH DINOSAURS film were originally conceived as completely silent and only had voices added to their dinosaurs later. Also anthropomorphization is not only achieved through speech. DINOTASIA doesn’t have a single talking dinosaur and yet has often been (unfairly, IMO) criticized for exaggerating its animal’s body language to human-like levels. And ultimately I would contend that it is actually impossible for any story about non-human animals told by humans to not feature some degree of anthropomorphization.

But anyway, the question here is, on what side of the spectrum does 1999’s WALKING WITH DINOSAURS fall? Is it closer to its 2013 theatrical decendent or its 2011 successor PLANET DINOSAUR?

In what I’m sure will be an anticlimactic answer for many, I think it’s neither. While WALKING ‘99 doesn’t feature any paleontological talking heads and Kenneth Branagh - despite his near incessant narration - relays little in the way of pure scientific evidence to viewers, neither does the show feature anything in the way of a real narrative - with the sole exception of Ep. 4 “Giant of the Sky” which does tell a fairly complete story about an aged Ornithocheirus’ last trek to its ancestral mating grounds. Otherwise, WALKING ‘99 just features various scenes of different animals doing random things. And while these scenes as a whole are great they don’t actually make-up a story, though they certainly helped to lay the groundwork for later programs and films which would.

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What weirds me out the most about the Utahraptors in WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (1999, Dir. Tim Haines & Jasper James) isn’t their lack of feathers or even that they are in Europe for some reason,* but that the filmmakers appear to have based their appearance off that of a Leopard Gecko of all things…

*I’ve heard that originally the writers had cast the British Baryonyx in the role occupied by the Utahraptors in Ep. 4 but that the powers-that-be at the BBC insisted that ‘raptors’ be worked into the series somewhere on account of the popularity of the Jurassic Park series. That might be nonsense but it sounds right…

anonymous asked:

As much as I loved WWD, and I did, I think When Dinosaurs Roamed America had a bigger impact on me. The scene where they showed you the theropod skeleton and had the lines "the wishbone, only found in birds" is what finally made my mind click from just "birds are related to dinosaurs" to "birds are theropod dinosaurs." That one line had that much impact.

LET’S TALK ABOUT WHEN DINOSAURS ROAMED AMERICA 

ONE OF THE MOST UNDERRATED DINO DOCS

First off, narrated by John Goodman, which is amazing 

SECOND OFF, THE FEATHERS 

This movie was released in 2001

Walking with Dinosaurs was only released two years earlier, in 1999. 

For context, Sinosauropteryx, the first known feathered non-avialan dinosaur, was found in 1996. 

WWD “raptor” dinosaur: 

When Dinosaurs Roamed America “raptor”: 

WWD Coelurosaur: 

WDRA Coelurosaur: 

WWD Therizinosaur (RELEASED IN 2002, AFTER WDRA!!!I): 

WDRA Therizinosaur: 

WWD Ornithomimus (In Prehistoric Park, an affiliated program that, while amazing, came out in 2006): 

WDRA Ornithomimid (Blurry, but clearly you can see fuzz): 

Now look, I’ll give you WDRA had more time to fix its dinosaurs after Sinosauropteryx, but less than two years (it was released earlier in the year than WWD, as far as my investigations found) is not really an excusable buffer time. ALSO, again, scaly Therizosaur & Ornithomimid in programs that came AFTER WDRA

WRDA took amazing, glorious strides in feather dinosaur representation, and honestly I think the fact that I watched it so much as a kid is why I’m so fascinated with feather evolution!!! 

THIRD OFF, THE BIRD COMPARISONS IN GENERAL

Because you’re absolutely right - the way WDRA phrased all of it, it was left unambiguous. The bird thing in WWD was just kind of tacked on to the end as an afterthought - “oh yeah, dinosaurs still live today as birds. LOL.” In WDRA it was shoved in your face at every turn, you couldn’t ignore it - Coelophysis was portrayed as a scaly, weird bird - the very first dinosaur shown was given the most birdlike behavior I’d seen in a dinosaur prior to that point. The Coelophysis in WWD don’t even come close

FOURTH OFF, THE T. REX

Look, it’s no secret I think T. rex is overrated. But these films were made when the whole “was T. rex a scavenger” controversy (note: it wasn’t a controversy. T. rex was never seriously considered to be exclusively a scavenger. Jack Horner has admitted to making that up to cause controversy). WWD falls prey to that, a little - T. rex is portrayed as kind of a bumbling predator, slow, a little dumb. In WDRA? Not so much. They live in groups, they hunt as a family, they’re alarmingly coordinated and smart - much more in line with what we knew about T. rex

FIFTH OFF, THE EDUCATION

Look, WWD was produced to be a fake nature documentary only. It didn’t touch on the science, the paleontology of it all - it presented speculative interpretations of evolution and paleontology as fact. WDRA also had documentary style presentation, but it cut out from that to talk about the fossils, the science behind it - and how the presented behaviors and reconstructions weren’t certain, only best guesses. I think WWD left behind a kind of toxic culture around dinosaurs that your interpretation can be considered fact, which simply isn’t true - the best part of dinosaur science is that we’re still learning so much. And WRDA highlighted that. 

Yeah, WRDA had its flaws. It only was about America - and I mean, let’s face it, global paleo needs love - and the “Syntarsus” versus Dilophosaurus segment was a little awesomebro-y. But overall, I think it did a much better job as both presenting dinosaurs as real animals (like WWD successfully did) and in teaching about paleontology as a science (as old documentaries did), all while keeping up with science expertly well. Look at all that floof! 

For it’s time, I sincerely would give it 9/10 stars. In fact, I think I might watch it again tomorrow.