Dominion”, an example of the historical link between animation and dinosaurs

Jurassic World Domain the latest example of the fascination generated by dinosaurs
“Jurassic World Dominion”, the latest example of the fascination generated by dinosaurs.

The fascination with dinosaurs is not something new. The recent release of “Jurassic World: Dominion”, the sixth installment of the saga that began in 1993 with the film “Jurassic Park” -which in turn is based on the book of the same title by the American writer Michael Crichton- highlights the renewed interest generated by vertebrates that were dominant for 135 million years. The film in its theatrical debut grossed 143.4 million dollars and has already collected some 493.2 million dollars globally.

To show the beings that reigned from the beginning of the Jurassic, about 200 million years ago, until the end of the Cretaceous, 66 million years ago, in this saga created by Steven Spielberg two resources were used: on the one hand, computer-generated animation, and on the other, animatronicsthat is, the use of robotic or electronic mechanisms that simulate the appearance and behavior of living beings.

Jurassic World Cretaceous Camp is a fully animated series that will soon premiere its fifth season
“Jurassic World -Cretaceous Camp” is a fully animated series that will soon premiere its fifth season.

Almost three decades after its release, and with six films and a short film, the quality of the special effects continues to attract attention. If you compare the level of animation with other productions of the time, you will notice how advanced it was for its time.

To the six films is added “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous”, an animated series released on Netflix in September 2020 and whose fifth season is about to be released. It tells the adventures of six teenagers who are stranded on Isla Nublar and are stalked by rampaging dinosaurs.

Gertie was the first named character with a personality in cartoon history.
Gertie was the first named character with a personality in cartoon history.

The idea of ​​using animation to show dinosaurs dates back more than a century. In fact, the first character with a proper name, was a brontosaurus named Gertie, created by one of the pioneers, Winsor McCay, in 1914.

Early on, McCay used the film to interact with the audience in his vaudeville act and show how the playful, childlike creature performed tricks under his master’s command. Later, McCay’s employer, none other than publisher and tycoon William Randolph Hearst, asked him to cut out vaudeville and stick to theatrical releases. McCay added an introduction sequence with actors, including himself, and the film was renamed “Winsor McCay the Famous Cartoonist and Gertie.”

Since then, there are a multitude of examples of this virtuous relationship.

“There is a kind of obsession or very marked relationship between animation and dinosaurs,” said specialist Juan Francisco Páez in a program dedicated to this topic on the “Animated Landmarks” podcast.

In the same chapter, the art historian Sofía Pogg explained that “a great leg of non-fictional animation has to do with reconstruct what cannot be captured by a photographic or film camerathere are certain natural phenomena that exist or existed, in this case the dinosaurs, which are part of reality and that we cannot film, like everything that happened before the camera was invented and not to mention what existed before the humans.”

Between Gertie and the latest animated series from the “Jurassic Park” license there are a multitude of examples.

The relationship between animation and dinosaurs, in the podcast Milestones Animated

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At the same time that McCay unveiled his creation, Willis O’Brien presented a silent comedy, called “The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy” (“The dinosaur and the missing link: a prehistoric tragedy”), also known as “The Dinosaur and the Baboon” (“The dinosaur and the baboon”), from 1915. It was animated with the technique of stop-motionthat is, frame-by-frame animation that allows the appearance of the movement of static objects.

In 1921was presented “The First Circus” (“The First Circus”), a silent animated short directed by Tony Sarg and Herbert M. Dawley featuring a pair of prehistoric performers swinging on a brontosaurus. A copy of this film was kept by the US Library of Congress.

The foundational characters of animation had their encounters with dinosaurs. For example in “Felix the Cat Trifles with Time” (“Felix the cat plays with time”), by 1925is a silent short with the first star of the world of animation traveling to the prehistoric past.

That same year, it premiered “The Lost World” (“The Lost World”), based on the homonymous novel written by Arthur Conan Doyle, the book that popularized “dinomania”. The film was directed by Harry Hoyt and was filmed in Venezuela. In charge of stop motion animation was O’Brien, mentioned above.

In a classic such as “King Kong”, from 1933, a tyrannosaurus, a stegosaurus and a brontosaurus appear on the island of the giant gorilla, all animated in stop-motion.

The Looney Toones fantasized about the coexistence between human dinosaurs and anthropomorphic animals like Bugs Lucas or Porky
The Looney Toones fantasized about the coexistence between humans, dinosaurs and anthropomorphic animals such as Bugs, Lucas or Porky.

The classic era of Looney Tunes, there are several examples. “Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur”from 1939; “Porky in the prehistoric age”, from 1940; either “Prehistoric Rabbit”from 1958, starring Bugs Bunny.

In 1940, the Fleischer studio also presented “Stone Age Cartoons”twelve shorts set in the Stone Age, where humans coexist with dinosaurs.

In “Fancy”from that same year, there is an anthology scene set to music with “The Rite of Spring”, by Igor Stravinsky, where the story of the Earth is told, with the rise and fall of the dinosaurs. This segment, about 20 minutes long, contrasts with the rest of the film due to its documentary record, where everything is imagination, as the title of the film indicates.

Fantasy an all time classic
“Fantasia”, an all-time classic.

As stated from the beginning, stop motion has been a privileged resource to reflect the dinosaurs.

Another example is “Journey to the Beginning of Time”, a 1955 Czechoslovak color film directed by Karel Zeman where actors appear in conjunction with prehistoric creatures.

Ray Harryhasuen responsible for creating many dinosaurs and monstrous creatures of all kinds
Ray Harryhasuen, responsible for creating many dinosaurs and monstrous creatures of all kinds.

the great director Ray Harryhausenone of the great masters of the frame-by-frame animation technique, created several anthological dinosaurs, such as in “A million years ago”from 1966, again insists on the idea of ​​dinosaurs and cavemen living together.

A memorable case that reflects the idea that dinosaurs and humans lived together -a belief that is even more established than is usually considered- is “The Flintstones”an iconic series for the whole family released in 1960. Here, dinosaurs are mostly tools, vehicles and food, except for Dino, a canine dinosaur, Pedro and Vilma’s pet.

With scientific advances, representations began to change.

By case, “Prehistoric Beast”, in an experimental animation conceived and directed by Phil Tippett in 1984 and which was made with the go motion animation technique, a variant of stop motion invented by Tippett for “The Empire Strikes Back” and where the model or object being animando is moved while being photographed. Scenes from “Prehistoric Beast” were included in the documentary “Dinosaur!” televised on CBS.

Don Bluth created a dinosaur story that refers to Bambi
Don Bluth created a dinosaur story that refers to Bambi.

In 1988, the entertainer Don Bluththe first to compete against the Disney studios, “Littlefoot in search of the Enchanted Valley”, reminiscent of “Bambi”. Here the dinosaurs speak and have feelings, but they do not appear mixed with humans. From its success, 13 follow-up films were made, a true record for sequels.

In 2000, some 60 years after “Fantasia”, Disney returned to the prehistoric genre, with “Dinosaur”, by Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag. In 2015, Pixar returned to the theme with “Arlo’s Journey”.

On a documentary level, an inescapable reference is “Walking with dinosaurs”, a BBC television series released in 2013. For experts, it is the most realistic version of dinosaurs that has ever been projected on any screen. “It shows that dinosaurs go about their daily business, like you’re watching a nature documentary,” paleontologist Steve Brusatte, author of the book “The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs,” told Entertainment Weekly.

This tour cannot be closed without mentioning appearances of dinosaurs in series that have another theme.

An outstanding example in our country is that of “Zamba’s amazing excursion to the Museum of Natural Sciences”thanks to which many boys and girls got to know the scientist Florentino Ameghino and the discoveries of dinosaur bones made in Argentina.

Dinosaurs appeared on Zamba excursions
Dinosaurs appeared on Zamba excursions.

In series dedicated to school audiences such as Pocoyo either Peppa Pig dinosaurs also appear. In the case of the boy in blue, with an educational intention. In the series starring the family of little pigs, the youngest, George, has an obsession with dinosaurs. It is almost the only word that he pronounces and he even celebrates the birthday of two of him in a museum, with the theme of dinosaurs. And his favorite toy, how could it be otherwise, is a dinosaur.

It is not the only toy dinosaur: in the different movies of “Toy Story”, other examples appear: Rex and TrixieAndy’s green tyrannosaurus, and Bonnie’s blue triceratops.

It is clear that the beings that dominated the world millions of years ago are still in force.

Rex and Trixie toy dinosaurs with their own personalities
Rex and Trixie, toy dinosaurs with their own personalities.

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