August 31, 2009
Summer might be coming to an end, but the Dinosaur Hall in the National Museum of Natural History still echoes with the voices of tourists. As a spinoff of DCist’s fantastic weekly series “Overheard in DC, here’s our version of “Overheard at the Museum”:
An older gentleman: “I always thought they were five stories high or something, the way they talk about them.”
A young child near the Stegosaurus: “Look at the shark, Dad. See, the shark jaw?”
A little kid, looking at the Stegosaurus: “Mom, that’s not real bone!”
Mom: “How do you know that?”
Child: “Look at it!”
Man with a camera: “Well, I couldn’t get the dinosaur to smile.”
A girl, looking up at a pterodactyl: “Whoa, he looks like he’s about to eat me!”
A little girl: “That’s a very dead Stegosaurus.”
A young girl talking on a cell phone: “Me and my daddy are downstairs, and we saw some beautiful, real dinosaurs. It’s okay that we saw real dinosaurs because they’re dead. The T. rexes are dead, too.”
“That one looks exactly like Rexy,” says a girl, referencing the T. rex from Night at the Museum.
A little boy looking at a pterodactyl: “That’s a big old bird.” (Ed. Note: They are all big birds!) Oops! Thanks to our commenter for catching our error!
A dad to his daughter, while looking at the pterodactyl: “Look at some of the birds that used to fly way back then.”
A little girl looking at the Camarasaurus: “It’s laying down; it’s dead.”
A little boy near a “Life in the Ancient Seas” display: “Poor little fish, he’s alone out of the water.”
– Abby Callard
November 28, 2008
The hottest piece of prehistory this holiday season is bound to be KOTA, Playskool’s two-and-half-foot-tall baby Triceratops robot, who is popping up on the Christmas lists, and gadget blogs, of the in-crowd. (The guys at Popular Mechanics have already proclaimed it a “chick magnet.”)
This plush animatron is equipped with 11 sensors and can wiggle its horns and make all sorts of endearingly quizzical expressions and “realistic” dinosaur movements.
Speak to KOTA and he (she?) roars back; tickle KOTA, KOTA laughs. KOTA also snores and sort of snuffles – to be honest, kids, KOTA at times sounds very much like your father on a slow morning. The $300 dino even makes a munching noise when devouring leafy snacks, which come included with the toy. Also included is a volume-control device – you’re welcome, Mom! The only bad news for us big folks is that KOTA’s spring-loaded saddle has a 60-pound weight limit.
– Abigail Tucker
October 17, 2008
After looking through the feedback from last week’s post on dinosaur movies, The Valley of Gwangi seems to have a fan base, and it’s easy to see why. It’s got plot: a cowboy seeks fame and fortune by capturing a dinosaur living in the Forbidden Valley and putting in it a Mexican circus.
It’s got James Franciscus, at roughly the midpoint in a career that reached all the way from “Naked City” to “Secret Weapons” (aka “Sexpionage”). And it’s got dinosaurs by the monumental Ray Harryhausen, who has reportedly acknowledged that he sometimes confused Allosaurus with Tyrannosaurus, but hey — they’re both carnivores, so what of it?
Commenter Kanti Sharma astutely notes that the movies on the original list are comic or “non-serious.” But that’s not entirely the case. I may be mistaken, but the Bulgarian entry (“Madam Dinosaur”) seems to be sincere, in a fairy-tale kind of way. Which would put it in a different league from, say, “Caveman” and “Dinosaur Valley Girls” (shout-outs to commenters Michael Stearns and Sean Craven, respectively). Or my new favorite dinosaur title, “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs,” a television series from 1993. Anyone seen it?
And can anyone tell me why dinosaurs tempt the camp gene in movie makers like no other life form? How come we never see movies like “A Nymphoid Barbarian in Mutant Sushi Hell?,” or “The Valley of the Rabid Poodles?”
October 10, 2008
Five non-blockbuster dinosaur movies:
Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) After betting some other artists that he can, too, draw a dinosaur, Winsor Z. McCay draws friendly herbivore named Gertie—and then enters own picture. Gertie takes her creator carefully on her back for a ride.
The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy (1915) Cavemen Stonejaw Steve and the Duke vie for the attentions of Miss Araminta Rockface, but Theophilus Ivoryhead wins out after he is mistaken as the slayer of Wild Willie, the Missing Link—a monkey-man who had terrorized the countryside.
A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1991) (pictured above) Tagline: “Where the prehistoric meets the prepubescent.” In a post-Armageddon world, a young woman finds herself in a fight for survival against mutant cavemen, dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.
Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur (1939) Millions and billions and trillions of years ago, Caspar Caveman and his pet dinosaur, Fido, come up against Daffy when they’re out duck hunting.
Gospozha Dinozavar (“Madam Dinosaur” in Bulgarian) (2002) To escape from her parents’ constant fighting, Nusha imagines a world in which animals, dinosaurs, birds and people sing, dance and fly. When Nusha’s parents invite Madam Dinosaur to take care of the girl, M. Dinosaur befriends her by explaining existential problems, and she includes her new babysitter in her imaginary world. Nusha and Madam Dinosaur sing their dialogue.
These are actual movies. But there have to be more out there. What are your favorite dinosaur movies, both good and horrifyingly bad?
– Tom Frail
October 7, 2008
What is it about dinosaurs that make them so compelling? Why do people, and in particular kids, throng to dinosaur exhibits and collect all manner of ancient reptile paraphernalia? Other than the bubbly, purple Barney, these creatures are fearsome with their incredible bulk, jagged teeth and armor-like plates. Yet kids love them, especially the young ones. Long before pre-schoolers have mastered more conventional vocabulary they can rattle off the multisyllabic names of these beasts. Whatever the explanation for their popularity, dinosaurs attract audiences and the IMAX movie Dinosaurs 3D: Giants of the Patagonia is doing just that.
Playing at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the movie is pulling in streams of viewers eager to see a time when reptiles ruled the earth, and in particular when they roamed Patagonia in southern Argentina, a region where paleontologist Dr. Rodolfo Coria has been discovering the fossils of new dinosaur species. Narrated by Donald Sutherland, the movie focuses on the lives of simulated dinosaurs in their prehistoric ecosystem, with only passing reference to the painstaking paleontological spadework that led to the discoveries of these dinosaurs. The computer-generated images of the reptiles are impressive. The 3-D effects amplify the heft of these prehistoric creatures. And the featured dinosaurs are huge! The plant-eating Argentinosaurus, possibly the largest of all the dinosaurs, stretched 120 feet fully grown and the carnivorous upright Gigantosaurus was still imposing at 45 feet long and 8 tons.
Waiting to enter the theater, a young boy already sporting the 3-D glasses is barely able to keep still while sitting on a bench. Six-year-old Han from New Jersey has been enamored with dinosaurs since he was three and his favorite is the T. rex. “I know all about dinosaurs,” he says, “but some things I don’t know.” A sentiment the movie uncannily echoes when paleontologist Coria remarks that the number of questions about dinosaurs grows bigger than the number of answers. Apparently, Han is merely exhibiting the insight of a budding paleontologist. Coria’s work wins other converts. After a scene of the scientist examining a dinosaur footprint, a little boy stage whispers to his mother, “I want to become a paleontologist when I grow up.”
Dinosaurs 3D begins with a cosmic explosion that startles the audience, producing a group flinch. “I’m scared,” says a little girl. “You’re supposed to be,” says her older brother. The movie seems intended to elicit physical responses. There’s nothing like an immense dinosaur lunging at you to get the adrenalin surging. The 3-D heightens this effect. Flying reptiles zoom out at the audience. Younger viewers reach out to touch deceptively close dinos. An older man swats away a dragonfly hovering near his face despite knowing on some level that it’s only an image on the screen. Naturally, there’s a lot of teeth baring, tail whipping, foot stomping and aggressive roaring in encounters between species. The action even gets grudging respect from an older boy indifferent to the ancient reptiles—“That was almost cool.”
The movie ends with the arrival of an asteroid that sets in motion the extinction of the dinosaurs. “The movie made me sad,” said Jordan, age 6, from Houston, after seeing the demise of his favorite creatures. He’s not comforted by the upbeat, concluding note pointing out dinosaurs’ evolutionary connection to today’s birds. But if that’s small solace, at least the prehistoric creatures come staggeringly alive again onscreen.
– Lyn Garrity