Sunday, May 3, 2015

Son of Dinosaurs

Back in the 1980s, when the Disney Channel was still a premium network, a series of dinosaur-themed specials aired that captivated kids everywhere. They were hosted by Gary Owens, a prolific DJ and voice actor who was the original Space Ghost, and writer and TV personality Eric Boardman. At the time, I was already obsessed with dinosaurs and my relatives recall me being able to spell their long names at an unusually young age. In those pre-internet times, it was much harder to find something you wanted to see if you had missed it and so you used the available technology to take the proper precautions. Son of Dinosaurs, an hour-long special that aired in 1988, had been taped onto an old VHS and that was how I watched it...and I watched it many many times. I still remember how in order to get to the beginning, you had to fast forward through footage of my family's vacation to Florida.

The shows were a mixture of educational visits to various museums and parks and silly side-stories featuring the two hosts. In one other special, Gary was actually turned into a "Garyosaurus," complete with mustache. I'm not sure why Son of Dinosaurs was the one I liked best. It might have been the novelty of its meta-premise - Gary and Eric are entrusted with a dinosaur egg that has a still living embryo inside it and decide to produce another dinosaur special as a means of doing some additional research. There was a lot of variety squeezed into this hour, including a visit to a black-tie "dinosaur ball" at a Los Angeles museum, a look at paleontologist digging sites in Alberta, Canada and my favorite bit, footage of Loch Ness that concludes with a pan under the lake's surface that seques into a stop-motion Nessie prowling around. When I actually got to visit Loch Ness many years later, that scene wasn't far from my mind.

The science in these shows is already quite dated (no feathered dinosaurs here) and I expected that they had been lost to time or restricted to bootleg VHSs like mine. But then I found out (can't remember how) that they actually were released on a couple DVDs. I recently ordered one that had three of the specials on it and obviously decided to watch Son of Dinosaurs first. Right from the first bit of footage, I got hit with a huge deja vu/nostalgia bomb. Once that wore off, it was delightful to see that it was still as enjoyable and pleasant as I remembered it. There's none of that darkness that has accompanied some of the other stuff in this series. This was just doing what good educational programming does - making learning fun. And I still want to go to that zoo in Alberta with all the life-size dinosaur replicas. That place looked awesome as a kid and it looks awesome now.