I’m not as much of a Jurassic Park fan as Ace is, which is to say that I really never got into the franchise and felt only a mild contact excitement from the announcement, and subsequent release, of Jurassic World. This is not to say, however, that I never had a dinosaur phase. Back in elementary school I, right alongside many of my peers, was going on fake fossil hunts and learning all about the various eras in dinosaur history. One of my fondest memories of my dinosaur phase was sitting at my grandmother’s house with my brother watching this one Golden Book educational video she had. Oh my god, you guys: we loved this video. It was a staple on our cross-country trips until, sadly, the VHS finally deteriorated from being loved too much. So today, I want to share this little bit of my childhood with you. It may not be Jurassic in quality, but 1987’s Dinosaurs! A Fun-Filled Trip Back In Time! was everything a kid like me could have wanted in an educational video: Fred Savage, claymation, and a snazzy musical track. (This song will absolutely get stuck in your head forever.)
The main premise is this: Fred Savage is in trouble because he has a report due the next day, but he has no idea what to write about! Fortunately, his room is filled with dinosaur paraphernalia which gives him the amazing idea to write his report on—surprise, surprise—dinosaurs! From there, we go through a very visceral, but thoroughly un-educational trek through a dinosaur jungle, and finally sit in the classroom as Fred Savage’s character (now voiced by someone other than Fred Savage) gives his report, which makes his classmates incredibly rowdy for some reason. From various species, to taxonomy, to the possible reasons why the dinosaurs went extinct, for less than half an hour, the video covers a lot for a little kid to remember.
Or, it felt that way at the time. Upon watching it with my friend a couple months ago, I learned that apparently with age I lost the ability to follow the narrative in the video partially. I can only assume that it was my familiarity with the video itself that led me to not being completely lost like my friend was. But hey, we’re not the target audience.
Though these days the animation does look kind of shoddy, what I’m still impressed by is that the video doesn’t hold back some of the darker facts from its audience. It’s not hidden at all that dinosaurs eat other dinosaurs, and that sometimes even the eggs and babies aren’t safe from the food chain. Furthermore, there’s a surprisingly morbid scene at the end where a dinosaur is faced with its own mortality; all of its friends being dead, without a food source and, as we know, potentially meteors heading to Earth, we know that dinosaur isn’t long for the world either. Certainly it’s not the grittiest thing—still presented via claymation, and the dinosaur comically cries big crocodile tears—but I can appreciate an educational video laying out the facts without trying to make them more palatable to a younger audience (or more likely—their parents).
While the animation is a total joke, even now I think the claymation stands up, especially given the low budget of the video. I still find myself smiling when I see the T-Rex and the Triceratops eating at the same table. If you have thirty minutes to spare, I can’t say I recommend watching it per se, but it’s not a bad little experience. In fact, you may even enjoy the strange sort of humor the video has—lord knows me and my brother still joke to each other about “Margaret’s mother” from time to time. If you’re interested in making your day a little more Mesozoic, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube here!