Jim Henson was a creative genius. Who among us hasn’t grown up with his immortal Sesame Street characters? In the years leading up to his untimely death from pneumonia, The Henson Creature Shoppe had begun to expand out of its Muppet roots. The Dark Crystal was an amazing breakthrough in puppetry technology. One of Henson’s last ideas was about a family of dinosaurs. Sadly, Henson passed before his vision could be fully realized. Fortunately for us his son Brian has continued the Henson tradition, beginning with Dinosaurs.
This was no ordinary sitcom. Each character was a sophisticated animated puppet as well as a suit performer. In all, it took four people to bring each character to life. Combined with the familiar voice talents of the likes of Sally Struthers and Sherman Hemsley, a “man in a suit”, and 2 animatronics puppeteers, these hysteric prehistoric characters were brought remarkably to life. Like The Flintstones, Dinosaurs was modeled after the popular 50’s comedy The Honeymooners. Earl was very much a Jackie Gleason clone from his “king of my castle” attitude to his bulky frame. Like Ralph, Earl had a meek and somewhat simple minded pal. Roy was as much an Art Carney clone as Earl was Ralph Kramden. Even Roy’s voice echoed Norton The show diverged from its Honeymooner roots with the addition of two children. Robbie was very much a rebel against the sins of his society. Charlene was the typical valley girl who cared more about the latest fashions than anything else. Fran, the mother, was a somewhat modern woman who still managed to juggle independence with traditional roles. Finally the best laughs and lines came from newly arrived Baby Sinclair. His “:Not the momma” , “Again!” and “Gotta love me” chants became pop culture mainstays.
What all of this boils down to is some very funny moments. Dinosaurs was one of the most original and funny shows ever to reach the television screen. The stories were capable of making some quite serious social commentaries while still keeping you rolling with laughter. Never before has environmental exploitation, sexual harassment, unemployment, corruption, and violence been so… well … funny.
Each episode of Dinosaurs is presented in its original full frame broadcast ratio. These are pretty good transfers. Color is often muted, but I suspect it has more to do with the source material. The picture is sharp and definition is strong for a television sitcom. Something here I’ve noticed with a few older shows, particularly sitcoms, is a color phasing effect at times. It’s almost like a macro vision fade. While it doesn’t show up often, it does happen on select episodes including the Pilot. All in all, these episodes will look every bit as good as they did years ago on your broadcast television set.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is about all I expected. Dialogue is clear, and honestly there isn’t much else here for the audio to do. The main theme is a bass heavy melody that could drive the subs much better than it does, but that’s such a minor complaint that it doesn’t really take away anything here. Luckily the dynamic range is wide enough that you won’t experience any distortion or splatter.
First I should comment on the packaging. The slim box holds a fold out that contains four discs. While the overall design is fine, I must again take exception to the trend of stacking discs overlapping each other. It requires you to remove disc 1 to get to disc 2. At least they are single-sided with some rather sweet artwork on the discs.
Many very short features are presented in the “Easter egg” style. Move your select cursor around a bit and you’ll highlight several eggs that direct you to unnamed features. The best of these offers a closer look at some of the character suits/puppets.
There are two nice advertised features:“Prehysteric Times” is a 13 minute look at the creation of the show. Brian Hensen and other members of the creation team pay proper homage to Jim Henson and his ideas. It’s a pleasant surprise. Most of these older sitcoms get nothing at all.“The Sketches That Started It All” I expected your basic gallery here. I was pleased to find a 6 minute look at the sketches guided by one of the show’s creators.
There were only five episodes in the first season, so I am pleased to see the first two combined on this initial release. Disney did a commendable job in delivering it to us with a few extras to help make it worthwhile. I absolutely recommend these shows to anyone who likes to laugh. It’s a rare family-friendly series. You can share it with your kids as long as you don’t mind hearing Baby Sinclair’s lines over and over again coming out of your four year old. Trust me. They will. Overall this is a show you’re going to want to watch over and over “Again!”.