Dinotopia is a four-hour (three-episode) TV miniseries co-produced by Walt Disney Television and Hallmark Entertainment. It is based on the fictional world of Dinotopia, a utopia in which anthropomorphic dinosaurs and humans coexist, created by American author James Gurney. The miniseries uses plot details from Gurney's first two Dinotopia books, Dinotopia (1992) and Dinotopia: The World Beneath (1995), although it takes place in a time farther into the future. The main characters are two American teenage boys from a contemporary time frame (unlike the 19th century castaways in the books—the film thus loses some of the classicism of the original books). The boys' father's plane crashes into the sea and they get stranded on Dinotopia, where they must adjust to a new society. The story in the film contains references to many of the characters in the book series, with some of their descendants occupying key roles in the plot. The original score was composed by Trevor Jones. This score is performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Alexander.
|Based on||Dinotopia by James Gurney|
|Written by||James Gurney|
|Directed by||Marco Brambilla|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||3|
|Executive producers||Robert Halmi Sr.|
Robert Halmi Jr.
William P. Cartlidge
|Editor||Oral Norrie Ottey|
|Camera setup||John Bailie|
|Running time||250 minutes (total)|
|Production companies||RTL Television Germany|
Mat 1 Productions
Walt Disney Television
|Distributor||Artisan Home Entertainment|
|Original release||May 12, 2002|
The miniseries premiered as installments of The Wonderful World of Disney from May 12–14, 2002 on ABC. It received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. It was soon followed by a television series which only lasted for one season.
A pair of teenage half-brothers, Karl and David Scott, are on a flight with their father Frank on his private plane when Karl takes over the controls, so his father can fall asleep. After flying into a storm, Karl struggles, causing Frank to retake control before it crashes into the ocean. Frank saves his sons, but has trouble escaping the crashed plane as his seatbelt fails to release. Karl and David wash up on the shore of a large uncharted island. Looking for help, Karl and David meet a man named Cyrus Crabb who informs them that they are in Dinotopia, a hidden civilization where human beings and dinosaurs co-exist peacefully. Crabb leads the boys to a village, where the boys are surprised to see that they are wearing clothes from different cultures in different time periods. There, they witness a young Dinotopian woman, Marion Waldo, pacify a Ankylsaurus with a toothache. The two boys befriend her and hitch a Brachiosaur "bus" ride to Waterfall City. During the journey, the "Brachs" become distressed by an unseen presence. Marion, David, Karl and the Brach bus conductor investigate the forest nearby and find Tyrannosaurus Rex footprints. Marion is unsettled by this, as Tyrannosaurus do not usually hunt in packs and that they are "not evil, just hungry by nature". She begins to sense a strange unbalance, after discovering the destroyed remains of a Dinotopian village. For the Brachs's safety, the group spends the night in the village. Later in the night, the group is attacked by the raiding T-Rex pack. Karl, David and Marion run for their lives, as the Tyrannosaurus hunt them down. Marion trips and falls, and is nearly killed by a T-Rex when a group of Skybax Riders, humans riding on large, short-tailed pterosaurs, distract and scare away the Tyrannosaurus. The Skybax squadron leader, Oonu, offers to escort the Brachs to Waterfall.
In fact, some of the dinosaurs, notably a neurotic but friendly Stenonychosaurus named Zipeau, possess human intelligence and speak perfect English. Among the many rules in Dinotopia is the edict that, once an outsider arrives, he or she is never allowed to leave. As Karl and David prepare to take their places in their new surroundings, both boys develop a strong bond with young Marion, who is on the verge of becoming a "matriarch" of the Dinotopian society. Legend has it that their ancestors lived in an underworld that was lit by sunstones. Cyrus has been stealing artifacts and books to try and find a way off the island. Zipeau discovers all the stolen items, but Cyrus knocks him out and throws him in a water canal. Meanwhile, Karl finds a Dino egg and gets sent on a mission by himself. The sun-stones keep mysteriously breaking which causes the dinos to attack. David needs to learn to conquer his fears. Unfortunately, the incursion of vicious carnivores, not to mention an unanticipated human villain, threaten to destroy Dinotopia and everyone living there.
- Wentworth Miller as David Scott; a dolphinback newly arrived to Dinotopia and Karl's half-brother. He becomes the first human to partner with a Pteranodon ("Freefall"). Bookish, practical yet kind, David is the brother who wants to stay in Dinotopia. He learns about reconciling differences with his brother and facing his fears (most notably his fear of heights) during his time in Dinotopia. He plays a heroic role in saving Waterfall City from a Pteranodon attack.
- Tyron Leitso as Karl Scott; a dolphinback newly arrived to Dinotopia and David's half-brother. He is partnered with a baby Chasmosaur he dubs 26. Reckless, rebellious, yet charming, Karl initially doesn't want to stay in Dinotopia and find the boys' father. He learns about responsibility during his time in Dinotopia. He plays a heroic role in opening the Dinotopians' eyes of the danger the failing sunstones and how their seeming arrogance has led them astray from the real issue of the imbalance.
- David Thewlis as Cyrus Crabb; the son of the books' villain Lee Crabb, and the main antagonist of the miniseries. Deceitful and underhanded, Cyrus Crabb has a derisive view towards Dinotopian Society.
- Katie Carr as Marion Waldo; a beautiful, young Dinotopian woman who is the granddaughter of the books' protagonist Oriana Nascava and the daughter of Mayor Waldo of Waterfall City. Level-headed, yet spunky and idealistic, she serves as David and Karl's guide in Dinotopia. She has a rebellious streak, but uses her rebelliousness for the greater good and believes in doing for what is right. Both Karl and David develop a crush on her. She and Zipeau share a platonic friendship and in the end, they become "Life Partners".
- Jim Carter as Lord Mayor Waldo Seville; the Mayor of Waterfall City, Rosemary's estranged husband, and Marion's father. At first appearing joyous over the Scott Brothers' arrival, he shows a dark side to his personality as an arrogant ruler who is oblivious of how urgency of the failing sunstones and the imminent dangers of the sunstones' failing. In spite of his arrogance, Mayor Waldo deeply cares for his daughter, Marion, and wants the best for her. Eventually, he does realize the error of his ways and comes to fully understand the danger of Dinotopia's fall. Following David's heroic actions in saving Dinotopia, he pardons the Scott brothers and awards David for his bravery.
- Alice Krige as Rosemary Waldo; the Matriarch of the Earth Farm, Waldo's estranged wife, and Marion's mother. A Level-headed, spiritually-centered pacifist, Rosemary has faith in Marion, even believing her claims that there is an imbalance, something her estranged husband has failed to notice. In the end, she gets back together with a reformed Mayor Waldo.
- Colin Salmon as Capt. Oonu; the stoic leader of the Skybax corps and the grandson of Oolu, who held the same position in the books. Strict and no-nonsense, he has high ambitions for his cadets, especially in David, whom he sees potential, in spite of the latter's fear of heights.
- Hannah Yelland as Cadet Romana Denison; a Skybax rider, the daughter of the books' protagonist Will Denison and presumably of Sylvia.
- Lee Evans as Zipeau (formally, Prof. Zipeau Steneosaurus); a Stenonychosaurus scholar and the former partner of Sylvia of the Hatchery, a supporting protagonist in the books. Neurotic, yet mild-mannered and highly intelligent, he is very loyal to the Scott boys and has a platonic fondness for Marion. He speaks with an English accent.
- Terry Jones as Messenger Bird (voice). A Prehistoric parrot-like bird who acts as a long distance mailman and telegram deliverer. In a running gag, he says "End of Message." whenever he completes finishing a message.
- Stuart Wilson as Frank Scott; the father of David and Karl, believed killed in the storm that brought his sons to Dinotopia.
- Anna Maguire as Samantha, daughter of Waldo and Rosemary Seville and sister of Marion Waldo.
- Geraldine Chaplin as Grandmother Oriana; the only character from the books to appear in person in the series.
Plans for a Dinotopia film were previously rejected due to the expense of creating a world populated by both humans and dinosaurs. Both Columbia Pictures and Disney at one time made the attempt, but both studios abandoned the idea, with Disney opting to make their own homegrown film, Dinosaur in 2000. Hallmark Entertainment chief Robert Halmi Sr. then purchased the rights after having seen Gurney's book.
Halmi was willing to spend $80 million on the film, despite the performance of his previous fantasy miniseries, The Tenth Kingdom. ABC had so much confidence in the miniseries that they began shooting episodes of the spin-off television series before the miniseries had aired.
More than 75% of the scenes in the miniseries required visual effects, many of which required interaction between the live-action human actors and the animatronic or computer-animated dinosaurs. The computer-animated dinosaurs were created by a London-based company, Framestore CFC, who also did the CGI work for the Walking with Dinosaurs series. The series also used other visual effects techniques such as digital set extensions. Many of the sets were only partially built, the rest being done digitally, to create the enormous buildings used by both dinosaurs and humans in the film. Even so, the actual set for Waterfall City, Dinotopia's capital, took up five-and-a-half acres of the back lot of England's Pinewood Studios. Jim Henson's Creature Shop provided the animatronic dinosaurs.
Although Dinotopia started out as a TV miniseries, later all the parts were combined and put on DVD as one film, except in the UK, where the mini-series was put onto discs as separate episodes.
- Brachiosaurus ("Brach")
- Chasmosaurus (incorrectly classified as a hadrosaur and mispronounced as "Chasmiosaurus", though the Mayor pronounced it correctly at the end of the series)
- Parasaurolophus ("Overlander"/Guard), a hadrosaur erroneously depicted as an obligate biped.
- Mosasaurus (more crocodilian in appearance than in real life, with arms and legs instead of flippers)
- Stegosaurus one can be seen in the first episode and even star in episodes three as a target by the outsiders
- Dunkleosteus (resembles more of an eel-like creature than in real life, with spikes on its face instead of armor plating)
- Tyrannosaurus rex
- Triceratops (mentioned by Captain Oonu after the first Tyrannosaurus attack)
- Dimorphodon (portrayed inaccurately as a feathered bird, in reality, it was a long tailed pterosaur likely covered in pycnofibres; a feather-like structure.)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 25, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Moria.co.nz, article, "Dinotopia" ?, 2002.
- . Entertainment Weekly, On the Air, "Dinotopia" October 13, 2000.
- Jensen, Elizabeth (May 10, 2002). "A Tall Order for ABC's 'Dinotopia'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
- Joe Nazzaro, Humans Walk With Dinosaurs in TV Miniseries Visit to James Gurney's Fantasy Island, Starlog Fantasy Worlds (magazine), February 2002, pages 36–38
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