CHARACTERS • MORE
|Premiere||April 26, 1991|
|Finale||July 20, 1994|
Dinosaurs was a half-hour sitcom which aired on ABC. The series, conceived just before Jim Henson's death, focused on a family of dinosaurs, the Sinclairs, and used ground-breaking full body, animatronic puppets.
The show was a joint venture that merged the talents and resources of Michael Jacobs Productions, The Jim Henson Company, and Disney's Touchstone Entertainment. Dinosaurs made use of a system known as animatronics to express and alter the dinosaurs' facial movements, a process developed by Brian Henson and his team at the London Creature Shop.
The show was an effective parody of human life and the American sitcom. Dinosaurs was set in the year 60,000,003 BC. Just a million years earlier, the dinosaurs behaved like animals, eating their offspring and living in swamps. But now they had evolved, raising families, living in houses, working, and paying taxes.
Earl Sinclair, a megalosaurus, works for the WESAYSO Development Corporation, under the direction of triceratops B.P. Richfield, leveling forests to make way for housing developments. Earl's wife Fran, an allosaurus, runs the house and family. The Sinclairs have three children: 14-year-old son Robbie; 12-year-old daughter Charlene; and 1-year-old Baby Sinclair, whose birth is recounted in the pilot.
The series has been released on DVD by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The first box set, Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons, was released in May 2006. The second set, Dinosaurs: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons, was released in May 2007. The series has also been released to Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ (as of 2021).
News articles written at the time of the premiere highlighted the show's connection to Jim Henson, who had died the year before. "Jim Henson dreamed up the show's basic concept about three years ago," said a New York Times article in April, 1991. "'He wanted it to be a sitcom with a pretty standard structure, with the biggest differences being that it's a family of dinosaurs and their society has this strange toxic life style,' said Brian Henson. But until The Simpsons took off, said Alex Rockwell, a vice president of the Henson organization, 'people thought it was a crazy idea.'" A 1993 article in The New Yorker said that Henson continued to work on a dinosaur project until the "last months of his life."
Henson was working with designer William Stout in the late 80s on a feature film with animatronic dinosaurs, with the working title of The Natural History Project; Henson contacted Stout about the project again in the last months of his life. That project may have been the inspiration for Dinosaurs.
- Many of the dinosaur characters' names were based on the names of oil companies (Sinclair, Phillips, Hess, Richfield) or the categories of fuels they produced, like Ethyl. Sinclair Oil in particular is known for its dinosaur mascot.
- B.P. Richfield's first and middle initials were inspired by British Petroleum.
- Seven episodes of the show were filmed and produced, but did not air in the initial run of the series. They were however included in the syndication package.
- At one point a Dinosaurs movie was planned, but never produced.
- In 1993, Michael Jacobs produced a pilot for Fox, referred to as First Family and The Ooog Show, which would have focused on cavemen and essentially continued the same concept as dinosaurs with mammals. Jacobs and Dinosaurs staff writers Tim Doyle and Bob Young wrote the script. The cast included several Dinosaurs alums: Joe Flaherty starred as caveman patriarch Ooog, while guest actors in the pilot included Suzie Plakson as Zsa Zsa and Michelan Sisti as "4th Caveman." The series was not picked up.
Puppeteers: Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta, Rickey Boyd, Julianne Buescher, Kevin Carlson, Mitchell Young Evans, Tom Fisher, David Greenaway, Terri Hardin, Brian Henson, John Kennedy, Bruce Lanoil, Arlene Lorre, Pons Maar, Noel MacNeal, Drew Massey, Rob Mills, James Murray, David Rudman, Tony Sabin Prince, Michelan Sisti, Jodi St. Michael, Jack Tate, Leif Tilden, Allan Trautman, Mak Wilson
- Stuart Pankin - Earl Sinclair
- Jessica Walter - Fran Sinclair
- Jason Willinger - Robbie Sinclair
- Sally Struthers - Charlene Sinclair
- Kevin Clash - Baby Sinclair
- Sam McMurray - Roy Hess and others
- Florence Stanley - Ethyl Phillips
- Sherman Hemsley - B.P. Richfield
- Suzie Plakson - Monica DeVertebrae and others
- Christopher Meloni - Spike
Guest Voices: Shaun Baker, Jason Bernard, Pat Crawford Brown, Stephen Caffrey, Ken Hudson Campbell, Dan Castellaneta, Conchata Ferrell, George Gaynes, Buddy Hackett, Jack Harrell, Sally Kellerman, Mimi Kennedy, David Leisure, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Edie McClurg, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Susan Norfleet, Gary Owens, Michael Richards, Richard Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor, Fred Travalena, John Vernon, Paxton Whitehead, David Wohl
- Kahn, Eve M. "All in the Modern Stone Age Family", The New York Times. April 14, 1991.
- Owen, David. "Looking Out for Kermit", The New Yorker. August 16, 1993.
- Grover, Ron. The Disney Touch. Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin, 1991. pp. 167-168.
- Dinosaurs category for episodes, characters, etc.