Sunday, July 20, 2014

Childhood Memories: Dinosaucers

Totally 80s. Totally Awesome.

So I've mentioned before that when I was a little kid, I was a major dinosaur nut for many years, before that in turn evolved into being a major fanatic for monsters and mythological creatures of all sorts. I can't rightly remember exactly when my dinosaur fascination started, but it was definitely by the time I was around five or six years old. I had all sorts of dinosaur toys, a collection of dinosaur books, you name it. I ate up every TV special or cartoon about them that would come on, and I about flipped when I was able to go to a museum to see dino animatronics for the first time. In fact, arguably my most prized and favorite toy as a kid, for years, was this small (maybe 4 or so inches tall at most), squat little gray T-Rex toy that I named "Dino", and I carried that guy with me everywhere. Years before I evolved into the use of "thinking pencils" (for those of you who have ever utilized such things, you know what I'm talking about), Dino pulled triple duty, as my toy, my pal, and my "thinking item" when I would play or be off daydreaming.

But with all that said, the late 80s absolutely fueled my Dino-mania, in no small part because of three particular cartoons that all came on around 1987/88. One of them, "Dino Riders", was a somewhat Marvel Comics produced cartoon, that I will give it's own article at another time, but sufficed to say, while it was the most short lived of the three, it was sci-fi, fairly deep for a kids cartoon, and pretty awesome. The other two, which I clearly remember playing back to back (or so my memory tells me), when I was in first grade. The first was a cheesy (but fun) show called "Denver, the Last Dinosaur". It was about a group of kids who find a dinosaur egg that was unearthed by some construction site, and naturally, out pops a millions-of-years-old Dino, ready to embrace everything 1980s America has to offer. No seriously, Denver donned a pair of shades, wore "tubular" '80s shirts, and rocked out on a hot pink guitar. There was a bit more to it, but that was the main gist, and while I totally ate it up as a seven year old, it was definitely the weakest of the three.

About as '80s as it gets.

The other show, and the articles namesake, was a now little known classic called "Dinosaucers". Years before "Captain Planet" (another childhood favorite) came about, here was a show that featured a bunch of kids (teens?), who are lucky enough to meet up with a group of aliens who happen to be anthropomorphic talking dinosaurs. These kids become the "Secret Scouts", the only ones who (in general) know about these super awesome dino dudes, and the Scouts even get neat little rings, just like the Planeteers would years later. Though in this case, all the rings did was act as secret communicators to the Dinosaucers. Naturally, the Dinosaucers have enemies, otherwise there wouldn't be much of a show, and these came in the form of some real nasty baddies called "Tyrannos". All of these righteous (and bogus) characters come from a planet called "Reptilon", where everyone is an evolved, talking anthro-dino, and of course, the Tyrannos are a faction that want to ruin shit and control everything, and they've brought their fight to Earth.

These parties always get out of hand.

 So before I go any further, just for fun, let's do a quick roll call of the characters. Getting the boring ones out of the way first, the four human "Secret Scout" kids are Ryan and Sara Spencer (siblings), and their friends Paul and David. Far more importantly however:

The Dinosaucers were made up of their leader Allo the Allosaurus, Dimetro the Scottish accent Dimetrodon, Bronto Thunder the massive Apatosaurus (or as they were still also called back then, Brontosaurus, hence "Bronto"), Stego the obvious Stegosaurus, Tricero the lounge singer (just kidding, Triceratops), Bonehead the dumb but lovable Pachycephelasaurus (say that three times fast), Ichy the suave Ichthyosaurus, and last but not least, the lone girl of the group, Teryx the wise and graceful Archaeopteryx.

The Tyrannos consisted of their grumpy and loud-talking leader, Genghis Rex the evil Tyrannosaurus, his evil sister Princess Dei the Deinonychus (who doesn't appear much), Ankylo the bumbling Ankylosaurus, Quackpot the jokester Hadrosaurus (duck-billed guys), Styraco the Stryracosaurus, Plesio the slippery Plesiosaurus, and saving the best for last.......Terrible Dactyl, the sneaky, scheming Pterodactyl. Yes, that name is cheesy. And yes, it's fucking amazing.

He just now realized how terribly clever his name is.

As you can probably tell, from both that face-off pic up there, as well as reading all that, that the good guys and bad guys were kind of set up by the shows creators to be evenly matched and parallel to each other. Both sides have a ferocious leader, a giant long-neck (to borrow a phrase from The Land Before Time), a duck-billed guy, a horned guy, a hard-headed dumb guy, a water guy, a spike-tailed guy, and a flying person (since one is a chick). All in all, a nice set up, and many of the characters are rather entertaining, though of course the most-so would be the two pictured above, Quackpot and Terrible Dactyl himself. As was usually the case in 80s cartoons, the bad guys do tend to be hilarious and inept, but especially to a seven year old's perception, it was both epic and amazing. I wished like hell back then that I had a talking dinosaur pal. Hell, that'd still be pretty cool right now.

"Secret Scouts, HOOOOO!!!"

The show only lasted one season, sadly. It was a weekday cartoon, not a weekend one, so that season did at least consist of 65 episodes though. As was the case with most 80s cartoons, it was light in tone, and often featured incredibly silly plots and scenarios, but it was still a lot of fun, and I would even go so far as to say one of the better cartoons of that decade. And that is really saying something, as it was a decade chock full of bad ass animated content. The show featured the ongoing struggle between the two factions, which sometimes even saw them go back to their home planet Reptilon, as well as other semi-regular plot devices such as "Dinovolving", where the characters would devolve into their more primal, ancestral dinosaur forms to do battle. In some ways I think it was ahead of its time, and pretty creative all around, and it's really a damn shame, I think, that it isn't remembered and recognized up there with the likes of He-Man, Thundercats, Transformers, TMNT, etc. 

I also seriously lament the fact that no DVD of this show has ever yet been made. There's always a chance, as far more obscure shows have found their way onto DVD before. But it hasn't happened yet, and that really sucks if you ask me. Why? Because I'd buy it up in a hot minute, of course. I do believe there are still some episodes floating around on Youtube or wherever else, though they are poor quality, coming from old VHS recordings. If you get a chance, and have never experienced this show, take a look if you can find anything, because it really was one of a kind, and it is still one of my favorite shows from the 80s.