The Best and Worst Animatronic Dinosaurs

As far as large animatronic dinosaurs go, there are not a lot of options around.  Back in 2007 the three-time Emmy Award winning BBC miniseries “Walking with Dinosaurs” launched an “Arena Spectacular” to bring dinosaurs to life.  And more recently, in 2012, “Field Station: Dinosaurs” was opened as a theme park near Manhattan by a dinosaur enthusiast.  But other than dinosaurs, the two have very little in common.

The Field Station is set up to resemble just that, a large field with lots of dinosaurs and dinosaur activities around for kids to enjoy.  It’s typically categorized as a theme park, and it seemed effective at entertaining small children.  But as an adult there is very little to do, the activities certainly don’t have much to offer, and the only other thing to do is to walk around and look at the dinosaurs.  Which would be fine, but the dinosaurs leave a lot to be desired.

Most of the dinosaurs do appear well modelled and are laid out in a way where one never knows what to expect.  But the Devil is in the detail.  Possibly because the entire exhibit is outside, the dinosaurs move very little.  Most of the movements can be described as head bobbing, tail wagging, or a jaw opening and closing but only ever one animation per dinosaur.  But what really eliminates the sense of wonder is the terrible sound.  There are many motion activated speakers around to bring the dinosaurs to life, but every speaker I heard was full of static.  So at the end of the day there is a stationary dinosaur with one actuator moving back and forth to the soundtrack of static.

Walking with Dinosaurs, on the other hand, has fully articulated dinosaurs.  They walk, eat, nuzzle, battle, and chase each other around an arena.  And because it is staged in an arena the sounds are excellent.  The dinosaurs come with a full narration pulled largely (sometimes verbatim) from the documentary, which brings the viewer deeper into the world.  The mechanical achievement of the show is nothing short of amazing.

With kids, the Field Station could probably be an afternoon affair, but skipping the side-shows, you’ll be through in about 30 minutes.  Walking with Dinosaurs is 80 minutes with a break in the middle.  A ticket to the Field Station runs about $20 while Walking with Dinosaurs is about $60.  So if you’re on a very tight budget the Field Station is a better choice, but you definitely get what you pay for.

The Field Station isn’t all bad, it’s comprised of 32 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, while Walking with Dinosaurs was closer to half that number.  And being able to walk much closer to them, especially when some are so large does give a certain sense of awe, but it is constantly limited by the poor animation and sound.  If you have the opportunity, Walking with Dinosaurs is a must see.  Field Station: Dinosaurs is a good choice if you’re in the NYC area and you have a young dinosaur enthusiast to entertain, but expect to be babysitting, not enjoying yourself.

Walking With Dinosaurs Field Station Dinosaurs
Walking With Dinosaurs: Stegosaurus Field Station Dinosaurs: Ankylosaurus
Walking With Dinosaurs: Brachiosaurus Field Station Dinosaurs: Hadrosaurs
Walking With Dinosaurs: Raptors Field Station Dinosaurs
Walking With Dinosaurs: T-Rex Field Station Dinosaurs: T-Rex

2014 Dinosaur Discoveries

According to NBC News, we’re in a “golden age of dinosaur discovery.” Since Jurassic Park first came out, more and more people have been looking for dinosaurs.

Here are some of the biggest dinosaur discoveries from 2014:

  • Spinosaurus: New fossils showed that Spinosaurus was the first dinosaur to swim. Spinosaurids were also the first dinosaur fossils every found in Malaysia
  • Dreadnoughtus: One of the most complete and possibly largest dinosaur (the fossil found may have still been growing when it died)
  • Deinocheirus mirificus: 50 years ago, scientists only knew about this dinosaur’s arms.  Now they know it was almost as big as a T-rex, but it ate soft plants (and it has been compared to Jar Jar from Star Wars)
  • Nanuqsaurus hoglundi: A tiny cousin of T-rex, only 2 meters tall at the hip,  that lived in the Arctic. It was the dominant predator of its time
  • Kulindadromeus zabaikalicusKnown for being the first plant-eating, feathered dinosaur, with feathers similar to chickens
  • Aquilops: A small horned dinosaur, the size of a bunny, that appeared in North America 110 million years ago (the first of its kind)
  • Pentaceratops sternbergii and Kosmoceratops: Two new species discovered in a museum’s storage facility. Not the first time scientists found a “hidden dinosaur
  • Torvosaurus gurneyi: Largest predator in Europe, with 4-inch long teeth used to rip open prey
  • Anzu wyliei: Known as the “chicken from hell” because it was the size of a small car and had claws and feathers. The site where it was found helps prove the theory that dinosaurs were wiped out by an astroid (though apparently had the astroid come at any other time dinosaurs would have survived)
  • Qianzhousaurus sinensis: Nicknamed “Pinocchio Rex”  because of its long snout, this tyrannosaur was found in China and it was 29 feet long and weighed 1,800 pounds
  • Cartorhynchus lenticarpusThe first amphibious dinosaur that shows how ichthyosaurs evolved from land to water
  • Caiuajara dobruskii: A new type of pterosaur that lived around small lakes in Brazil
  • Changyuraptor yangi: A four-winged dinosaur with a 21-foot wingspan that lived 125 million years ago . It had long tail feathers and was flying before birds

Five Must-See Dinosaur Documentaries

For the non-fiction fans out there, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best documentaries about dinosaurs. There are a lot to choose from, but here are five to start:

  1. dinosaur_13Dinosaur 13. A documentary by Todd Douglas Miller. The documentary chronicles the epic tale of Sue, a T-rex found near the Black Hills Institute in South Dakota. It involves love, protests, and federal prison, and reveals the deep passion of paleontologist Peter Larson. Highly recommend.
  2. ballad_big_alThe Ballad of Big Al. A BBC documentary that focuses on one particular Allosaurus, Al. Big Al is the name of a real Allosaurus fossil. The film follows Al’s birth until his death as a mature adolescent, from injuries.
  3. dinosaursDinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia. A film that goes back and forth between the work of Rodolfo Coria, who co-named Argentinosaurus and discovered Giganotosaurus, as well as other famous South American dinosaurs, and life in the early Cretaceous. Of course, it focuses on the lives of an Argentinosaurus and Giganotosaurus.
  4. how-to-build-a-dinosaurHow to Build a Dinosaur. Another BBC documentary, but this one goes over how paleontologists rebuild a dinosaur, including muscles and skin color, from a bunch of bones. Dr. Alice Roberts details the process on how dinosaur museum exhibits are created.
  5. When_Dinosaurs_Roamed_AmericaWhen Dinosaurs Roamed America. The film goes through different segments of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. It portrays the dinosaurs as quick and has good animation.

For more lists on recommended dinosaur documentaries, check out Jurassic World Movie  and ViBlahBlah.

Have any others you’d like to share? Please tell us about it in the comments!

The 5 Best Family-Friendly Dinosaur Movies an TV Shows

This week’s list we thought we’d recommend some family entertainment. Below are five of the best family-friendly movies and TV shows.

  1. the_land_before_timeThe Land Before Time. A classic story that brings together dinosaurs from five different herds: a long-neck, a three-horn, a flyer, a spike tail, and a swimmer. They travel together to get to the promised Great Valley, in hopes of reuniting with their families. Careful, this one’s tear-jerker. But don’t bother with all the sequels and TV spin-off.
  2. dinosaursDinosaurs. Produced in part by Jim Henson Productions, this sitcom from the 1990s was about a family of five dinosaurs living in Pangea: Earl Sinclair, his wife Fran, and their kids Robbie, Charlene, and Baby. The show covered political and other topical issues, and it took multiple puppeteers to perform each dinosaur character.
  3. dinotopiaDinotopia. A four-hour miniseries, this show depicted a utopia where dinosaurs and humans lived together. Basically, two brothers accidentally crash land on the island, and learn about this world. It’s pretty magical.
  4. untitledDinosaur. A live-action/animated Disney film, that is basically a remake of Land Before Time. There is an orphaned dinosaur, who joins a new clan, and must make it to a valley full of food to survive. The animation is pretty enjoyable.
  5. We're_Back!_Movie_PosterWe’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story. An animated film that kids will like. The story is told from the point of view of Rex, a T-rex who traveled to the future and ended up in modern day Manhattan. He and other dinosaurs are given a special food that increases their intelligence.

We’ve shared our favorites, now you share yours! What are some of your favorite family-friendly dinosaur movies?

5 Non-Fiction Dinosaur Books That All Dino Enthusiasts Should Read

Last week we covered five amazing fiction dinosaur books. This week’s list is all about non-fiction adult books about dinosaurs, for those enthusiasts who really want to learn more. Don’t worry, there are no dry textbooks here, just a lot of interesting stories and amazing illustrations.

  1. Rex_AppealRex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life. Written by Peter Larson, who lived the tale, and Kristin Donnan, this book chronicles the crazy story of Black Hills Institute, and the upheaval and hardship that the people of Hill City, SD went through after Peter Larson and his team discovered Sue, the most complete T-Rex ever found.
  2. Dinosaurs_Without_BonesDinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by their Trace Fossils. Written by Anthony J. Martin, this book combines Martin’s personal experiences as a paleontologist with amazing research and facts people can learn from dinosaur nests, tracks, and even fossilized poop. Pay special attention to the chapter on how sauropods probably shaped our modern landscapes. Mind. Blown.
  3. Bumper_DinosaursThe Bumper Book of Dinosaurs. Written by Keiron Pim, this giant, heavily illustrated book contains many, many facts and statistics. It’s a great resource, and easy to look up information about specific dinosaurs.
  4. PrehistoricaEncyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs: The Definitive Pop-Up. Written and illustrated by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, this pop-up book is sure to impress even those who are not dinosaur enthusiasts. Every page has elaborate, detailed works of art to show different dinosaurs at different stages of their lives. Plus there are some crazy facts hidden under the art.
  5. Dinosaur_HeresiesThe Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction. Written by the famous Robert Bakker in 1986, this book was very controversial when first published, because it changed the way people viewed dinosaurs. Bakker argued that dinosaurs were warm-blooded and more like birds than cold-blooded, slow lizards. Imagine!

And if these aren’t enough, Goodreads has a great list of 108 Best Non-Fiction Dinosaur Books.

What’s on your list of dinosaur books to read? Share with us in the comments!


The 5 Best Dinosaur Books (And They’re For Adults!)

In the last post we covered some dinosaur film gems. But what about books? Here’s a list of 5 great books that all revolve around dinosaurs. They’re all adult books, all fiction (though some blend wonderful facts with the action) and come highly recommended, so there’s no excuse not to read them.

  1. Raptor_RedRaptor Red, by Robert T. Bakker. Bakker is a famous paleontologist, who consulted with the Jurassic Park team while they made the first movie. Raptor Red is the fictitious, but realistic tale told by the point of view of Red, a female Utahraptor, as she hunts, mates, and struggles to survive.
  2. Cretaceous_DawnCretaceous Dawn, by Lisa M. Graziano and Michael S.A. Graziano. An action-packed adventure story, also written by scientists, that follows the journey of four people who accidentally time travel to the Cretaceous period. The story gives a whole new perspective into how T-rexes may have acted.
  3. Love_DinosaursLove in the Time of Dinosaurs, by Kirsten Alene. This bizarro fiction story combines monks, dinosaurs, magic kung-fu, and guns. And of course a man falls in love with a dinosaur. It’s an epic tale, and though the content may seem bizarro, the story is very well written.
  4. All_FriendsAll My Friends Are Dead, by Jory Jon and Avery Monsen. This well-known, little dark comedy book may not revolve around dinosaurs, but the drawings and concept were too good not to mention. Plus, bonus! There’s a sequel: All My Friends Are Still Dead.
  5. Lovely_LoveA Lovely Love Story, by Edward Monkton. Combining poetry with heartwarming drawings, this little book makes for a great gift. The dinosaurs are adorable, and the message is timeless.

Have you read any of these? Tells us what you thought of them in the comments! Next time we’ll post a list of nonfiction books, for all you knowledge-pursuers out there.

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