It’s our first foray into the unknown on this week’s Dic Geeks as we look at 1987’s mess of anthropomorphic dinosaur antics, ‘Dinosaucers’. And immediately regret it.
DiC Geeks is our weekly(ish) podcast in which we journey through the many realms of DiC Entertainment, a company that (for most of the 80s and 90s) was synonymous with both early morning cartoon blocks and generally mediocre animated tripe. This week we endure failed Transformers-esque Dinosaur show ‘Dinosaucers’ and ask the question ‘why?’.
It’s easy to blame (as I do in the episode) the demise of Dinosaucers on market forces: the show’s design is blatantly geared towards the faction wars theme seen in GI Joe and Transformers, both of which were in decline by the time the series was released. It’s also quite possible that Dinosaucers failed because of one single massive factor; it’s not very good.
But first, what is Dinosaucers. Well, the Dinosaucers are a group of anthropomorphic alien dinosaurs from Earth’s twin planet who are at war with their evil counterparts, the Tyrannos, who want to steal earth’s resources or something. It’s not entirely clear, they’re mostly there to be generic antagonists. The Dinosaucers are assisted by the ‘Secret Scouts’, a group of four human children who mostly just serve to explain human society and various idioms to the dinosaurs. Also the Dinosaurs can turn into bigger dinosaurs for some reason, but this barely ever happens. Essentially it’s a mess of too many concepts, idea and characters, none of which ever really seem to pay off.
Ultimately, Dinosaucers’ biggest problem appears to have been that it was a cartoon made in the late 80s by DiC Entertainment. Whilst Transformers and GI Joe had been backed by the editorial muscle of Marvel which kept those universes grounded and stopped them from straying from the key concepts, Dinosaucers strayed from its faction war setting almost immediately, diverging into ‘wacky’ fish out of water comedy. Whilst the character designs were sleek and interesting, the show itself was a hackneyed slapstick affair that struggled to build any tension or demonstrate the stakes involved in the Dinosaucers’ war with the Tyrannos.
Which is a real shame because the toys Galoob produced were actually rather striking. Shown at toy conventions between 1987-1988, there were eight prototype 8″ action figures. four Dinosaucers, four Tyrannos, along with 1″ figures of the characters designed to fit into model spaceships and a playset of the Dinosaucers’ Lavadome headquarters. Whilst they were never released in the states, Galoob eventually sold the moulds for producing the toys to a company in Brazil, who produced the toys for Latin American countries. As you can imagine, they’re quite collectible these days.
Happily, many of the people involved still went on to do good things. The show’s creator Michael Uslan and his co-executive producer Benjamin Melniker have been producers on every Batman movie since 1989. Diane Duane who wrote the show bible and the pilot episode continues to find success as a young adult novelist with her ‘Young Wizards’ series. The music was written by Shuki Levy (who also wrote the Inspector Gadget music) and Haim Saban, who would later found Saban Entertainment and bring Power Rangers to the States. So at least not all was in vain.