In the 90s and early 2000s, author and illustrator James Gurney dinotopia amazes readers and viewers with its beautiful fantasy world and unique combination of prehistoric life and ancient human culture. It brought to life the imagination of every 10 year old and introduced the world to a land like no other. It’s time to bring dinotopia return.
In recent years, Hollywood has been busy revisiting iconic franchises of the past and reimagining fully fleshed out worlds. Since studios have only taken on some of the greats and remade them, many of the most deserving franchises have been left completely untouched. With today’s VFX capabilities and the fantasy genre’s current place in the mainstream, studios and networks should definitely look into dinotopia.
Gurney was an illustrator specializing in realistic renderings. Using his skills, he often worked on assignments for National Geographic, for which he would create realistic recreations of ancient civilizations and prehistoric life. According to him, the research that led to all this inspired two specific pieces: “Dinosaur Parade” and “Waterfall City”. There were the first fruits of what was to become dinotopia.
Spurred on by retired editors Ian and Betty Ballantine, Gurney wrote and illustrated the first dinotopia novel, Dinotopia: a land out of time. It would become the first in a long line of novels set on this unique continent, as well as the mysterious World Below. In total, Gurney himself wrote four novels and worked with other authors to publish 18 short novels that fleshed out the fantasy world.
The success of these novels eventually led to dinotopiapop stunning illustrations of Gurney on screen. In the early 2000s, Hallmark Entertainment and Walt Disney Television released a miniseries and TV show adapting the events and characters from A land out of time. The 2002 limited series featured the likes of Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, Downton Abbeyis Jim Carter and Harry Potterit’s David Thewlis. At the time, the special effects that brought the dinosaurs to life were groundbreaking, earning the miniseries an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects.
The show’s success led to the short-lived television series. Unfortunately for the show, none of the stars of the miniseries reprized their roles, and the production budget wasn’t nearly as big, as evidenced by the lackluster special effects, which haven’t aged as well as those of the mini-series. This isn’t necessarily a review of the show, as it was all you could expect from TV back then before hits like game of thrones instilled confidence in network executives.
There was another mainstream animated film featuring an all-star cast in 2005, but dinotopiaPopularity in the mainstream media had by then waned. It’s been nearly 30 years since Gurney’s illustrations captured children’s imaginations and wowed television with the creativity behind them. Some might say that dinosaurs and fantasy worlds like this might not be able to impress in the same way as more established fantasy works like the Lord of the Rings Where game of thrones and their respective spin-off shows.
The closest thing to dinotopia that audiences have seen on television over the past decade was the series produced by Steven Spielberg Terra Nova. Created in 2011, the show followed the Shannon family, who left Earth in the year 2149 for a timestream resembling the Cretaceous period. There, humans established a colony to revive civilization, free from the pollution and overpopulation that all but destroyed Earth.
The series received high praise upon its premiere, with many fans expressing their enthusiasm for the visual effects and the strong potential of the show’s premise. However, this potential was never fully realized. By the end of the series, audiences and critics seemed tired of Terra Novauninteresting characters and the quality of its dialogues. It doesn’t have to happen with dinotopia.
It’s true that the novels and this universe were aimed above all at children. But readers who adored novels and works of art have now grown up. dinotopia can grow with them and continue to appeal to both older and younger audiences, both of which are now fully committed to fantasy as a genre in mainstream television. The fantasy world of Gurney has a strong past there. Additionally, dinosaur-focused projects continue to be rare. That’s not to say there has to be more, but rather that there’s huge room for a T-rex sized world like dinotopia.
It’s not like dinosaurs aren’t popular. The jurassic world The latest installment in the franchise – and apparently the last – has grossed nearly $1 billion at the box office. Television can take advantage of this enthusiasm and bring back all these ancient reptiles with an even more captivating and imaginative story. While franchises such as George RR Martin’s A song of ice and fire or JRR Tolkien the Lord of the Rings and their respective adaptations can transport audiences to beautiful landscapes like those that make up Westeros or Middle-earth, they arguably recycle or reuse the same core elements of fantasy. Clearly, no one can discount the vast remaining potential using the staples of classic fantasy, but revisiting dinotopia would help add variation to the genre landscape on TV and keep it fresh and exciting.