As a journalist, I’m always uncomfortable becoming part of the story. But I was met with an abnormally high amount of online dissent several days ago, after contributing to a Variety list detailing “The Worst Series Finales of All Time.”
My sole contribution was the 1991-1994 sitcom “Dinosaurs,” a show I watched religiously as a child. The series finale — titled“Changing Nature” — aired months before my ninth birthday, and I was not equipped to handle the tonal shift compared to previous episodes. What I wrote for the list:
More from Variety
- (Video) Every Sonic The Hedgehog Video Game Ranked From WORST To BEST
“Dinosaurs” was an interesting ABC sitcom experiment: What if you replicated the family vibes of “Step by Step” or “Family Matters,” but the whole cast is made up of big Jim Henson dinosaur puppets? Perfect for a child demo that would soon be scared to death by “Jurassic Park,” the four-season, 65-episode run of “Dinosaurs” delivered saccharine hijinks that could have been photocopied from “Full House.” Perhaps that’s why it was so distressing that in the 1994 series finale, the whole family dies. That’s right — all of your favorite characters, including the catchphrase-spouting Baby Sinclair, freeze to death thanks to the looming Ice Age. While historically accurate, it was perhaps the dourest episode of television to ever air. After all, there was no precedent — “Growing Pains” didn’t end with the slaughter of the Seaver family. So when patriarch Earl Sinclair tells his skeptical family, as snow is falling, that “Dinosaurs have been on this earth for 150 million years. And it’s not like we’re just going to … disappear …”, the music swells as we leave their concerned faces and cut to a news broadcast. The dino anchor, delivering a wintery weather forecast while shrouded in grey tones and wearing a thick coat, looks down the barrel of the camera and says, mournfully, “Good night. Goodbye,” before fading to black. Still don’t think this ending traumatized a generation of sitcom-loving Millennials? Consider a top comment on theYouTube rip of the ending: “What’s worse is that, realistically, the baby would probably be the first to die, followed by the other family members one by one until Earl (the one with most body fat) was the only one left, his final moments filled with guilt over what he did to the world and his family.” Thanks for the nightmare fuel, “Dinosaurs!”
As I learned, many people thought I was dead wrong. I received dozens of messages on social, aghast at the show’s inclusion on the list. But given the tone of the correspondence, I knew I struck a different chord, one more personal and emotional than other times I divided fan bases with opinions:
*”I would say one of the best endings, even if it was uncomfortable and kind of heartbreaking. Just like life itself.”
*”I never comment and this absurd and clueless tweet forced me. That is how absolutely wrong you are.”
*”Counterpoint: If it wasn’t for people who watched ‘Dinosaurs’ as kids frequently asking each other as adults ‘Was the final episode real? Or did I dream it?,’ the show would be talked about a lot less nowadays.”
*”Proud to have co-written this clarion call for environmental awareness. Those who watched it never forgot the experience.”
*”Sorry, @BeautifulBill, ‘Dinosaurs’ was never saccharine kiddie fodder like ‘Step By Step’ or ‘Full House.’ It was a dark satire cloaked in family comedy tropes, taking on many environmental topics, plus immigration, race, the Gulf War, the Clarence Thomas hearings, science denialism…”
The final two messages especially caught my attention, as I regretted alienating who I quickly learned were members of the creative team behind the show —and they’d felt proud enough to speak out.
I realized that perhaps I had been blinded by youth, and missed the satire completely. I asked my mother whether she remembered my fondness for the show or my mental state while watching it, yet she could only speak to my relationship to dinos in the macro sense: “When you were little, you were obsessed with dinosaurs, everything was dinosaurs,” she said. “You knew all of the names of them, and loved them, until you dropped them for ‘Ninja Turtles.'”
So I started rewatching episodes of the show (now collected on Disney+) and reached out to some of the creatives who’d dropped me a line. I was lucky enough to hop on a Zoom with veteran producer Tim Doyle, whose first big gig was writing on “Dinosaurs,” and Kirk Thatcher, who has worked on projects ranging from “Return of the Jedi” to “Muppets Haunted Mansion,” and was the credited writer on the “Dinosaurs” series finale.
The pair kindly accepted my digital olive branch, and spoke about the complex themes they included throughout the series run, how ABC reacted when they learned about the bold finale and why they think it made such a lasting impact on fans.
From the beginning, despite the cute puppets and funny moments, the creative team was able to make a show that would allow them to touch on contemporary issues they were passionate about, like LGBTQ acceptance, consumerism and, ironically, the importance of not watching too much TV.
“[The show] was never one thing,” Doyle says. “Baked into it from the beginning was this element of social satire, political satire. The whole concept started with that famous Gary Larson cartoon that showed a bunch of dinosaurs sitting around smoking and said, ‘Why the dinosaurs are extinct.’ That was the germ of this thing: To make a whole show about the dinosaurs being consumerist, to poke a stick at a society like ours.”
“Everything bad about humanity, as Jim [Henson, who developed the show] put it, dinosaurs are thinking, ‘Oh, we are the apex predator. We can do whatever the hell we want and the planet will adapt to us because we’re the biggest, meanest, baddest mofos on the planet,'” says Thatcher, who also designed the characters. “The idea was that kind of blinkered thinking and to satirize the ‘Ugly American’ or ‘Ugly Western’ culture where you’re not living for your descendants: ‘Our ancestors built us up here, we can do whatever the hell we want.'”
Despite the satire, ABC mostly left the team alone.
“There was certain amount of pushback initially, and then, because we were a children’s show, both Disney and ABC kind of lost interest in bothering us,” Doyle says. “The third-tier executives were the ones who were giving us notes on the scripts, and nobody was really giving us too hard a time.”
Additionally, they’d make sure to include a few episodes each season about Baby Sinclair or teen daughter Charlene in order to appease all audiences.
When it came to the series finale, the team wasn’t given much time, as they had to quickly convert their plan from a normal episode to a finale once ABC suddenly announced that they were canceled.
“[The writers’ room] decided to escalate it all the way to making [bumbling patriarch] Earl in charge of fixing the problem,” Thatcher says. “And of course he ends up destroying the planet, or at least creating a nuclear winter.”
Surprisingly, ABC didn’t have many notes for the unprecedented finale.
“They were like, ‘Great, you figured out how to wrap [the series] up,'” deadpans Thatcher. “I don’t remember any eyebrows raised or anyone going, ‘Well, you can’t.'”
“There might have been a little bit of pushback from somebody saying, ‘Well, what if we can maneuver another season or something?'” Doyle recalls. “But I think one of us said, ‘Well, they got frozen and then they get thawed.'”
Despite the dark themes of the finale — and its potential effects on the younger segment of the show’s audience — the pair points to previous generations’ struggles in relation to environmental protection.
“We grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation,” Thatcher says. “I very clearly remember that as a kid. That existential angst about, ‘We’re all going to die.’ I remember my dad saying World War II, before the nuclear bomb, they just thought this was the war to end all wars. The planet was going to be just devastated, particularly Europe. Every generation sees its imminent demise —and we had fun with it.”
While Thatcher does disagree with one commonly stated critique —“I do take exception when people say, ‘You killed them.’ I say, ‘Nope, they were still alive in the last frame.'” —he has met people who react strongly about it to this day.
“[Fans say] it devastated them, and how it was so ballsy,” Thatcher says. “They usually say ‘They ruined it!’ and then they’re smiling and laughing… ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you did that.’ And I always respond with, ‘Well, we didn’t kill them. They’re just chilly, you know? We didn’t actually show them dying, we let the other shoe drop in your mind.'”
“It’s a powerful message,” Doyle continues. “We did easily a dozen episodes about the environment in one form or another, and they were all kind of toothless because by the end of 22 minutes we kind of fixed it. And here is one where the consequences are not fixable, we’ve fucked up the environment and we’re going to have to deal with the fallout of that. I would like to think six- or seven-year-olds might have been upset, but it also might have made an impression on them.”
While there have been discussions about doing a spin-off movie or revival series —which both Doyle and Thatcher would be happy to participate in —the below-the-line costs of the series’ costumes and puppets, as well as complicated rights ownership, makes it tough to get off the ground. But the duo says that “Dinosaurs” has a mighty group of committed fans who love to regularly visit the Sinclair family.
“I’ve been involved in 25, 30 shows over the years, and this is one of the ones that has stuck the most in the culture,” Doyle says.
Best of Variety
During the Dinosaurs TV show's fourth and final season, Disney was considering a feature film spinoff for the show. Unfortunately, the series was facing declining ratings at this point in its run, leading to its cancellation and no movie.When did dinosaurs stop airing on TV? ›
Dinosaurs is an American family sitcom television series that aired on ABC for four seasons from April 26, 1991, through July 20, 1994 (preempted episodes that had never been allowed to run also aired as a second part of the fourth season from September 6, 1995 through November 10, 1995), and reruns were shown on ...How much did it cost to make dinosaurs TV show? ›
“Dinosaurs” represents a tremendous investment for Disney and ABC. Rumors on the Disney lot and in the financial community have placed the budget between $1 million and $1.5 million per episode--which, if true, is more than the cost of most one-hour series.What happened at the end of dinosaurs? ›
One day 66 million years ago, an asteroid the size of a mountain struck near the Yucatán Peninsula with an explosive force equivalent to 100 trillion tons of TNT. In that cataclysmic instant, the 165-million-year reign of the dinosaurs came to an end.Is Disney removing dinosaur? ›
2022. September. 11. Confirmed: Dinoland U.S.A To Be Replaced.Is Disney replacing dinosaur? ›
BREAKING: 'Moana' and 'Zootopia' Replacing Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney's Animal Kingdom. A land containing both “Moana” and “Zootopia” will replace Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Plans are still in the early stages, and no details on potential attractions have been announced.Will we ever see dinosaurs again? ›
While many people had learned in school that they went extinct around 66 million years ago, several people have tried to prove otherwise. The debate about the possibility of dinosaurs returning continues today. Scientists continue to disagree on whether it could happen because there is no evidence to support it yet.Will there be dinosaur in 2050? ›
The Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank, has released a new report predicting what life will be like in 2050. According to the report: "Several species of dinosaur will be recreated, making their appearance on Earth for the first time in 66 million years.What was the last dinosaur on Earth? ›
A Triceratops may have been the last dinosaur standing, according to a new study that determined a fossil from Montana's Hell Creek Formation is "the youngest dinosaur known to science."How much money did Disney lose from the good dinosaur? ›
The Good Dinosaur grossed $123.1 million in the United States and Canada and $209.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $332.2 million against a production budget of $175–200 million, which with added marketing costs of $350 million, caused Walt Disney Studios to lose $85 million unadjusted for ...
While the art market is organised around brand-name artists, dinosaur sales are all about celebrity species, with a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton fetching up to $10m, although the velociraptor is the most prized. The price tag for a triceratops's skull is $170,000 to $400,000, and a diplodocus is $570,000 to $1.1m.How much is a dinosaur worth? ›
A complete dinosaur skeleton can cost millions, even many millions! A real dinosaur tooth can run anywhere from $20 to a few thousand dollars depending on the quality of the tooth and how rare it is to find a particular species.What survived the dinosaur extinction? ›
Not all dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Avian dinosaurs–in other words, birds–survived and flourished. Museum scientists estimate that there are more than 18,000 bird species alive today. A variety of other species also survived on land, including frogs, snakes, lizards and mammals.What happened to the Earth after the dinosaurs died? ›
After the dinosaurs' extinction, flowering plants dominated Earth, continuing a process that had started in the Cretaceous, and continue to do so today. But all land animals weighing over 25 kilogrammes died out. 'What we're left with are basically the seeds of what we have today.What happened to the rock that killed the dinosaurs? ›
The giant asteroid, believed to be the size of Mount Everest, smashed into the Earth at a point now known as the Chicxulub crater. The impact site sits buried beneath the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico – you can see the exact location on Google Maps at the co-ordinates 21.4,-89.516667.What is replacing Dino land? ›
Dinoland USA Transformation | Zootopia & Moana Coming to Animal Kingdom. At the latest D23 Expo, Disney announced a potential expansion at Disney's Animal Kingdom including Zootopia and Moana replacing Dinoland U.S.A.Is Mickey Mouse removed from Disney? ›
Mickey Mouse will enter the public domain in the year 2024, almost 95 years after his creation on 1 October 1928 – the length of time after which the copyright on an anonymous or pseudo-anonymous body of artistic work expires.Why is Disney removing bricks? ›
The reason for taking the bricks out is that the entrance to the Magic Kingdom is getting upgraded, including new security check-ins and that will occupy some of the real estate the bricks are currently on. The contracts on the original bricks were set to expire in 2011, so we're already 8 years past the date.Is dinosaur alive now 2022? ›
Other than birds, however, there is no scientific evidence that any dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, or Triceratops, are still alive. These, and all other non-avian dinosaurs became extinct at least 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period.Is there a real dinosaur at Disney World? ›
Dinosaur (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
|Opening date||April 22, 1998|
|Attraction type||EMV dark ride|
You will find Dinosaur in the DinoLand U.S.A section of the park. It is a loud, frightening indoor attraction and riders must be at least 40 inches tall to ride. As you enter The Dino Institute, you will find real fossils that date back to the Dinosaur age.Will humans go extinct? ›
The scientific consensus is that there is a relatively low risk of near-term human extinction due to natural causes. The likelihood of human extinction through humankind's own activities, however, is a current area of research and debate.What language did dinosaurs speak? ›
Dinosaurs didn't have email or text messages to keep in touch, but scientists are quite certain the beasts engaged in dialogue. Those communications likely included hoots and hollers, cracking sounds, dance and song, and even symbolic love calls made with showy plumage.Can dinosaurs survive today? ›
Variables such as temperature, food sources, and oxygen levels are all factors that might impact dinosaur survival. Because dinosaurs lived in much warmer climates millions of years ago, many experts doubt they could even survive today.Was Sue the T Rex pregnant? ›
rex had medullary bone and was likely pregnant when she died, Schweitzer said. "This analysis allows us to determine the gender of this fossil, and gives us a window into the evolution of egg laying in modern birds," Schweitzer said in a statement.What dinosaur has 5000 teeth? ›
|Nigersaurus Temporal range: Aptian – Albian|
9, 2022. Extinction has a pretty clear definition: gone forever. Or does it? New advances using gene-editing tools like CRISPR or targeted breeding are rapidly leading researchers to think about bringing back certain species — the passenger pigeon, Tasmanian tiger and woolly mammoth, for example — from extinction.When was the last dinosaur died? ›
Dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago (at the end of the Cretaceous Period), after living on Earth for about 165 million years.Why did birds survive but not dinosaurs? ›
When an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago, only those feathered maniraptorans that had downsized to about 1 kilogram or so—the birds—were able to survive, probably because their small size allowed them to adapt more easily to changing conditions, the team concludes online today in PLOS Biology.Is crocodile a dinosaur? ›
Crocodiles are not dinosaurs, but both crocodiles and dinosaurs came from the crown group Archosaurs. Archosaurs were reptiles that included birds, crocodiles, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs. Modern-day birds are descendants of feathered dinosaurs, evolving over the last 65 million years.
Spot and Arlo bond over loss in The Good Dinosaur
Using stick figures in sand to represent their families, Arlo shares his loss with Spot, who then reveals that he is in fact an orphan himself. The moment Spot begins to comfort the dinosaur in the face of his own unimaginable grief will always trigger the waterworks.
As beautifully detailed as the scenery is in the film, it doesn't make up for its lack of substance. Its minimalistic story and underdeveloped characters meant that it made Pixar's first flop. The Good Dinosaur now stands as one of Pixar's worst films and a sad example of what can happen with a messy production.Is The Good Dinosaur sad? ›
The grieving and sadness is pretty intense, and a bit drawn out. It's a good movie, but be ready to cry.Can u buy a real dinosaur? ›
Yes, individuals can legally purchase and own dinosaur fossils provided they were legally collected and can be legally sold. For dinosaur fossils found within the United States this means they must have been collected from private land with the land owners permission.How much is a full T. rex fossil worth? ›
There are only 32 largely complete T-Rex skeletons in museums around the world. One of the biggest, most complete T-Rex specimens in history was sold by Sotheby's in 1997. In the end, it amassed US$8.3 million dollars and broke a record for the most valuable fossil sold at auction.How much does a real T. rex tooth cost? ›
rex teeth ever found. The magnificent piece brought a new world auction record for the most expensive pre-historic tooth ever sold at public auction. Estimated to bring $25,000–30,000, the meticulously prepared tooth sold for $56,250 during the December 11 Natural History auction at Bonhams in Los Angeles.Has a full T. rex been found? ›
Six years later, Brown discovered a nearly complete T. rex skeleton at Big Dry Creek, Montana. The rock around it was blasted away with dynamite to reveal a “magnificent specimen” with a “perfect” skull. This skeleton, AMNH 5027, is on view in the Museum's Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs.Has a baby dinosaur been found? ›
One of the most complete dino embryos ever found shows the ancient infant tucked into a position that's strikingly similar to today's unhatched chickens. The newly described fossil "Baby Yingliang" was found tightly curled in a pre-hatching position.Do dinosaur eggs still exist? ›
While fossilized dinosaur eggs have been found during the last 100 years, discovering a well-preserved embryo is very rare, the researchers said in the release. The embryo's posture was not previously seen in non-avian dinosaur, which is "especially notable because it's reminiscent of a late-stage modern bird embryo."Would humans exist if dinosaurs didn't go extinct? ›
"If dinosaurs didn't go extinct, mammals probably would've remained in the shadows, as they had been for over a hundred million years," says Brusatte. "Humans, then, probably would've never been here."
There are two main reasons. First, crocodiles can live for a very long time without food. Second, they lived in places that were the least affected when the asteroid hit Earth.Can humans survive dinosaur extinction? ›
Researchers say the event gives us clues as to whether modern humans could survive a dinosaur-size cataclysm today. The answer is yes, but it would be difficult.What does the Bible say about dinosaurs? ›
According to the Bible, dinosaurs must have been created by God on the sixth day of creation. Genesis 1:24 says, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”How long after dinosaurs died did humans come? ›
After the dinosaurs died out, nearly 65 million years passed before people appeared on Earth. However, small mammals (including shrew-sized primates) were alive at the time of the dinosaurs.How long did it take life to recover after the dinosaurs died? ›
When a 6-mile (10 kilometers) asteroid slammed into the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago, causing the demise of the dinosaurs as part of the largest mass extinction event in the last 100 million years, it took life on the planet at least 30,000 years to bounce back.How long did dinosaurs survive after the asteroid? ›
Darkness caused by dino-killing asteroid snuffed out life on Earth in 9 months. As sunlight dimmed, plants and animals died.Will an asteroid hit Earth 2022? ›
It has since been confirmed that 2022 AE1 will not impact Earth and has been removed from ESA's risk list. So, what's the story behind the excitement, and how can we trust this seemingly 'meandering' impact risk?What killed all the dinosaurs? ›
Evidence suggests an asteroid impact was the main culprit. Volcanic eruptions that caused large-scale climate change may also have been involved, together with more gradual changes to Earth's climate that happened over millions of years.Is dinosaurs TV show coming back? ›
Prepare for a dose of nostalgia because Disney+ is bringing back one of our favourite tv shows from the '90s, Dinosaurs.Are they bringing back dinosaurs TV show? ›
NBC to Bring Dinosaurs to Life in Natural History Series. 'Surviving Earth' will examine several mass extinctions over the life of the planet, as well as creatures who survived them.
While many people had learned in school that they went extinct around 66 million years ago, several people have tried to prove otherwise. The debate about the possibility of dinosaurs returning continues today. Scientists continue to disagree on whether it could happen because there is no evidence to support it yet.Is there any chance of dinosaurs coming back? ›
The dinosaurs went extinct around 66 million years ago and with so much time having passed it is very unlikely that any dinosaur DNA would remain today. While dinosaur bones can survive for millions of years, dinosaur DNA almost certainly does not. But some scientists continue to search for it - just in case.Do dinosaurs Still Exist? ›
In an evolutionary sense, birds are a living group of dinosaurs because they descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs. Other than birds, however, there is no scientific evidence that any dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, or Triceratops, are still alive.Is Baby Sinclair a boy or girl? ›
This may seem like the most far-fetched concept ever, but believe it or not, it has been predicted that humans will be able to bring dinosaurs back from extinction in some capacity by 2050.What happened to the dinosaurs in Pixar? ›
So in the Pixar Universe, dinosaurs eventually die out because the world changes without them. But they're remembered, nonetheless, mostly because humans have passed down their memories of the once predominant species.Will There Be a Dinosaur Train season 6? ›
Watch Dinosaur Train: Season 6 | Prime Video.Will there be a dinosaur in 2050? ›
The Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank, has released a new report predicting what life will be like in 2050. According to the report: "Several species of dinosaur will be recreated, making their appearance on Earth for the first time in 66 million years.Did humans and dinosaurs coexist? ›
No! After the dinosaurs died out, nearly 65 million years passed before people appeared on Earth. However, small mammals (including shrew-sized primates) were alive at the time of the dinosaurs.What would happen if we brought back dinosaurs? ›
Food supply chains would be disrupted, as cattle and other livestock would be prime targets for predatory dinosaurs. These creatures never had mammals to snack on in the past. Ranches and farms would be like a buffet to them. Massive herbivores like sauropods would struggle to meet their dietary needs.