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Home > ‘Dinosaurs’: Jim Henson’s Stone Age Satire

‘Dinosaurs’: Jim Henson’s Stone Age Satire

Image Courtesy of ‘TV Insider’ | ‘Dinosaurs’ from ABC and the Jim Henson Company

Timeless Comedy From Millions of Years Ago

In today’s media landscape, viewers will find many stories skewering big corporations, consumerism, and environmentalism. However, TV shows have been tackling these themes for decades. In fact, these ideas can be found in the unlikliest of places—even a children’s sitcom. This brings us to one of the most surprisingly deep shows of all time: Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs. In recent years, many have looked back at the show to see how well its messages have aged. For those unfamiliar with the show, here is the rundown on how the masters of puppetry created one of their most unique classics.

The Aesthetic of ‘Dinosaurs’ 

1991’s Dinosaurs followed Earl Sinclair, a working-class man trying to provide for his family. Perhaps the best tool at Dinosaurs’ disposal in conveying its story was its puppetry. Upon first glance, the concept and appearance of Dinosaurs are ostensibly childish. After all, it’s a children’s sitcom following a family of anthropomorphic dinosaurs. At the time, Dinosaurs was one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced with its advanced puppetry and animatronics. At the heart of the show’s “kiddy” facade was the mascot, Baby Sinclair. With his memetic behavior and iconic catchphrases, he was the official face of the show. 

However, this was only the surface of the series. Everything changes once the animatronics open their mouths. What would start as a question of one of the characters being an herbivore would spiral into a thinly veiled discussion on marijuana legalization. In any other show, having such-on-the-nose dialogue would be obnoxious, preachy, or on the nose. However, the novelty comes from the fact that these discussions come out of the mouths of Jim Henson characters living in the Stone Age. The juxtaposition of these two ideas is downright hilarious in the end. 

This is perhaps best spelled out in a small scene where the baby is watching a TV show, and Fran points out that it’s for kids to Earl. In response, he says that despite its children’s aesthetic, the dialogue is “unquestionably sharp-edged, witty, and thematically skewed to adults.” Similarly, the show’s disguise as a kid’s puppet show is a “trojan horse” to lecture audiences about highly topical issues. 

The Commentary of ‘Dinosaurs’ 

With this subversive style of tackling its stories, Dinosaurs went at virtually every hot-button social issue it could find. Censorship, feminism, law enforcement, religion, and many other subjects all found themselves on the show’s chopping block, whereas another kids’ show like something on PBS Kids handled these issues with either vague metaphors or overly optimistic messages. Dinosaurs got right to the point. Even within their metaphors, Dinosaurs had frank, to-the-point discussions about topics that rarely ended with society having a “Come-to-Jesus” moment. In every episode, the nigh-omnipotent Wesayso Corporation would have its way through the media and its connections, such as buying an entire volcano when Robbie wanted to have it used as a cheap power source.

Image courtesy of ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images | ‘Dinosaurs’ from ABC and the Jim Henson Company

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Nothing was above criticism in Dinosaurs, not even their parent company, Disney. For example, one episode followed the Sinclairs on their overpriced, malfunctioning, line-ridden trip to “Wesaysoland.” As another example of skewering consumerism, there is the self-explanatory superhero “Captain Action Figure” that makes several appearances. 

One of the best examples during the series’ run would be their take on the contemporary Gulf War with the two-part special “Nuts to War.” In it, Pangea goes to war with a nation of “four-leggers” over nut farms—which is to say, they think “war is nuts,” or rather that their motivations aren’t nearly as noble as they were led to believe. Ironically, despite being set millions of years ago, many of its messages were and still are contemporary issues in society, not the least of these is environmentalism. 

The Ending   

Of course, there’s no talking about Dinosaurs without moving on to its most memorable episode, its ending. Now, the Jim Henson company is no stranger to darker works such as Farscape or The Dark Crystal; this has to be the darkest it has ever been in one of its more family-friendly shows. Even worse, the grim nature of Dinosaurs’ ending proves the show’s cynicism wasn’t just for shock value.

In the series finale, “Changing Nature,” audiences learn that due to a wax fruit factory being built over beetles’ mating grounds, dense foliage has overtaken the entire continent. Rather than live in harmony with nature, the Wesayso Corporation uses a series of escalating geoengineering strategies. This culminates in them blocking out the sun and bringing about an ice age. It’s a fairly smart allegory for climate change in how it depicts the “domino effect” of these natural disasters and fake solutions worsening each other.

On the one hand, this is widely remembered as one of the most heartbreaking endings to a TV show. To many, this ending was out of left field and too sudden. However, the series had tackled environmentalism many times before, such as with the son Robbie’s constant activism and episodes following deforestation and pollution. As such, this was the result of this recurring theme, culminating in a cautionary tale. Thirty years later, it seems many viewers have yet to learn the threat climate change poses to everyone.


Henceforth, Dinosaurs remains a beloved entry in Jim Henson’s lineup while maintaining cult classic status. The show managed to combine all of the usual charm of the company with biting, cynical commentary. It’s this combination that made the show as memorable as it was even to this day. In today’s world where everything is done with CGI, it’s important to look back at shows like this. 

Image courtesy of ‘Looper’ | ‘Dinosaurs’ from ABC and the Jim Henson Company

Dinosaurs on Disney+

Source: Dead Talk Live

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