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Case Number 04743: Small Claims Court

Buy Dinotopia: The Series at Amazon

Dinotopia: The Series

Lionsgate // 2002 // 580 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // July 9th, 2004

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All Rise...

In a DVD Verdict first, scientists combined DNA from Judge Bill Treadway and a velociraptor to bring you our first review written in the ancient language of dinosaurs...which, strangely enough, is exactly the same as modern American English.

The Charge

Adventure ain't extinct.

The Case

But this show sure is. After disappointing ratings for the six-hour Dinotopia miniseries, ABC decided to go ahead with the television series adaptation anyway. One of the most expensive series of all time, Dinotopia: The Series was slated to air Thursday nights. Faced with opposition from Survivor, Friends and WWE Smackdown!, this series headed to extinction after six low-rated episodes. Now the entire series has been issued in a three-disc set.

Based on a series of books by James Gurney, the story concerns a pair of brothers, Karl and David, who are washed up on the island of Dinotopia, which is inhabited by both humans and dinosaurs. At the end of the miniseries, the brothers had resigned themselves to life on the island.

I can't imagine ABC airing a program of this poor quality. Oh, wait…this is the network that aired Are You Hot? and I'm a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here! No wonder it's still in fourth place. I remember when ABC heavily advertised the miniseries as a "mega series," even though there was nothing "mega" about it other than oppressive length. ABC, desperate to increase ratings, recast all roles and brought in experienced writing and directing teams to handle production chores. All of it was for nothing, however, as the weakness remains the same: Dinotopia is a butt-numbing bore. The only difference between the miniseries and the weekly show is that the numbing effect is more gradual.

All 13 episodes from the brief first season are spread over three discs. To preserve story continuity (besides, nothing really happens, anyway), I will not be providing individual synopses and star ratings for the episodes. Thank me later.

These episodes aired on ABC from November 28, 2002, to December 26, 2002: "Marooned," "Making Good,"
"A Handful of Dust," "Contact," "Matriarch," and "Big Fight." Dinotopia was cancelled on December 17, 2002. The following episodes did not air on ABC in any form: "Lost and Found," "Le Sage," "Car Wars," "Night of the Wartosa," "The Cure: Part 1," "The Cure: Part 2," and "Crossroads."

Artisan Entertainment, now under the Lions Gate umbrella, issues the programs in full-frame format. This being Artisan, the transfers look terrible. Artifacting and pixilation are this set's biggest problems. Edge enhancement galore appears here, and the image is often grainy, with poor contrast. I doubt the episodes looked this bad on ABC, but this set doesn't even try to make them look good.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Artisan/Lions Gate is far from being the beacon of great sound mixes, and this mix doesn't even give the series a fair chance of being appreciated. The dialogue is a challenge to hear and is often obscured by the score. The score isn't even all that easy to listen to, since it's mixed far too low, so imagine how low the dialogue was to begin with.

Artisan has thrown together a few extras. Four brief featurettes ("26 Hatches," "Discovering Dinotopia," "Witness from Dinotopia," and "Creating Dinotopia's Dinosaurs") demonstrate the hard work of the creative teams in mounting one of the most expensive shows ever made. It's a shame all this hard work was for naught. We also get interviews with members of the creative team. They are interesting to watch, but one wonders if these people sensed that they were manning a sinking ship. An interactive DVD game will keep the kids entertained for about six minutes; after that, they'll be bored stiff. Last and most certainly least are trailers for other Hallmark/Artisan discs.

Dinotopia: The Series is selling for an amazingly cheap price ($19.98), but I wonder: is there anyone out there who actually likes this series? The appeal of dinosaurs is no doubt wide, but you would be better off purchasing some of the Gurney books instead.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 20

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 580 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Action
• All Ages
• Bad
• Science Fiction
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• "26 Hatches" Featurette
• "Discovering Dinotopia" Featurette
• "Witness from Dinotopia" Featurette
• "Creating Dinotopia's Dinosaurs" Featurette
• Interviews with the Creative Team
• Interactive Game
• Trailers


• IMDb: Dinotopia Miniseries
• IMDb

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