Instead of singing, Judge Daryl Loomis makes dinosaur sounds in the shower.
Each day is an adventure in survival.
On a rafting trip down an uncharted section of the Amazon, Professor John Butler and his science-y family get sucked down a whirlpool. When they emerge, they find themselves in a land that time forgot (but not a land of the lost; that's a different show). Dinosaurs, mastodons, and saber-tooth tigers are everywhere, but so is a helpful family of cave dwellers who, thankfully, speak English. Dr. Butler, his wife Kim, kids Katie and Greg, and their pup Digger work together with Gorok, his wife Gara, kids Lok and Tana, and dino-pooch Glump and are forced to cooperate for survival. Along the way, they learn to respect their cultural differences and teach each other something, as well.
All 16 episodes of this 1974 Hanna Barbera mini-classic come to us on two discs from Warner Archive.
1. "Forbidden Fruit": Not realizing that the fruit of a particular tree was reserved for a sacred brontosaurus, Greg takes some of it back to the cave. The lizard comes for his offering and causes a rock slide. With the cave flooding, the gang must explain a siphon to the cave family.
2. "What Goes Up": In order to save the village from an infestation of giant ants, the Butlers learn some early uses for fire, while they teach the cave people the principles behind a hot air balloon to attack from the sky.
3. "A Turned Turtle": Hearing about an elder recluse who might know a way for them to get home, Kim and Katie head off to find him. When floods trap them in a valley, the gents must make a submersible out of a tortoise shell to save them.
4. "Smoke Screen": A member of a group of missing links who have traditionally stolen the tribe's food is trapped in a rope built by Butler. The monkey-men are angry and mobilize for war, but Butler shows the tribe his recipes for flaming arrows and smoke bombs.
5. "The Volcano": When Butler clearly sees the beginnings of a volcano eruption, he implores Gorok to travel up with him to take a look. In spite of the clan's wishes he goes up, and invokes the wrath of tribal law. But when that research helps save the village, everybody learns that knowledge sometimes trumps tradition.
6. "Pteranodon": When Kim falls ill to a mysterious fever, both families have to scavenge the forest for medicinal herbs. Katie and Lok are tasked to gather pteranodon eggs, but mama's not too happy to find them rooting in her nest.
7. "The Saber-Tooth Kids": Glump falls into a cave while playing catch and gets lost trying to get out. Greg and Tana head into the deep wilderness to find him, but when they do, they still have to make their way home.
8. "After Shock": An earthquake knocks a sacred stone bust off its pedestal, smashing it and causing superstition to take over the tribe. Only with the power of a pulley system can the Butlers make things right again.
9. "Top Cave, Please": Lok thinks it silly that the tribe keeps a stegosaurus as a mascot to ensure a successful hunt. When the dinosaur escapes, the tribe blames Lok for releasing him and threatens to exile him to the wild. The gang has one day to prove him innocent or lose him forever.
10. "S.O.S": While screwing around being useless, Tana spies a crazy bird in the sky that doesn't flap its wings. When the Butlers realize that a plane is flying overhead, they begin fashioning a radio to signal the pilot, getting in the way of their obligations to the tribe.
11. "Fire": When jerks let a small fire burn out of control, it threatens the village. Luckily, Dr. Butler knows some firebreaking techniques that allow them to contain the blaze.
12. "Rain of Meteors": The prince of a rival tribe is seriously wounded falling off a ledge and the gang takes him back to the cave for care. Unfortunately, an unseemly observer claims the prince was kidnapped, bringing the tribe to the brink of war.
13. "To Fly a Kite": The gang finds the medical bag from their raft in the middle of a dangerous swamp. The cave people don't understand its importance, but when Lok develops blood poisoning, it's their only chance to save his life.
14. "Test Flight": Dr. Butler builds a glider to scan the surroundings and spots the possibility for a way out of this valley, but he must sacrifice his aircraft to save Greg and Tana, who were washed down river recovering a part of it.
15. "The Big Toothache": A family of tigers shows up in the valley and threatens the rest of the wildlife. One of them is sick and Gara knows the cure, but they have to incapacitate it first. Using their baby as bait, Dr. Butler utilizes his apparent knowledge of being a POW in Vietnam to build a trap and sedate the animal.
16. "Torch": Raiders steal the clan's food and brag about it, but the Butlers won't stand for it. They've been working on a natural gas well for some time, and lighting it might just scare the raiders into going back under the rocks they crawled out form under.
It had been a long, long time since I'd watched Valley of the Dinosaurs, so I wasn't expecting a whole lot from the series. In retrospect, Hanna Barbera's output leaves a lot to be desired, both from a story and an artistic perspective, but I enjoyed this one a little bit. Its mix of action and science is a welcome change that animation had become even by the time I was a little kid, let alone now. Valley of the Dinosaurs is adventure mixed with education in a way that's almost completely lost from children's programming today.
Every episode is structurally the same. A cave world problem presents itself that, on the surface, is extremely scary. But with a little ingenuity and the practical use of modern science they get out of their jam. Those little bits of education are important; subtly giving kids practical information on pulleys and levers and fulcrums and the like is valuable and lasting. Kids love dinosaurs; why not give them some knowledge along the way.
The animation is rudimentary, but fun. Full of fantastical landscapes and dinosaurs, the artists were able to have a lot of fun in putting these designs together. The voice acting is little more than average, though Greg is voiced by Jackie Earl Haley (Watchmen), though he sounds little like Rorschach in these days. Valley of the Dinosaurs is by no means great programming, but its mix of adventure and educational value make it a show I'd be happy to show kids today.
I can live without the extras, especially for something like Valley of the Dinosaurs, but I do wish that Warner Bros. would do more work with the technical aspects of their Warner Archives releases. The series is garishly colored, but here they look somewhat muted, and there is a fair bit of dirt and some damage on the prints, too. Though it is never unwatchable, it could be a quite a bit better. The sound fares the same as the image, with a sometimes muddy and often noisy mono track. As always, no extras.
Not great, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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