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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Disney And Jim Henson Present Dino-Motion Dinosaurs At McDonald's

Since the dawn of time, there have been TV sitcom families featuring a fat husband and a skinny wife. Yes, ever since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. That was the premise of ABC network's 1991 "Dinosaurs" series (created by Michael Jacobs and Bob Young), which was one of the first collaborations between Disney and Jim Henson.

Workers for the WESAYSO Development Corporation included Earl Sinclair, Roy Hess and B.P. Richfield. I had never noticed that the characters shared names with big oil companies.

The voice of B.P. Richfield, the ferocious boss at WESAYSO, was provided by the late Sherman Hemsley (who starred in the famous TV shows "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons").

The Dino-Motion Dinosaurs McDonald's Happy Meal featured push-button "puppets" of the Sinclair family packaged in gigantic plastic bags.

Fat dad Earl Sinclair (voiced by Stuart Pankin, who many people remember as an anchor on HBO's "Not Necessarily the News") was sort of a cross between Fred Flintstone and Dino the dinosaur.

Earl's wife, Fran, was voiced by Jessica Walter, an actress who has appeared in front of the camera quite a bit lately, starring in shows like "Arrested Development" and "Retired at 35".

Jessica Walter can also be heard as the voice of Malory Archer on the animated series "Archer" on FX.

Fran's mom, Ethyl (voiced by the late Florence Stanley) makes life miserable for Earl.

Florence Stanley appeared on many sitcoms over the years, including "My Two Dads," "Nurses" and "Mad About You." She also continued voicing characters in shows like "Family Guy" and in films like Disney's "Atlantis."

Many of the stories in "Dinosaurs" centered on teenagers Robbie and Charlene.

Robbie's best friend, Spike, was voiced by actor Christopher Meloni.

The cast of "Dinosaurs" was a mix of actors in costumes (with highly sophisticated animatronic faces) and traditional (yet still elaborate) hand puppets.

The funniest Dinosaur character name I remember was TV anchor Howard Handupme (a traditional puppet performed by Kevin Clash).

Robbie (voiced by Jason Willinger) was a rebel and often the voice of reason in the family.

Jason Willinger and Florence Stanley can also be heard in Disney's "A Goofy Movie" (1995).

Teenage daughter Charlene was voiced by Sally Struthers, so "Dinosaurs" reunited her with "All in the Family" co-star, Sherman Hemsley.

Sally Struthers also voiced Rebecca Cunningham on Disney's 1990 "TaleSpin" animated series.

Baby Sinclair was performed and voiced by Kevin Clash, who is known to millions of people as Elmo from Sesame Street.

The abusive Baby had his own music video and song called "I'm the Baby, Gotta Love Me."

Many McDonald's Happy Meal promotions had a special toy for kid under three years old. They were never seen in any of the advertisements.

Spitting at people was tame in comparison to some of the other things Baby Sinclair did on "Dinosaurs."

"Dinosaurs" was supposed to be the tip of the iceberg in the early 1990s partnership between Disney and Henson.

When Jim Henson died in 1990, the fate of many of the projects planned was in question.

Luckily, "Dinosaurs" made it to the small screen.

"Dinosaurs" is nothing like Disney's 2000 movie "Dinosaur." Except they both have unimaginative titles.

The writing on the "Dinosaurs" show was lots of fun, and the characters were not afraid to mock their own series.

"Dinosaurs" aired on ABC before the network was bought by Disney. In 1996, a similar Henson show called "Aliens in the Family" debuted on ABC. It did not do so well.

"Dinosaurs" had enough of a following for merchandise, including action figures and Valentines.
You'd have to be cold-blooded not to get a smile from Dinosaurs Valentines.

The characters work well as hand drawn characters.

Earl has a heart on for Fran.

The hand drawn Dinosaurs could also be found in comic books.

The artwork in these books kicks Jurassic.

ProSet had a line of Dinosaurs Collector Cards.

The range of expressions and emotions seen with these puppets is astonishing.

As part of the 20th Birthday Celebration for Walt Disney World in Florida, the Dinosaurs became one of the 20 reasons to visit Walt Disney World in 1992.

Since the Dinosaurs seen at Walt Disney World did not have moving eyes or mouths like their TV counterparts, they couldn't complain too loudly when they were told to leave the Disney MGM Studios (now called Disney's Hollywood Studios) by the time their show was off the air in 1994.

If the Dinosaurs happen to be lurking in the swamps somewhere at Walt Disney World in Florida, I'd like to suggest that they should go visit Dinoland at Disney's Animal Kingdom and maybe they'll be invited to stay there to become park mascots.


  1. I was a huge Muppets fan, and wanted so much to like Dinosaurs. I think I watched just about every episode, though I can't really remember being entertained by it. I felt that they never really got past all of the Dinosaur jokes. What I mean by that is, yes, the gimmick of the show, and a huge source of humor is obviously that they're dinosaurs in a world and a civilization that paralells our own. But eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later, the writing has to be more than that. While they did explore a surprising array of subjects, I always felt that the jokes and gimmick distracted from any deeper meaning that might have been explored. Yes, it was a comedy, but if you're going to bother to add drama or pathos, you need to do it well. It seemed like the show was scared to fully commit to anything other than dino jokes. It was nice to have Henson back on the air in some form, but it wasn't one of their best showcases.

  2. Hey Eric Scales! Yes, I seem to remember audiences having a difficult time warming up to "Dinosaurs." I guess that could be a reason why it did not last very long. The episode that stands out the most to me was "Variations on a Theme Park" where the family went to WESAYSO Land and met the park's mascot, Moola the Cash-Cow.

  3. I'm very sure this show had a huge fan base. I remember a lot of people having the toys, games and McDonald's stuff. I think it attracted a lot of young people and little kids, as well as adults. I was a young teen when it was on and I remember the day it ended and the aftermath of coming to high school the next day and everyone sitting around depressed talking about it in class. O__O I think this show is just another victim of being out at the wrong time. I know it suffered a bit as far as being able to catch it on TV at times. Had it premiered in the 2000's on FOX I think it would have lasted a lot longer. It was so hard for animated and shows like this to last during this time period for some reason. I blame the networks myself. We saw so many shows that should have lasted longer fail. I mean, even Family Guy and Futurama relied on DVD sales to come back, despite their huge audiences. Networks are just nasty towards these shows I guess.

  4. You make some very good points, DinosaurPrince! "The Simpsons" was still pretty new when "Dinosaurs" debuted (and "The Simpsons" even made fun of "Dinosaurs" in one episode) so this kind of show was very different for its time. And yes, I could see "Dinosaurs" getting new interest and returning to the spotlight, which did indeed happen with Family Guy and Futurama.

  5. I watched this show, but mostly to see what Baby Sinclair was going to say and do. I also had to go to McDonald's to get the Dino-motion toy of him!

  6. Hey TokyoMagic! Maybe someday we'll see "Tickle Me Baby Sinclair" toys in stores.