Friday, September 2, 2011
How should dinosaurs revolt?
Rudolf Zallinger's famous T. rex. Photo by DJNick66, shared via flickr.
The lead up to Dinosaur Revolution has brought to the fore a certain message we've all heard before:
"Sunday Sunday Sunday! Prepare to have your vision of dinosaurs as sluggish, stupid reptiles destroyed!"
In Tom Conroy's review of Dinosaur Revolution at Media Life Magazine, he writes "Even if viewers haven’t read in scientific journals that dinosaurs weren’t stupid, sluggish creatures, they’ve probably gleaned that information from 'Jurassic Park.'" It's something that's bugged me as I've written here over the last two years. After all, in the Vintage Dinosaur Art series, Marc and I frequently discuss the transition from the sluggish reptiles of yesteryear to dynamic, diverse dinosaurs we know today. Don't people get it by now?
If asked to picture the world of the Mesozoic, does the average person on the street see the vision of Zallinger or Spielberg? We're now almost twenty years into the Jurassic Park era, and the idea of the "raptor" has ascended to a level of popularity arguably equal to Tyrannosaurus rex. As Matt Martyniuk points out in a recent post, Dinosaur Train is creating a new generation of dinosaur lovers who don't have that old baggage to deal with.
Are we beating a dead horse when we boldly claim to be killing obsolete ideas about dinosaur life? If so, what does this demand of future dinosaur edutainment? I'd argue that we need to focus less on dinosaur-specific lessons and more on broad concepts about evolution. Use the proven appeal of dinosaurs to teach about niche partitioning, convergent evolution, and other mechanisms of evolution. Be openly speculative and hypothetical. Work dinosaurs into the great tapestry of life on earth - all four billion or so years of it. These documentaries can be more than travelogues through time and showcases for weird, dead monsters. How to get there? I'm not sure. That's why I'm opening it up to you. What would you like to see future dinosaur projects do?