Friday, September 17, 2010
Vintage Dinosaur Art: Michael Berenstain
The Berenstain Bears series of books were some of my favorites as a kid, and almost certainly one of my big influences as a cartoonist (though not responsible for the mediocrity of my cartooning, natch). I was also a connoisseur of Happy Meal toys from McDonald's, and I remember the Berenstain Bears set getting more than their fair share of use. In my estimation, they occupied the highest tier of Happy Meal toys, a position they shared with the exquisite Muppet Babies figurines.
McDonald's wasn't the only fast food establishment to profit from a partnership with the Berenstain cabal. Long John Silvers issued a set of dinosaur books, including today's addition to the Vintage Dinosaur Art pantheon, Michael Berenstain's King of the Dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus rex. It's part of his "I Love Dinosaurs" series, which was reprinted by Long John's for this promotion.
Michael, son of Stan and Jan, was on his game here, and without looking at the cover or title page, there's no missing the influence of his parents.
My favorite part of this title is just how astonished these dinosaurs look. Notice the ankylosaur in this next image; he wouldn't be more surprised if David Bowie had just strutted in, in full Aladdin Sane regalia.
Even other members of the lead character's species are nonplussed by the high dudgeon* of the heavyweight champion of tyrant lizards, recoiling before the sight of his flesh-shredding teeth and the reek of his breath.
Of course, even T. rex is caught off guard by the ultimate buzz-kill, the asteroid. This is the ultimate "aw, crap" moment.
Berenstain wisely closes the book with a mournful T. rex contemplating the end of the Mesozoic.
Hopefully this won't be the last time the Berenstains pop up here... I'm on the hunt for this title as well as this one. I remember owning the latter back in the day. Letting it slip from my possession is one of the more prominent shames in my already shameful life.
*I'll never relent in my quest to install this as a catchphrase on par with "All your base are belong to us."