Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs! The 1987 Childcraft Annual - Last Hurrah

There's probably a good point at which to stop posting about the same 1980s children's dinosaur book, but it isn't before you've covered any hadrosaurs. Therefore, please be welcoming of one last round of the Childcraft Annual, and of John Rignall's delightfully coloured bright-eyed lambeosaurines. It's a lovely day to be sporting a solid orange head crest, having tangerine dreams and admiring the smoking scenery.



I'm not sure quite what it is about this pair - other than the wonderful skin patterns, of course - but I really like them. I think it's down to the eyes - staring, expressionless discs suitably reminiscent of birds and certain lizards. Aside from that, the shading is quite excellent, while the lack of an obvious keratinous sheath over the beaks lends them something of a retro air.


Happily, Rignall also provided an illustration of (the head of) Tsintaosaurus, in all its suggestive red rocket glory. It's almost a shame that we won't be seeing any more of these (or the boring flat-nosed incarnation), but at least we have a rich artistic record. Since Rignall avoided aping Sibbick, we're spared the, uh, resonating chambers, but the fork at the end of the crest is an interesting touch. To top it off, there's a wee juvenile in classic cheapo dino toy tripod pose. If it weren't for the nubbin-like incipient crest on the baby, this could almost be an illustration of Tsintaosaurus posing with an action figure of itself.


Now, it's often been suggested that the moon landings were faked, mostly by people who think that the Americans were left smarting so badly by Sputnik that they were willing to plough billions of dollars into a dusty film set and a team of snipers to keep a watchful eye on Neil Armstrong day and night. I don't believe they were, although I could well understand NASA being put off by the thousand-strong army of nesting Maiasaura that they almost certainly expected to be waiting to greet their astronauts. A decent effort by Patricia Wynne, but a little foliage wouldn't have gone amiss. Also, the head crests have been doubled up, but everyone does that.


While scenes of good mother lizards hanging around a dustbowl are quite typical in books like this, it's less common to see a Tenontosaurus just standing around looking chill. But here we are. This is a quite gorgeous piece by Jean Helmer, not least for the wonderfully textured and patterned skin of the animal, which manages to completely alleviate any pitfalls in having to go monochrome. While obviously depicted eating, the creature still seems poised and alert, ready to run at the first sign of a man with a big beard and a cowboy hat ordering an army of dewlapped deinonychosaurs to attack, my pretties, attack.


Fellow ornithopod Iguanodon is having none of that peaceful, frond-chewin' nonsense. Edward Brooks' illustration of Mr Stabby is clearly Sibbick-inspired, although he manages to make the attacking theropod look like even more of a clueless dolt. I simply love the description in the text of the potential for a gang of Iguanodon to get all stab-happy on a theropod - to the point of thumb-spiking it to death. Geeze, guys, you're already rather more massive than they are - can't you just trample 'em?



Brooks also provides a rather Kishian illustration of Saurolophus, but said hadrosaur isn't the intended star of this piece. No, that would be the disembodied arm creeping in stage left. Therizinosaurs are so ubiquitous these days (no toy line is complete without one, no matter how hideously deformed), it's hard to remember a time when they were so utterly mysterious - when they would conceal themselves in copses of trees and slowly reach out...and touch you. Brrr. Nice work from Brooks.


We'll round off our look at the Childcraft annual with some delightful papercraft, courtesy (in this case) of George Suyeoka (with photography by Ralph Brunke). A Suyeoka piece precedes each section of the book, providing a wonderfully stylised and eye-catching introduction to a given geological era. One simply doesn't see the likes of this very often - I really like it. You can't beat a bright blue Diplodocus.


The Cretaceous piece is notable not only for possibly the only solid yellow Corythosaurus ever to grace a printed page, but also the amusingly naive-looking tyrannosaur gorily devouring a carcass in the top left. The Triceratops, meanwhile, appears to draw on Sibbick's Normanpedia work.


And finally...a guide to different dinosaur groups, by Bill Miller rather than Suyeoka this time. When compared with Suyeoka, Miller draws more on retro palaeoart, and there is an awkward collision of old and new that's very '80s; a pasty-shaped stegosaur and sprightly, erect-tailed nodosaur share a page. Using a different colour for each clade is a neat idea (even if 'prosauropods' and ornithopods are a little close), and the book's attempts to introduce evolutionary relationships to kids are quite admirable (as previously noted). Bonus points to you if you immediately spotted the ornithosuchid hiding among the theropods - proof that 1987 was a Long Time Ago. Which makes me very old. Vintage, even. Sob.

Next time: something else! I might even review Dinosaur Britain, since people keep mentioning it. Feel free to comment with your thoughts!

13 comments:

  1. Hurrah for the last hurrah! I really like the top Rignall illustration, too. And as I already mentioned, I absolutely love the paper collages; and to get two such artists in one book -- and a book of this subject -- is an even rarer treat. Another characteristic of a Long Time Ago, perhaps...

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  2. Whoa... that last paper dinosaurs spread is cool but has some really odd stuff. Are there any other sauropod groups? Or are camarasaurs, barapasaurs, brachiosaurs, and mamenchisaurs the only kinds?

    Also, I think the scelidosaur and the nodosaur may have got their labels swapped. Seeing 'fabrosaurs' (distinct from heterodontosaurs, no less) has a very retro vibe. Ornithosuchians are considered dinosaurs. And melanorosaurs is misspelt melanosaurs. All very old-fashioned, but still very charming!

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  3. Superb! Delightful! All charming selections in their own way. Even creepy Saurolophus is interesting. Never been sold by that Iguanodon-stabbing-its-attacker meme. I mean, how dumb is a 'carnosaur' not to just rip its head off with its jaws? Why is he trying to fondle Iguano with his arms? No, I'm satisfied with the classic explanation of Iguanodon thumbs - they're for thumbing rides from passing sauropods.

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    1. "Never been sold by that Iguanodon-stabbing-its-attacker meme. I mean, how dumb is a 'carnosaur' not to just rip its head off with its jaws? Why is he trying to fondle Iguano with his arms?"

      To be fair, that's probably more to do w/the hypothesis being poorly illustrated than w/the hypothesis itself. Last I checked, it's still the best hypothesis for Iguanodon thumbs ("The thumb was without doubt an impressive, stiletto-like weapon of defence": http://www.amazon.com/Dinosaurs-Very-Short-Introduction-Introductions/dp/0192804197/ref=la_B001HCTX9Y_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381806972&sr=1-1 ). AFAIK, Sibbick's 90s illustration ( http://www.johnsibbick.com/library/displayfull.asp?product=DM17 ) is the best 1.

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  4. The last Bill Miller paper dinosaur spread reminds me strongly of an early 1970's Time Life book called 'Life Before Man' that had a similar centre fold (if not slightly more stylish).

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  5. The spread that I was thinking of: http://images.bidorbuy.co.za/user_images/494/400494/400494_130322212845_13-03-12readnews_(86).JPG

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  6. I had a different Childcraft dinosaur book in my younger days... I THINK it may still be in my closet, in fact.

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  7. I think you mean stage LEFT on the Therizinosaur image: the terms "stage left/right" refer to the actor's point of view, facing the audience.

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  8. "when they would conceal themselves in copses of trees and slowly reach out...and touch you."

    I already mentioned this on FB, but it's worth repeating here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WtDmbr9xyY

    BTW, I forgot to comment on Part 3, but I really like your analogy for "ceratopsian-tyrannosaur face-offs" ("often, they're the noble knights in scaly armour, locked in combat with tyrannosaurian dragons").

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    1. Thank you, although I'm quite sure I'm not the first person to think of that...I just can't think of where I've read it before.

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  9. Delightfully colored and bright-eyed as they are, those lambeosaurs look somewhat like...they're on a nice drug trip...

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  10. Why does saurolophus look so sad though?

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