Ahh, dinosaurs.These prehistoric wonders are so full of mystery and capable of stirring up scientific inquiry that they have captured the imagination of paleontologists and the general public alike. As such, over the decades there have been countless pop culture depictions of dinosaurs in movies, TV shows, comics and literature. Most of these, like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Steven Spielberg’s subsequent film adaptation of the novel have ignited a firestorm of interest amongst folks.
Others, not so much. So for today’s Daily List, we’ll be taking a look at the five greatest and five lamest dinosaurs that pop culture has to offer. Even if you disagree with my choices (be sure to name your picks in the comments), you can be assured that, at the very least, it will make some of your workday extinct. Let the dino-fun commence!
The Best: 5) Dinosaurs Attack!
In 1988, Topps attempted to reignite some of its Mars Attacks magic with this line of trading cards that showcased some, um, dino-mite carnage. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly explode upon the pop culture consciousness in the way that its predecessor did. That, combined with the fact that kids of the era already had their daily requirement of humor cards fulfilled by Topps’ own Garbage Pail Kids (and would rather save their dough for Nintendo games) meant that Dinosaurs Attack! quickly became extinct. As you can see from the above gallery, this is a damn shame. Though the public was initially indifferent to these cards, over the years they have rightfully found an audience amongst people who realize that nothing says entertainment more than a bunch of dinosaurs eating nerds at a comic convention.
Armed with the most versatile tongue this side of Gene Simmons and some Up With People-like positivity, Yoshi is the greatest dino pal that Mario and Luigi could ever hope for. If they actually had the ability to feel desire, that is. Sadly, they aren’t real, which means that all of their struggles over the years have been for naught. Bummer. Still, Yoshi is one lovable scamp, eh? That said, he still completely sucked in the Super Mario Bros. movie. 3) Dino
Dogs are man’s best friend? That’s not in the case in Bedrock. As evidenced by the clip you see above, Dino’s love for his master is so overwhelming that Fred makes trying to avoid his overenthusiastic pet part of his daily ritual. The theme song to The Flintstones muses that one day Fred will win the fight and “that cat will stay out for the night.” You’ll notice that Dino isn’t mentioned in the tune. You know why? Because when he’s around, a Yabba Dabba Doo time is guaranteed to all. No one gives a shit about that cat. Loser.
Look, I don’t know what kind of peyote was being partaken of in the Transformers production offices when someone struck upon the idea of creating a grammatically challenged dinosaur robot; I’m just grateful that they did. He Grimlock, us fans. 1) Godzilla The most lovable prehistoric hellraiser in pop culture history seems ageless even though he’s approaching the age of 60. Yes, dino lovers, since debuting in 1954 Godzilla has proven himself to be the definitive movie monster. Sure he’s mutated by crazy radiation and likes to smash more than the Hulk on a drunken bender caused by watching NBC’s Smash, but he has stomped his way into our hearts regardless. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hit the jump for the five lamest pop culture dinosaurs… <!–break–> The Lamest: 5) Barney
If douchebag dinosaurs could ever be given a Lifetime Achievement Award, you can bet that Barney would be the first recipient. His fandom has died down somewhat these days, but a mere two decades ago his purple reign of terror was inescapable. Reminder: Dinosaurs should be ripping people apart in ill-advised theme parks, not singing songs about cooperation and learning.
4) Denver the Last Dinosaur Of all the crappy dinosaur-based cartoons of the late ’80s/early ’90s (Dino Riders, I’m scowling in your direction) the worst was Denver, the Last Dinosaur. Even if you can somehow get past the innuendo of the theme lyrics –“he’s my friend and a whole lot more…shows me a world I’ve never saw before”– you’re still left with a lesson-based cartoon that made Captain Planet seem edgy. Point to ponder: Was Denver’s carefully calculated “coolness” an inspiration for The Simpsons‘ Poochie? Fuck this one’s catchy theme song too.
3) Godzooky Who could have guessed that the toughest opponent Godzilla ever faced would be the Scrappy-Doo Effect? Unfortunately, that was the case with the mighty monster’s 1970s cartoon series that introduced his cowardly nephew, Godzooky (along with the science ship Calico and its bland protagonists). Like Scrappy, Godzooky’s main purpose was to bring in a goofy, supposedly lovable younger version of the lead character. It didn’t work. As if watching Godzilla relegated to a crappy Jonny Quest wannabe wasn’t a challenge enough to slog through, each episode featured Godzooky slowing down the action even more with his semi-concussed antics. Fortunately, he eventually met his end by flying into electric wires while trying to entertain the Calico’s crew. Actually, that never happened, but hey, one can dream!
Things are going to get childish here for this list’s last two slots, and I’m not just referring to my writing abilities. Kicking off the top two is the titular dinosaur from 1985’s Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend. Along with sullying Patrick McGoohan’s career, this film’s crimes included showcasing the single worst animatronic creatures ever seen in a major motion picture. Land of the Lost looks like Jurassic Park in comparison to the utter cheapness of Baby. At my office there is an inflatable Baby that was given away in conjunction with the film’s VHS debut. It looks more realistic than the apatosaurs in the film. What does that tell you?
1) Baby Sinclair Given the bleak ending of the series (in which all the characters went extinct, spoiler alert) and some great, decidedly unBaby-like animatronics, I have a respect for Dinosaurs. This goodwill doesn’t carry over to the irksome Baby Sinclair, a character who was created with the clear intention of becoming a breakout star. Voiced by Kevin Clash, who basically is just recycling his Elmo voice, Baby is a insufferable tyke who is always ready with a catch-phrase or an “aww”-inducing mug for the cameras. Now I’m sure there are those of you out who believe that Baby Sinclair exists as a subversive commentary on the manufactured cuteness of certain TV characters. I’d be willing to lend that theory way more credence if my blood didn’t boil each time I heard “Not the mama!”
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.