Hollywood! Adapt This: DINO-RIDERS

     January 20, 2013


With the recent news that Jurassic Park IV will be bringing dinosaurs back to the screen next summer, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing an uptick in dino-related toys and games.  Such was the case in 1988 when toy company Tyco sought to produce an animated series as promotional material for a new toy line.  What we got was a highly enjoyable and completely insane mash-up of time travel, space battles, alien humanoids and frickin’ dinosaurs with frickin’ lasers on their heads!  Hit the jump to harness the power of dinosaurs!  Hollywood!  Adapt this: Dino-Riders!

dino-riders-comicWhat It’s About:

Dino-Riders was a promotional cartoon series from Tyco that ran for 14 episodes in late 1988.  What the show is actually about is entertaining kids with about 20 minutes of animated action and then casually placing advertisements for the toy versions of characters and dinosaurs the kids just saw in order to harass their parents into buying them; a brilliant bit of marketing.  While Dino-Riders may be one of the purest forms of corporate-produced creation, it’s just a crazy enough concept to deserve a reboot.

In the first episode of Dino-Riders*, we’re introduced to two warring factions of aliens: the peaceful human-like Valorians led by Questar (ie good guys) and the hostile animalistic humanoid Rulons, led by Krulos (ie bad guys).  Engaged in a space battle at the outset, the Rulons have locked their tractor beam onto the Valorians’ ship but are pulled through space and time when the Valorians make a hyperspace jump.  The two vessels land on a prehistoric Earth populated by dinosaurs, at which point both sides decide that, hey, these things would make for good beasts of burden/weapons of war.

The Valorians use their AMP (amplified mental projectors) necklaces in order to peacefully make friends with the smiling dinosaurs, while the Rulons corral the beasts with the use of lasers and “brain boxes,” armored contraptions that bend the dinosaurs to their will (and also provide a key weak point for the Valorians to target in battle).  The Valorians set to building a new settlement on Earth with the help of their prehistoric pals while the Rulons manage to land the biggest and baddest dino, Tyrannosaurus Rex, as their exemplary walking weapon (which was the toy that everyone just had to have).

*As a side note, this is another animated series featuring the voices of Frank Welker and Peter Cullen, best known for their ongoing Transformers legacies.

dino-riders-vhsHow Could / Why Should It Be Adapted?

Since we’re talking about space travelers outfitting dinosaurs with laser harnesses and body armor to continue their epic war, let’s just throw the idea of practicality out the window for a moment.  A Dino-Riders feature adaptation would be an absolute CG-fest owing to all the dinos, lasers and humanoid Rulons that would need to be on screen.  The practical effects-loving side of me would prefer a balance between the VFX dinosaurs, much like Jurassic Park managed to pull off.  Realistic dino puppets would work best for the close up scenes of the Valorians interacting peacefully with the critters and the Rulons viciously outfitting them with mind-control devices (crazy).

Honestly, I’d just like a return to the old-fashioned “good guys vs bad guys” type of movie, especially one that’s aimed at kids.  They don’t need to get caught up in the gray areas of real life, not when we’re talking about warring alien factions riding around on Ankylosauruses or flying about on Pterosaurs.  Let the bad guys scare the kids and subliminally educate them on the dangers and depravity of animal/dinosaur cruelty, let the good guys struggle but eventually win the day because of a moral high ground.  And then let the parents go out and spend way too much money on the toys because they’re just that fun.

And talk about scene-chewing villains! Krulos has possibly THE BEST megalomaniacal one-liner and evil laugh in the history of everything right here.  How can you not want to see that guy on screen?!  Especially when he’s riding atop the mighty T-Rex!  That is a scene that would blow kids’ minds…it certainly did for me back in the day.

The Final Word: 

While I would love to see a big screen adaptation of Dino-Riders, I doubt any studio will be willing to throw the money at it since it would require a huge budget for the necessary over-the-top effects.  It’s not exactly a safe bet as a 25-year-old rebooted property.  Perhaps a new animated series is in order?  There again, as was the case with the rebooted Thundercats (which was not renewed for a third season the last I checked), these 80s properties just don’t seem to resonate in a way that gives them longevity.  Either today’s kids are not swept up in the adventures, the nostalgia for older viewers has worn off or executives see the project as counter-productive to their bottom line.  I still hold out hope that Dino-Riders can be unearthed sometime in the near future, because frickin’ dinosaurs with frickin’ lasers on their heads!

Check out the first episode in its entirety (with bonus Tyco commercials!) below:

Tune in next week for Hollywood! Adapt This when we visit a wildly successful animated series/video game property that might just be due for a live-action adaptation.  How else are we expected to catch ’em all? (In the meantime, just take in the pure insanity of the following image.)


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