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"Imagine you could travel back in time, to a time long before man."
—Kenneth Branagh, the show's Narrator.
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Walking with Dinosaurs (1999) is a BBC Speculative Documentary series focusing on... well... dinosaurs, using state-of-the-art CGI to recreate Mesozoic life. It was narrated by Kenneth Branagh.


It received several equally succesful continuations, specials, and spin-offs:

  • The Ballad of Big Al (2000), which tries to recreate the possible life of a Real Life Allosaurus, named Big Al.
  • Walking with Beasts (2001), focusing on mammal evolution which came after the dinosaurs in the Paleogene, Neogene, and Quaternary Periods.
  • Chased by Dinosaurs (2002), two specials focusing on two striking dinosaurs, the gigantic Argentinosaurus and the odd Therizinosaurus. This was the first in the Walking with... series to feature a visible presenter (in this case, Nigel Marven).
  • Prehistoric Planet (2002), a revised version of the Walking With Dinosaurs and Walking With Beasts documentaries, aimed at a younger audience and narrated by Ben Stiller and, later, Christian Slater.
  • Sea Monsters (2003), focusing on dangerous prehistoric marine wildlife, from "the seventh most dangerous sea ever" up to "the first" one. This also featured Nigel Marven.
  • Walking with Cavemen (2003), focusing on... guess. Also went for the "presenter" format (in this case, Robert Winston).
  • Walking with Monsters (2005), this time focusing on what came before the dinosaurs. Returned to the presenter-less format favoured by WWD and WWB.
  • The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life (2006), a book that producer Tim Haines and consultant Paul Chambers wrote featuring creatures from throughout the series.
  • Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular (opened in 2007), a touring live arena show featuring life-sized animatronic dinosaurs and performers in costume.
  • Walking With Dinosaurs 3D (2013), a theatrical movie, but with a different team behind it. Unknown whether it will follow a documentary-style storytelling, or not.

Prehistoric Park (2006) and Planet Dinosaur (2011) can be regarded either as spiritual successors to the later Nigel Marven specials and the original WWD, respectively, or as actual spin offs.

See also its Rule of Cool, Science Marches On and Stock Dinosaurs pages.


General tropes used throughout the franchise:

  • Anachronism Stew: Almost every animal had either gone extinct or not evolved by the time they're shown, mostly in Dinosaurs and Beasts.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: The narrator describes quite a lot of things as "lethal."
  • Badass: Where to begin? There's at least one per setting!
  • Camera Abuse: Almost Once an Episode, especially in Beasts.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The "predation is just a fact of life" approach, as most predators are treated as any documentary animals should be treated, not as villains. There are a few exceptions though, mainly in the two spinoffs ending with "Monsters".
  • Downer Ending: A given, since every animal featured in the program goes extinct eventually.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Subverted mostly, as sharks in the series can't hold a candle to larger predators like Dunkleosteus, Liopleurodon, Hyneria and Basilosaurus.
  • Good Bad Translation: The Italian and Spanish versions. For example, the Spanish changes Utahraptor to Velociraptor, Diplodocus to Saurolophus, Postosuchus to a postosuchid,[1] and Megaloceras to Megalosaurus!
    • The Hungarian translation, too.
  • Never Smile At a Crocodile: Postosuchus and Deinosuchus in Walking with Dinosaurs and Sarcosuchus in Chased by Dinosaurs. Phytosaurs and Proterosuchus are not a close crocodile relatives, but fill the same role in the accompanying book Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History and in the TV series Walking with Monsters, respectively.
    • Deinosuchus gets only a cameo appearance in Walking with Dinosaurs the TV series, but its badassery is emphasized in the accompanying book, where it's stated that it's even capable of killing a Tyrannosaurus getting too close to the water and later a group of them scares the female Tyrannosaurus away from freshly killed Anatotitan.
  • Noisy Nature: And HOW! All animals in the whole series make continuously sounds of every kind from roars to bellows, screechs, and so on (a major example of the strong Rule of Cool that characterize this series). The most incredible example is perhaps the early "amphibian" Hynerpeton which makes belch-like sounds without a pause and apparently without any good reason.... despite being a very archaic vertebrate, and thus very unlikely to utter any loud cry.
    • Another example: giant arthropods like the scorpion Brontoscorpio and the millipede Arthropleura making creaking sounds when walking and even when they're moulting their exoskeleton. This kind of sound is heard also during the "Evolution takes over" moments in WWM (just like an horror movie...)
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Some CGI animals share a scene or two with live-acted ones (including ancient humans), but this is used more greatly for comedic effect in all the various Making of specials.
  • Rule of Cool: Several examples throughout the series, especially about speculative animal behaviour. Another example is the fact that only the most spectacular animals of each taxonomic group are usually portrayed in almost all the shows of the series, despite they were probably less common in their environments that their smaller relatives (like what happens among modern animals as well). However, we can see many small-sized prehistoric animals too. Still another example is that many animals are more or less oversized in the program: the two most striking examples are the swimming Liopleurodon and the flying Ornithocheirus.
    • Since the list of examples from this trope is really large, please go here to see them.
  • Science Marches On: Many new discoveries have been made after this series, which changed our perception about prehistoric wildlife. These discoveries regard animal behaviour, taxonomy, or other issues. See here for examples.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: No way, oh no. You get a clear view of everything, including the giant paleo-penises.
  • Small Taxonomy Pools: Averted - the series did feature several creatures that weren't well-known among the general public before.
  • Speculative Documentary: Maybe a bit too much on the speculative side.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Lots, but a few new additions and subversion as well. For every stock dinosaur used, there's one or more creatures that have never been heard of in mass media before--or, substitution for an appropriate relative. Again, see here for a exhaustive list of examples.

Walking with Dinosaurs provides examples of:

The Ballad of Big Al provides examples of:

Walking with Beasts provides examples of:

Chased by Dinosaurs provides examples of:

Sea Monsters provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: T. rex appearing in a Cameo role 75 million years ago, whereas the oldest known rex dates from "only" about 68 million years ago. And it's clearly confirmed to be a real T. rex in the book, not one of its ancestors.[4]
  • Death World: While nearly all the seas could counts, the Creataceous Western Interior Seaway, which is actually called Hell's Aquarium to signify its dangers, particularly stands out.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: C. megalodon; unusual given how often the series subverts this.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: Orthocones.
  • Feathered Fiend: Subverted with Hesperornis, which look agressive but only serve to get eaten by other predators. Played straight in the book, which lists dromaeosaurs as Cretaceous land menaces.
  • Giant Flyer: The Pteranodons.
  • Megalodon: The third most dangerous Sea Monster.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Played straight, but that's kind of the point.
  • Schmuck Bait: Nigel repeatedly states that there's no way he would go into "Hell's Aquarium" - but decides to dive in anyway to ride a giant sea turtle.
  • Sea Monster: The title should tell you something.
  • Seldom-Seen Species:
    • The Seventh Most Dangerous Sea: Cameroceras, Megalograptus, Astraspis, Isotelus
    • Sixth: Peteinosaurus, Nothosaurus, Cymbospondylus
    • Fifth: Bothriolepis, Stethacanthus, Dunkleosteus
    • Fourth: Arsinotherium, Dorudon, Basilosaurus
    • Third: Odobenocetops, Cetotherium
    • Second: Leedsicthys, Metriorhyncus, Hybodus
    • First: Hesperornis, Squalicorax, Xiphactinus, Halisaurus
  • The Stinger: A pod of mosasaurs attacks the boat after the credits for the last episode.

Walking With Cavemen provides examples of:

  • Frazetta Man: This being a well-researched scientific documentary, it's mostly avoided. But it doesn't stop the protohumans from looking terrifying.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Gigantopithecus.
  • People in Rubber Suits
  • Seldom-Seen Species:
    • First Ancestors: Australopithecus afarensis, Ancylotherium, Deinotherium
    • Blood Brothers: Paranthropus boisei, Homo habilis, Dinofelis, Deinotherium, Ancylotherium, Homo rudolfensis
    • Savage Family: Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Gigantopithecus
    • The Survivors: Homo heidelbergensis, Irish Elk

Walking With Monsters provides examples of:

  • Always a Bigger Fish: The huge eurypterid Pterygotus killing the alleged Big Bad of the episode, Brontoscorpio.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Meganeura, Brontoscorpio, Arthropleura, Mesothelae, and all the other arthropods in this spinoff.
  • Book Ends: See above.
  • Crapsack World: The late Permian.
  • Darker and Edgier: Has a scarier edge to the fight for survival than Dinosaurs and Beasts.
  • Death by Sex: The male Hynerpeton gets eaten by a Hyneria right after it mates. In an interesting subversion, this only happens because it failed to mate the previous night, so in a way, it's a case of "death by belated sex".
  • Eats Babies: The Dimetrodons.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: The orthocones.
  • Eye Scream: A female Dimetrodon's eye is knocked out of her head while defending her nest.
  • Infant Immortality: Yet more aversions. A juvenile Edaphosaurus gets eaten by a Dimetrodon, a bunch of baby Dimetrodon get eaten by the adults, and a mesothelae spider butchers an entire nest of Petrolacosaurus, save for the few that got away.
  • Mama Bear: The mother Dimetrodon.
  • Misplaced Wildlife:
    • Carboniferous Period: Proterogyrinus was likely extinct by the time chronicled in this segment.
    • Early Permian Period: Edaphosaurus is unknown from Europe, including the Bromacker Quarry.
    • Late Permian Period: Rhinesuchus and Gorgonops are unknown from Russia and probably were restricted to the Southern hemisphere.
    • Early Triassic Period: Euchambersia, Proterosuchus, and Euparkeria are all unknown from Antarctica.
  • Prehistoric Monster: It's even titled Walking With Monsters! Predators here are represented in a scarier way than the original Dinosaurs and Beasts.
  • Seldom-Seen Species:
    • Cambrian Period: Haikouichthys, Anomalocaris
    • Silurian Period: Cephalaspis, Brontoscorpio, Pterygotus, Cameroceras
    • Devonian Period: Hynerpeton, Hyneria, Stethacanthus
    • Carboniferous Period: Mesothelae, Petrolacosaurus, Meganeura, Arthropleura, Proterogyrinus
    • Early Permian Period: Edaphosaurus, Seymouria
    • Late Permian Period: Gorgonops, Diictodon, Rhinesuchus, Scutosaurus
    • Early Triassic Period: Lystrosaurus, Euparkeria, Proterosuchus, Euchambersia
  • Somewhere a Palaeontologist Is Crying: Walking With Monsters plays this trope straight more than any other presenter-less series. Evolution is described here as a war between predators and preys and many predators (giant arthropods and the giant fish Hyneria for example) are portrayed as a sort of Hollywoodian Big Bads that do nothing else but menacing the protagonist species (portrayed as a sort of Hollywoodian hero who fights enemies several times stronger). It's worth noting that big primitive arthropods like scorpions and spiders weren't an obstacle for vertebrate evolution: they instead did help our ancestors in an indirect way, preying upon the less adapted of them and thus selecting actively their best-adapted traits. One can say that they "guided" actively their evolution and perhaps even contributed to make primitive fish becoming amphibians and finally Amniotes (the group including "reptiles", birds and mammals). In a sense, they may better be considered our friends rather than our enemies. This argument is more widely discussed in Prehistoric Life.
  • Zerg Rush: Haikouichthys against the injured Anomalocaris.

Notes

  1. If you want to get techincal, it should be "rauisuchid"
  2. The latter show gave the allosaurs and Utahraptor identical color schemes to the original show.
  3. The scarcity of the first two in popular culture is somewhat justified due to science marching on.
  4. Daspletosaurus would have been more appropriate.
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