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Featured TV on DVD Review: Dinosaur Train: Dinosaurs Under the Sea

August 19th, 2010

Dinosaur Train: Dinosaurs Under the Sea - Buy from Amazon

Dinosaur Train first started airing on PBS, roughly this time last year. It is produced by The Jim Henson Company, which has had a relationship with PBS for longer than I've been alive. They've begun to embrace digital animation, as well as other forms of animation, and not just puppetry, in which they are a world leader. This has allowed them to expand the scope of their shows; you couldn't make a show like this with puppets, for instance. But can it live up to past Henson products?

The Show

Dinosaurs Under the Sea is the first DVD from the series I've reviewed, so before I get to the episodes, an overview.

The show focuses on four main characters who are dinosaur siblings. There are two Pteranodon sisters, Tiny, Shiny, their brother, Don, and the Tyrannosaurus Rex that hatched in their nest, Buddy. Despite being a different species, Buddy is very much a part of the family. In every episode the four kids, and either the mother or the father, take a ride on the Dinosaur Train. The Dinosaur Train is a time traveling, teleporting train train run by Mr. Conductor, a Troodon. This train can go to any time period dinosaurs lived and to any place as well. During these trips, the kids learn about one particular species, and meet a member of that species, starting with...

  • Elmer Elasmosaurus
    Elasmosaurus are not true dinosaurs, but plesiosaur, carnivorous aquatic reptiles. Since elasmosauruses have long necks, Buddy hypothesizes that they use these necks much like the land based Apatosauruses do, but when he meets Elmer, he's in for a shock.
  • Carla Cretoxyrhina
    Another undersea adventure has the kids visiting with Carla, a young Cretoxyrhina. She's quite friendly, but as a member of the largest shark species of her day, the other, smaller fishes are quite scared of her.
  • The Amazing Michelinoceras Brothers
    While playing a game where one of the kids pretends to be an animal and others have to guess which one based on clues, Don says dragonflies are the only animal that can go backwards. When he is corrected and told Michelinoceras can as well, they travel underwater to meet a couple. What are Michelinoceras? They look like a squid stuck in an ice cream cone.
  • Paulie Pliosaurus
    The next underwater adventure has the kids meeting up with Paulie Pliosaurus. Due to their physical appearance, as well as their hunting prowess, Pliosaurus are sometimes called the Tyrannosaurus of the sea, which makes Buddy very excited to meet one.
  • Elmer Visits The Desert
    Elmer Elasmosaurus, which we met previously, travels with the kids to a place quite unlike his own, the desert, where they meet a small lizard named Percy, who explains that a long time ago, the desert was likely the bottom of an ocean.
  • Shiny's Sea Shells
    Shiny is showing off her seashell collection and the kids want to go to the beach to add to it. While there, they meet Henry, a Hermit Crab, who also collects shells. He is looking for a new shell, because his current shell is getting too small for him.
  • Jess Hesperornis
    The kids travel to the big pond to see if any dinosaurs live in the water. So far the sea creatures they've met have been plesiosaurs, sharks, cephalopods, etc. They meet Jess Hesperornis, a duck-like dinosaur that lives in the water, but also walks on the land.
  • The Old Spinosaurus and the Sea
    The final episode on the DVD has the kids meeting a Spinosaurus, a very, very large carnivore with a reputation for being very cranky. However, when they meet him, the find out he's cranky because he can't seem to catch the big fish he's been trying catch for years. But maybe the kids can help him catch that Coelacanth.
This is an edutainment show with a heavier emphasis on the educational aspect than most other preschool shows. Every episodes teaches its kids about a specific species, its habitat, etc. and even helps them learn about the scientific method, which is the single most important learning tool you can give your kids. This is not just a typical kids story with a few foreign words thrown in. The educational aspect of the show is a lot narrower than others, but it makes up for this by being more in-depth. Additionally, the show is still entertaining compared to other shows aimed at similar demographics, assuming your kids like dinosaurs.

The Extras

There are a couple DVD-Rom extras on the disc, including a game and some printable coloring pages.

The Verdict

Many of you probably know we've lost Brontosaurus as a dinosaur species, as it was actually a misidentified Apatosaurus. Now we could be losing Triceratops / Torosaurus. At least this time the more commonly known name will be kept.

Dinosaur Train focuses more attention on education than most preschool shows, which are about repetition and interaction. Because of this, it is better than most similar shows. Dinosaurs Under the Sea packs nearly two hours of shows on the DVD and even without a lot of extras, it is worth picking up.

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