Do you remember waaaaaay back when having a day off meant Saturday, and Saturday meant waking up at the crack of dawn to plop yourself in front of the television set with a bowl of sugar based cereal substitute to watch Saturday morning cartoons? Yeah, me neither. But that’s okay. Let’s get NOSTALGIC!
Ah childhood memories. Do you remember that time, on September 7, 1974, when your parents chose to take you on vacation to the jungles of South America instead of something normal, like Disneyland? And how, while white water rafting, a whirlpool sucked your canoe into an inter-dimensional vortex? Good times. You could have stayed home and watched, for the first time, Valley of the Dinosaurs.
Valley of the Dinosaurs was one of three similar shows airing in 1974 that involved a modern family interacting with prehistoric humans and dinosaurs, the other two being Land of the Lost and Korg: 70,000 B.C. The cartoon, produced by Hanna-Barbera, ran for 16 episodes from September 7, 1974 to September 4, 1976 and featured the Butler family being sucked into a whirlpool while traversing the rapids in South America only to emerge either “back in time” or “in a parallel fantasy world.” Valley of the Dinosaurs was a “laudatory example of melding entertainment with education” “[without] bombarding the viewer with ‘message’ dialogue or prosocial propaganda.” In other words, a show featuring dinosaurs, early humans, and modern humans all living in the same time period is intended to teach me something. I go into this with some skepticism.
What I remember
I consider myself something of a connoisseur of cartoons, if not an actual expert, but I can honestly say I’d never heard of Valley of the Dinosaurs prior to doing a search for cartoons that first aired in the 70s-80s, meaning that they would have been age appropriate for my childhood cartoon binging – which is entirely different from my adult cartoon binging. (Ok… it’s not any different. I can admit that. Happy?)
I think Episode 1 is trying to teach me that if I am ever chased into a cave by a brontosaurus, because one of my traveling companions has violated a local taboo about leaving a variety of fruit for the sole consumption of said brontosaurus, leading to a cave in and rising water levels from an underground spring, I can use bamboo to channel that water through a hole in the ceiling of the cave using basic physics. I also learned the properties of a lever and how to use that lever to create an avalanche to drive away the hangry brontosaurus so that my companions can escape. (Cue: *the more you know*)
Valley of the Dinosaurs reminds me of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series where a miner and an inventor use an “iron mole” to drill down into “a world that time forgot” inside of the hollow Earth. Swap out the miner and the inventor for your standard sitcom family, add a couple of pets, a dog and a stegosaurus, for comic relief, and you have Valley of the Dinosaurs. That being said, it’s highly unlikely that most people, unlike myself, will be reminded of a series whose first book was published in 1914. You’ll also have to shut your brain off for the way the “cave people” speak perfect, if stilted, English. It’s like watching the dreadful representations of Native Americans in old Westerns, except that the “cave people” in Valley of the Dinosaurs are basically blue-eyed and Caucasian.
If you liked Valley of the Dinosaurs
Also check out
Dinosaurs in Love (feat. Tom Rosenthal) by Fenn Rosenthal – If you can watch that and not come down with a serious case of the feels, you have no heart.
For more on Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch by Kevin
More to come (live from what I remember about the 80’s!) as this story continues.
Kevin Wadlow is 100% a real human being and definitely not a murder of crows wearing a person suit. He is an avid reader of horror, tabletop gamer, and drinker of coffee who enjoys drawing things of strangeness along the way. When the zombie apocalypse comes, he will probably be eaten first after saying something about how he fully expected to go out like this.