It paid to be a dinosaur in the 1990s.
For some reason, the '90s had more dinosaurs on-air than any era before it. '90s kids consumed a consistent diet of dinosaurs, lasers and explosions every morning...how cool is that? That stuff's freakin' addictive, and you can bet that as a kid I was glued to my seat whenever my favorite dino-shows were on.
And so, in celebration of Dinosaur Week, I went back in time to revisit the cartoon dinosaurs that defined the extreme '90s! From the anthropomorphic to the annoying, from the Cadillac-driving to the cutesy, we're ranking the best and worst dinosaur-themed cartoons of the '90s!
With a name like that, it could only come from one point in time: the '90s. Anything "extreme" was in vogue in those days, and in 1996 Mattel decided to cash in on the trend with a series of toys featuring 'roided-up dinosaurs doing, well, extreme things. And so the Extreme Dinosaurs was born. And where a '90s toyline was, a TV show wasn't far behind, and thus we were treated to more or less the equivalent of one of my 10-year-old self's fever dreams.
With names like T-Bone, Stegz and the prolific Spike, the Extreme Dinosaurs were deliciously '90s, and they fought what were basically chiseled velociraptors with retainers in their mouths amidst wanton destruction and explosions. If Michael Bay made cartoons in the '90s, this would have been his magnum opus.
DINK, THE LITTLE DINOSAUR
This is as kiddy as a dinosaur can get. Dink aired in the very early '90s and was basically the poor kids' The Land Before Time. It was pretty cute in a way, and it gets points for having the legendary Frank Welker as part of its cast of voice actors, but it was too cutesy for its own good. It does get a pass though for having Dink be such a bad enough dude to be considered an enemy by a goddamn Tyrannosaurus.
CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs spun off from the comic book of the same name by Mark Schultz. The animation was gorgeous for its time, and the image of driving around in a Cadillac in the 26th century among dinosaurs probably exploded a lot of little kids' minds back in the early '90s.
I feel sorry for not catching this on TV when it was on, but from what I've seen, it looks and sounds awesome. If I ever saw Hannah Dundee on TV when I was a kid, it would have been an awkward phase of puberty for me.
Now we're getting to the good stuff. Dinosaucers was a cartoon series in the late '80s that featured anthropomorphic dinosaurs from outer space that battled it out ala The Transformers. The noble Dinosaucers fought the evil
Tyrannos using fists, claws and rayguns, and they even had meat shields human allies called Secret Scouts who were basically useless in a war between giant anthropomorphic dinosaurs.
It was a winning formula (it certainly was for me) and Dinosaucers became a favorite of mine as a kid because of it. My favorite part has got to be when they shed their human-like ways with a push of a button, "dinovolving" into their true dinosaur forms to basically curbstomp the poor Tyrannos, who were taking a page from the Stegosaurus' playbook by owning brains the size of walnuts. It was crazy, stupid, and very '80s fun. Also, dat opening theme.
DENVER, THE LAST DINOSAUR
Ugh. Denver, the Last Dinosaur was the bane of my childhood existence, for reasons I cannot fathom but nonetheless burn deep inside my heart like an all-consuming flame. Denver tried too hard to be 'hip' and 'cool' and 'cute', and his human friends were annoying. It had promise, certainly, and it was 'dino' in its own way, but when your sworn enemy is an evil concert promoter (certainly the most evil of promoters!), there will come a time when you gotta ask yourself if you can stomach 50 episodes of that. Avoided the failing grade due to his pretty catchy theme song that you just can't get out of your head decades later.
Human history has seen its share of great inventions: the light bulb, the printing press, the automobile, and humans riding dinosaurs strapped with laser guns and missiles. Dino-Riders was the be-all and end-all of all dinosaur cartoons back in the day for this geek, and even though it was primarily a vehicle to sell Tyco toys, it made its mark by how crazy awesome the concept of Dino-Riders are.
Dinosaurs get a choice of either being befriended by the peaceful Valorians or mind-jacked by the evil Rulons. After that, they're outfitted with mounted laser cannons, trapping nets and other weapons. Only then will they get to dance the dance of steel and flesh against other dinosaurs in a war of survival. It's probably a rite of passage for children to see a giant T-Rex turned into a mobile attack platform armed to the teeth with missiles and laser guns. And if it's not, it should be. Because that's just freakin' awesome, man.
Man, it really was a pretty awesome time to be a kid in the '90s! Agree with my ratings? Think I forgot a show? Leave me a comment and let's talk about it! I hope you're enjoying Dinosaur Week! Thanks for reading!