Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park used Hollywood magic to turn supposedly “65 million-year-old” dinosaurs into pop culture icons. Since the movie raked in over $900 million worldwide,1 it’s no wonder other media companies wanted to tap into the success. So, the BBC and Discovery Channel teamed up to create Walking with Dinosaurs, a television program that later evolved into a traveling live-action exhibition.
“The idea for Walking with Dinosaurs started in 1996,” the show’s creator and series producer wrote. “BBC…[was] looking for a big series about paleontology.….This was only a couple years after Jurassic Park had come out which set a new bench mark in dinosaur imagery.”2
The television show mixed computer animation with live footage from modern-day landscapes around the globe. The six-part series was first broadcast in October 1999 on BBC1 and later aired on the Discovery Channel in 2000. The films sparked additional productions, including Walking with Beasts (2001), Walking with Cavemen (2003), and Walking with Monsters (2005).
In 2007, a live adaptation of the series emerged from Australia called Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular. It toured in North America from 2007 to 2009 and hopped over to Europe for about a year. The show is now back in North America and for the most part avoids states in the “Bible Belt.”
But as with many big budget productions aimed at entertaining rather than teaching, the show is filled with obvious scientific flaws.3,4
For example, one of the animatronic dinosaurs is Liliensternus, which is “known from two incomplete specimens found in the Dueper formation” in Germany (unlike Plateosaurus, which is known from “over one hundred partial to complete skeletons”).5 How they were able to make a recreation of a flesh and blood dinosaur with only two partial fossil skeletons as a model raises some questions.
Nor can researchers be certain how dinosaurs behaved, since behavioral science largely depends on real-time observations. Since no eyewitnesses were around “65 million years ago,” the dinosaur behaviors depicted in the show are pure speculation.
The show also assumes, like Jurassic Park did, that dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago. This figure is impossible in light of a host of scientific evidence, including the recent discovery of soft tissues found in dinosaur bones. Laboratory tests confirm that organic materials like these can perhaps last thousands, but not millions, of years.6
Walking with Dinosaurs promises to be not much more than a large puppet show in a similar vein to the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida—entertaining, but not exactly scientifically accurate.
- Jurassic Park earnings. Box Office Mojo. Accessed from boxofficemojo.com April 7, 2010.
- About the Show. Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular. Accessed from dinosaurlive.com April 7, 2010.
- O’Neill, I. Wake Up and Smell the Science, Hollywood! Discovery News. Posted on news.discovery.com February 23, 2010, accessed April 7, 2010.
- Wanjek, C. TV Medical Dramas Mishandle Seizures. LiveScience. Posted on livescience.com February 26, 2010, accessed April 7, 2010.
- Meet the Dinos – Liliensternus, Plateosaurus. Walking with Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular. Accessed from dinosaurlive.com April 7, 2010.
- Thomas, B. Dinosaur Soft Tissue Finally Makes News. ICR News. Posted on icr.org December 2, 2009, accessed April 7, 2010.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted April 19, 2010.