The recently released 1970s Hanna Barbera cartoon Valley of the Dinosaurs, a 2-disc set running 344 minutes and containing all 16 episodes from the original series, is an entertaining trip down memory lane. Or if you have never seen it before, you’ll enjoy seeing what you missed the first time around.
The Butlers — John, Kim, their children Katie and Greg and dog Digger are on an adventure holiday in the Amazon when their raft is caught in a whirlpool and transports them to a “world that time forgot” — the Valley of the Dinosaurs.
Who takes their pet with them to the Amazon? Apparently a MacGyver-ish high school teacher and his family. There aren’t only dinosaurs roaming this Valley to worry about, but a village of cavemen. Luckily for the Butlers, they are rescued and befriended by a parallel family headed by Gorok, his wife Gara, teenage surfer-dude-looking Lok, and his little sister Tana. They also have a pet — a dinosaur named Glump.
All kids (and even adults) love dinosaurs. The series, which ran from 1974-76 tries to showcase as many as possible — pteranodons, brontosaurus, stegosaurus, etc. The action-adventure scenarios usually include at least one prehistoric beast for the family to tangle with in each episode and one Mr. Science-like project for them to teach the cavemen (and the kiddies watching), including catapults, hot air balloons, kites, and paddle wheels.
The look and feel of the cartoon of is a combination of earlier Hanna Barbera cartoons Scooby Doo (with the wise-cracking kids and goofy pets) and Johnny Quest (the island/survival scenarios) mixed with live-action kid shows like Gilligan’s Island and Lost in Space. It is drawn in the typical style of those cartoons, with great colors to add to the exotic backdrop — yellow skies, purple mountains, lots of green jungle vegetation. It came out the same time as Land of the Lost, which was a live-action show with a similar set-up (and so much better than the awful Will Ferrel film version).
The voice of the John Butler is done by Mike Road, the actor who voiced Johnny Quest‘s Roger “Race” Bannon. Jackie Earl Haley of Bad News Bears, Breaking Away and Nightmare on Elm Street remake fame voices the Butler’s son Greg. It’s interesting that the Butler’s teenage daughter Katie gets all the best lines — she is the resident jokester. She and caveboy Lok spend an awful lot of time together, but her family is always so focused on getting home there’s not much time for romance — sort of like Daphne and Fred being too busy chasing phony monsters for anything to develop between them.
1 – “Forbidden Fruit” Both families get stuck in a cave-in and have to work together to escape before the cave fills with water.
2 – “What Goes Up” Prehistoric ants take over the Valley — and they’re way more pesky than your usual cartoon picnic ants.
3 – “A Turned Turtle” Did you know you could use a gigantic turtle shell as a jury-rigged submarine? Me either.
4 – “Smoke Screen” The villagers have trouble with some missing-link apes. “Someone should tell him to brush after every meal!” John teaches the two tribes to make arrows to defend themselves.
5 – “The Volcano” The two families and their friends from the village try to escape a soon-to-erupt volcano.
6 – “Pteranodon” Kim gets sick and the two families must hunt down some healing ingredients in dangerous places — including pteranodon eggs.
7 – “Sabertooth Kids” Pet dinosaur Glump is missing — will they be able find him before a larger dinosaur does?
8 – “After Shock” After an earthquake, Gorok warns the Butlers not to drink the water — will the modern family trust that he isn’t just being superstitious?
9 – “Top Cave Please” A stegosaurus “mascot” worshipped by the villagers disappears and the families must try to help.
10 – “S.O.S.” A plane is sighted flying over the Valley and the Butlers try to build a radio tower to signal it, while Gorok’s family becomes sad at the prospect of the Butlers’ departure.
11 – “Fire!” The Butlers try to convince Gorok that they can fight a forest fire, rather than flee.
12 – “Rain of Meteors” John creates a makeshift catapult to ward off a dangerous dinosaur. Meanwhile neighboring tribe the Sky People decide to attack when one of their people goes missing in Gorok’s land.
13 – “To Fly A Kite” The Butlers’ first-aid kit appears, then disappears — some prehistoric pack-rats must be to blame. A kite may be the key to retrieving it, and the medicine in the first-aid kit the key to helping an ailing Lok.
14 – “Test Flight” John constructs a glider (reminiscent of some of the Professor’s great inventions from Gilligan’s Island) and he and Gorok take it up for a spin. How do the pteranodons feel about having UFOs in their air space?
15 – “The Big Toothache” All the little animals, including pets Digger and Glump, are running away, but from what? Are there such things as dinosaur dentists?
16 – “Torch” “the Feast of Plenty,” Gorok’s tribe’s Thanksgiving is approaching, but so is a rival tribe — with their eye on attacking the villagers.
My 7-year old enjoyed watching these as much as I did when I first saw them on TV as a kid. I can see her wanting to watch these again. It’s also nice for me to watch her watch a show for kids with everyone working together, and not merely having a bunch of bratty kids spout off lame jokes at each other. Plus, bonus — no laughtrack. Valley of the Dinosaurs is more than just fun nostalgia, it’s still a fun show.