15 Things You Gotta Love About Dinosaurs

YouTube
YouTube

The ABC primetime lineup back in 1991 was all about the sitcoms. Families gathered in front of their televisions to eat TV dinners and watch Roseanne, Family Matters, Full House, Step by Step, and a brand new series from the guy who gave us The Muppets and whatever Ludo from Labyrinth (1986) is supposed to be.

Jim Henson wanted to make a sitcom that followed the basic formula, with the twist that the family would be dinosaurs, that they would live a very unsustainable lifestyle, and the whole thing would be made using puppets and animatronics. Here are 15 cool things you've gotta love about Dinosaurs.

1. THE SERIES WAS PARTIALLY INSPIRED BY A CHOW MEIN COMMERCIAL.

In a DVD special feature segment titled Pre-Hysterical Times: The Making of Dinosaurs, Jim Henson’s son, Brian, says that his father’s early work for La Choy brand Chinese food planted the seed for a show about walking, talking dinosaurs. “The La Choy dragon just wrecked everything, and I think my dad always thought that was a hilarious character. I think maybe [Dinosaurs] had the roots in that.”

2. NO ONE HAD EVER ATTEMPTED TO MAKE A SHOW LIKE DINOSAURS.

Taking inspiration from dysfunctional TV families of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s (The Honeymooners, All in the Family), Henson wanted to make something that audiences had never seen before. “The whole thing is about a family and a civilization that’s doomed,” said producer Pete Coogan in the book No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. “No one had ever undertaken a network primetime sitcom show that was purely animatronic.”

3. THE PRODUCERS BORROWED MANY MEMBERS OF THE SESAME STREET TEAM.

Independent Lens, YouTube

Brian Henson hired the best puppeteers in the business to perform in Dinosaurs and to operate what they called the Performance Control System. Among the all-stars to join the team were Kermit the Frog and Ernie performer Steve Whitmire, Gonzo performer Dave Goelz, and Kevin Clash, who voiced and performed Elmo, Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), and Baby Sinclair.

4. JIM HENSON NEVER GOT TO SEE A SINGLE EPISODE.

Sadly, Henson passed away in 1990, a year before the sitcom went into production and premiered on ABC. Before his death, the master puppeteer worked with designer Kirk Thatcher to develop the characters and the general ideas for the show. The political themes and more fleshed out sitcom elements came later with the help of co-creators Bob Young and Michael Jacobs, and Brian Henson made sure that the final product was something that would make his father proud.

5. BABY SINCLAIR'S CATCHPHRASES CAME FROM AN ACTUAL BABY.

While developing the personalities for each of the characters, co-creator and writer Bob Young used his third son for inspiration. “Not the mama” and “I’m the baby, gotta love me” became the most popular quotes from the series and were printed on T-shirts, buttons, and other merchandise.

6. THERE WAS A MUSIC VIDEO FOR "I'M THE BABY (GOTTA LOVE ME)."

The catchphrase was a big hit for the show, so a song was created for their Big Songs (1992) soundtrack, and a MTV-style video was produced and incorporated into the final episode of season three. The song was written by the voice actor for Earl Sinclair (Stuart Pankin) and film and television composer Ray Colcord provided the music.

7. EACH FAMILY IN THE SHOW IS NAMED AFTER AN OIL COMPANY.
 

eileenmak, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As a joke that references the (false) idea that oil reserves come from dead dinosaurs, the prehistoric surnames in the show were taken from petroleum companies. The Sinclairs are named after the Sinclair Oil Corporation; Earl’s boss (B.P. Richfield) is a combination of B.P. (British Petroleum) and the Richfield Oil Corporation; Roy Hess references the Hess Corporation; and grandma Ethyl is named after a fuel additive company.

8. THE SINCLAIR FAMILY WAS BIOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.

Earl Sinclair is a megalosaurus, his wife Fran is an allosaurus, and the children are all completely made-up species for the sake of the show. The maternal grandmother, Ethyl, was originally a pterodactyl that was supposed to hang in a closet, according to designer Kirk Thatcher. During development, Ethyl became more of a core character, so she evolved into the seated matriarch that we know and love.

9. EACH 23-MINUTE EPISODE TOOK 170 TIMES LONGER TO MAKE.

In 1994, Creature Shop creative supervisor David Barrington Holt told the Chicago Tribune that each episode of Dinosaurs took approximately 65 hours to produce, and at its peak, there were 90 people working on the set to meet its deadlines. “We would work pretty long hours. We'd start at 5 a.m. and last until 2 or 3 a.m. We pretty well worked around the clock. The shooting side of things can get pretty intense. At night we'd make repairs and then get ready for the next day.”

10. NO PRESS WAS ALLOWED ON SET DURING PRODUCTION OF THE FIRST SEASON.

No one got to peek behind the curtain of Jim Henson's Creature Shop while the show's first season was being made because co-creator Michael Jacobs and the rest of the crew didn’t want to spoil the magic. “We said all along that for the first season we would have no press on the set, because we did not want to blow the integrity of the show for kids,” he told the Los Angeles Times. "I didn't want the press around because the angle would have been to take pictures of these creatures with their heads off. It's like ALF: Do you want to see pictures of ALF or somebody's hand up ALF? I wasn't going to have it. It's the kids who come first, and I didn't want to blow the fantasy for kids."

11. EPISODES WERE RELEASED ON VHS TO HELP PAY FOR THE SHOW.

VideoObscura, Etsy

Because Dinosaurs was one of the most ambitious projects on television, the cost to produce the show was very high. The first six episodes were released on home video ahead of schedule in December of 1991. “We never dreamed the show would be as expensive as it is,” said Jacobs at the time. “The videocassette release is very early, based on getting some of the money defrayed.” The characters were also used as promotional tools at Walt Disney World in Orlando and at Disney-MGM Studios.

12. IT ONLY TOOK 10 WEEKS FOR THE CREATURE SHOP TEAM TO BRING THE CHARACTERS TO LIFE.

Creature Shop supervisor John Stephenson was given a very short window to build the first 10 characters for the show and somehow made it happen. “Of course it wasn’t possible, but we did the best we could,” said Stephenson in No Strings Attached. “We got them to Los Angeles, sent an enormous service crew over with them and David Barrington-Holt in charge. We started shooting them then, building and rebuilding them, and eventually made them perfect.”

13. EARL SINCLAIR'S CONSTANT SIGHING ACTUALLY SERVED A PURPOSE.

Throughout the show, the tortured soul that is Earl Sinclair is more often than not frowning and sighing heavily. Part of it is the nature of the character, but Bill Barretta, the performer inside the suit, revealed in a behind-the-scenes featurette that he needed to open Earl’s mouth constantly because it was the only way he could see where he was going. The head of the costume sat above Barretta’s own head and did not have eye holes, so he looked through the mouth while the character was talking or let out a sigh when he needed to maneuver around furniture.

14. DINOSAURS BIRTHED THE L.A. CREATURE SHOP.

According to Brian Henson in No Strings Attached, when the show wasn’t renewed after the fourth season, the 35 people who worked on the show did not want to leave L.A. and head back to the Creature Shop’s base in London. “The crew were saying that they didn’t want to leave. In the end, we decided we’d have a core of six to eight people there all the time and have a full crew on a project-to-project basis.” The L.A. shop worked primarily on TV commercials in the early years while the London shop continued to do big productions, and then Steven Spielberg hired them to help make a little dinosaur movie called Jurassic Park (1993).

15. GEORGE MILLER PRODUCED BABE AFTER A VISIT TO THE DINOSAURS SET.

YouTube

The guy who made the Mad Max series worked with the Creature Shop to bring a talking pig to the silver screen, but that might never have happened if it wasn’t for Dinosaurs. Miller bought the rights to a book called The Sheep-Pig in the mid-1980s and wanted to make a live-action version of it because he saw the potential of computer graphics and animatronics. Miller was waiting for his dream to become cheaper to produce, and when his co-producer Bill Miller and director Chris Noonan saw what was happening with the sitcom, Miller decided to move forward with Babe.

8 Great Gifts for People Who Work From Home

A growing share of Americans work from home, and while that might seem blissful to those trapped in long commutes, it's not always easy to live, eat, and work in the same space. Here are some useful tools and sweet surprises to help make a telecommuter's life a little easier.

1. Folding Book Stand; $7

A foldable metal book stand holding paper
Hatisan / Amazon

Useful for anyone who works with books or documents, this thick wire frame is strong enough for heavier textbooks or tablets. Best of all, it folds down flat, so you can slip it into your backpack or laptop case and take it out at the library or wherever you need it. The stand does double-duty in the kitchen as a cookbook holder, too.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Duraflame Electric Fireplace; $210

Duraflame electric fireplace
Duraflame / Amazon

Nothing says cozy like a fireplace, but not everyone is so blessed—or has the energy to keep a fire going during the work day. This Duraflame electric fireplace can help keep a workspace warm by providing up to 1000 square feet of comfortable heat, and has adjustable brightness and speed settings. You can even operate it without heat if you just crave the ambiance of an old-school gentleman's study (leather-top desk and shelves full of arcane books cost extra).

Buy It: Amazon

3. Sips By Subscription Tea Service; $15/month

Assorted teas and Sipsby tea subscription service packaging
Sips By

A steady stream of hot beverages is key to productivity, and Sips by is a lovely way to keep the tea chest replenished. (Plus, who doesn't love getting presents in the mail each month?) Your giftee can fill out a personalized tea profile, and each month selections of four different kinds of premium tea will arrive. Each batch makes enough for 15-plus cups, and there are cute reusable bags provided for the loose-leaf teas, which also makes them portable for on-the-go days.

Buy It: Sips by

4. Solstice Beeswax Aromatherapy Candles; $35

Solstice Naturals Lavender 100% Pure Beeswax Aromatherapy Candle
Solstice / Amazon

People who work at home all day, especially in a smaller space, often struggle to "turn off" at the end of the day. One way to unwind and signal that work is done is to light a candle. Burning beeswax candles helps clean the air, and essential oils are a better health bet than artificial fragrances. Lavender is especially relaxing. (Just use caution around essential-oil-scented products and pets.)

Buy It: Amazon

5. HÄNS Swipe-Clean; $15

HÄNS Swipe being used on a tablet
HÄNS / Amazon

If you're carting your laptop and phone from the coffee shop to meetings to the co-working space, they're going to get gross—fast. HÄNS Swipe is a dual-sided device that cleans on one side and polishes on the other, and it's a great solution for keeping germs at bay, especially in cold and flu season. It's also nicely portable, since there's nothing to spill. Plus, it's refillable, and the polishing cloth is washable and re-wrappable, making it a much more sustainable solution than individually wrapped wipes.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Laptop Side Table; $100

Oversized Wood and Metal Laptop Table
World Market

Sometimes you don't want to be stuck at a desk all day long. This industrial-chic side table can act as a laptop table, too, with room for your computer, coffee, notes, and more. It also works as a TV table—not that you (or your giftee) would ever watch TV during work hours.

Buy It: World Market

7. Moleskine Classic Notebook; $12

Moleskine Classic Notebook in black
Moleskin / Amazon

Plenty of people who work from home (well, plenty of people in general) find paper journals and planners essential, whether they're used for bullet journaling, time-blocking, or just writing good old-fashioned to-do lists. However you (or your intended recipient) organize their life, there's a journal out there that's perfect, but for starters it's hard to top a good Moleskin. These are available dotted (the bullet journal fave), plain, ruled, or squared, and in a variety of colors. (You can find other supply ideas for bullet journaling here.)

Buy It: Amazon

8. Nexstand Laptop Stand; $34

Nextstand Portable Laptop Stand
Nexstand / Amazon

For the person who works from home and is on the taller side, this portable laptop stand is a back-saver. It folds down flat so it can be tossed into the bag and taken to the coffee shop or co-working spot, where it often generates an admiring comment or three. It works best alongside a portable external keyboard and mouse.

Buy It: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

7 Things We Know (So Far) About Baby Yoda, the Breakout Star of The Mandalorian

© Lucasfilm
© Lucasfilm

From the moment he appeared onscreen in the closing moments of the premiere episode of the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian on November 12, the creature referred to as Baby Yoda has become an internet sensation not seen since the likes of the IKEA monkey. The Rock has displayed his affection for the cooing green infant on Instagram; a man purportedly got a tattoo of Baby Yoda holding a White Claw seltzer and insists it’s permanent; and a Change.org petition is underway demanding a Baby Yoda emoji.

That Baby Yoda has gripped the imagination of the country is no small feat, as precious little has been revealed about his origins other than that he appears to be a member of the same unnamed species as Jedi master Yoda, which has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy. More will be revealed as The Mandalorian continues its weekly run through December 27. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far about the alarmingly adorable creature canonically known as “The Child.”

1. Baby Yoda is 50 years old, but he still seems a bit behind developmentally.

Owing to the long lifespan of Yoda’s species—Yoda himself lived to be roughly 900 years old before expiring in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, set five years prior to the events of the Disney+ series—it makes sense that the “baby” in the show is the human equivalent of someone about to subscribe to AARP: The Magazine. We learn Baby Yoda’s age in the first episode, where Mando is told he’s being tasked with finding a target that age. It’s a clever bit of misdirection that sets up the climactic reveal that the bounty hunter is after an infant.

And though his habits—tasting space frogs and playing with spaceship knobs—seem developmentally accurate, child experts told Popular Mechanics that such curiosity is more in line with a 1-year-old, not the 5-year-old Baby Yoda might be analogous to in human years. He’s also not terribly verbose, putting him behind what one might expect of a person his relative age.

2. Baby Yoda is male.

After rescuing Baby Yoda from an untimely demise at the hands of bounty hunter IG-11 in the debut episode, the titular Mandalorian takes off with his young bounty to deliver him to his Imperial employer known as the Client (Werner Herzog). In episode 3, the Client receives the baby; his underling, Doctor Pershing, (Omid Abtahi) refers to the character as “him.” A pre-order page for a Mattel plush Baby Yoda also refers to the character as a "he." We have, however, seen a female member of Yoda’s species before. In 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a green-skinned Yaddle sits wordlessly on the Jedi Council.

3. Baby Yoda’s genetics are of great interest to what’s left of the Empire.

Why was Mando sent to fetch Baby Yoda? From what we could gather in episode three, the Client was desperate to gather knowledge from the creature, with Doctor Pershing told to extract something from his tiny body. That motive has yet to be revealed, but thanks to The Phantom Menace, we know Force-sensitive individuals can carry a large number of Midi-chlorians, or cells that can attenuate themselves to the Force. One fan theory speculates that these cells can be harvested, creating people with greater capabilities to wield Jedi powers.

4. Using the Force really tires Baby Yoda out.

In episode 2, a battle-weary Mando is in real danger of being trampled by a Mudhorn, a savage beast. Channeling his (presumed) Force abilities, Baby Yoda is able to dispatch of the threat, but the effort seems to exhaust him, and he spends most of the rest of the episode sound asleep.

5. Baby Yoda might become a Jedi Master in a hurry.

Despite his infantile status, it seems like it won’t be long, relatively speaking, before Baby Yoda achieves the Zen-like mindset and formidable skills of a Jedi Master. It’s been pointed out that Yoda achieved that rank at the age of 100, at which point he began training Jedis. That would mean Yoda’s species is capable of some pretty rapid development between the ages of 50 and 100.

6. Werner Herzog has a soft spot for Baby Yoda.

Herzog, the famously irascible director of such films as 2005’s documentary Grizzly Man and 1972's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, portrays the man known as the Client, out to capture Baby Yoda. Interacting with the puppet on set was apparently a source of amusement for the part-time actor, who sometimes addressed Baby Yoda as though he were not made of rubber. "One of the weirdest moments I had on set, in my life, was trying to direct Werner with the baby,” series director Deborah Chow told The New York Times. “How did I end up with Werner Herzog and Baby Yoda? That was amazing. Werner had absolutely fallen in love with the puppet. He, at some point, had literally forgotten that it wasn’t a real being and was talking to the child as though it was a real, existing creature.”

Herzog was so emotionally invested in Baby Yoda that he reacted harshly when The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and producer and director Dave Filoni spoke of wanting to shoot some scenes without the puppet so they could add him as a computer-generated effect later in case the live-action creature wasn’t convincing. “You are cowards,” Herzog told them. “Leave it.”

7. Baby Yoda bootleg merchandise has become a force.

When Favreau decided to keep Baby Yoda under tight wraps before the premiere of The Mandalorian, it forced Disney to postpone plans for tie-in merchandising, which can often leak plot points from film and television projects in retailer solicitations months in advance. As a result, precious little Baby Yoda merchandise is available, save for some hastily-assembled shirts and mugs on the Disney Store website. That leaves craftspeople on Etsy and other outlets to fabricate bootleg Baby Yoda plush dolls and other items.

The shortage runs parallel to the predicament faced by toy maker Kenner upon the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. Faced with a huge and unexpected holiday demand for action figures, the company was forced to sell consumers an empty box with a voucher for the toys redeemable the following year.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER