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Why For wasn't this episode of "Dinosaurs" ever broadcast on ABC ?

Why For wasn't this episode of "Dinosaurs" ever broadcast on ABC ?

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Karl T. of Watertown, MA. writes in to say:

I just discovered your "Making Fun of the Mouse" series from last year. And I really enjoyed reading through that trio of stories. I was wondering : Do you have any plans to continue that series? Because I am sure that there are lots of other cartoons and TV shows that made fun of Disney's theme parks and movies.

Indeed there are, Karl. With one of the very best being an episode of "Dinosaurs," that satirical television program that aired on ABC from 1991 to 1994.


 Copyright 2007 Disney

These days, not a lot of people seem to remember that witty Touchstone Television / Jim Henson Productions co-production. And when they do talk about it, they tend to lump "Dinosaurs" in with all of those other animated series that were hurried onto the air in the early 1990s in an effort to quickly cash in on the success of "The Simpsons." You know. "Fish Police," "Capital Critters" and their ilk.

But "Dinosaurs" deserves better than that. Starting with a concept that Jim Henson himself dreamed up, Michael Jacobs created this brutally funny TV series that -- under the guise of being a family-friendly program -- took on a wide variety of targets. Politics, the environment, evolution, consumerism were all mercilessly sent up over the four year run of this show.

"So why did 'Dinosaurs' get canceled?," you ask. Well, to be honest, the final decision to pull the plug came not because of low ratings. But -- rather -- because Touchstone executives honestly had trouble stomaching all of the costs associated with producing this ambitious mix of puppeteering and animatronics. Henson veterans (Who have likened working on "Dinosaurs" to trying to produce a brand-new installment of the "Star Wars" film series on a weekly basis) recall how Disney continually pressured Jacobs & his production team to keep costs down.


 Copyright 2007 Disney

To his credit, Michael wouldn't ever compromise when it came to quality. Which is why -- in the end -- Disney opted to shut down production of "Dinosaurs" after only 65 episodes had been shot. Which then gave Touchstone Television just enough shows so that they could then (in theory) successfully syndicate this program.

Disney's decision to shut down production of "Dinosaurs" for strictly monetary reasons didn't sit all that well with Jacobs & his production team. Which is why -- as part of the fourth & final season of the show -- Michael & his crew decided to bite the three-fingered hand that fed them with an episode that gleefully took aim at Mickey and his money-grubbing ways.

"And what was the title of this particular episode?," you ask. "Variations on a Theme Park."

 
Copyright 2007 Disney

As this episode of "Dinosaurs" gets underway, we find that dinosaurs everywhere are working so hard that that they have been literally dropping dead on the job. Which is why -- as veteran reporter Howard Handupme explains on DNN (I.E. The Dinosaur News Network) 's nightly newscast ...

"In a bold move to stem the tide of exhausted dead guys in the workplace, the government announced that -- starting today -- all employees will be entitled to take off from work for a period of time to be known as 'A Vacation.' All workers who feel exhausted and put upon by the extensive demands of their employers may take off two full weeks to rest and recuperate."

Which sounds like a really wonderful idea to Earl, the over-worked tree-pushing head of the Sinclair family. He'd love to spend all 14 days in front of the boob tube, catching up on his favorite shows.


Copyright 2007 Disney

But Earl's wife, Fran, won't hear of it. She thinks that the Sinclairs should spend their first vacation doing something that will bring their family closer together. Like taking their son Robbie, daughter Charlene and the aptly named Baby Sinclair away from their home in the suburbs to someplace remote in the country. Like Pap Geezer's Rustic Retreat Swamp Cabin and Condo Time Share.

Mind you, Earl's boss at the Wesayso Corporation -- the fearsome Mr. Richfield -- has another suggestion. Which is why he tells his employees about " ... an exciting way to spend your new vacation -- Wesaysoland !"

Richfield then reveals a map of the world's first theme park. Which should look somewhat familiar to all you Epcot & Disneyland fans out there. He then goes on to explain that " ... a theme park is a magical place where Wesayso employees can spend their vacation ... and their money. There are rides & food & family fun for the young and the young-at-heart and fat worthless tubs like you."


Copyright 2007 Disney

While Sinclair & all of the other tree-pushers "Oooh" & "Aaah" at the map of Wesaysoland, Roy (I.E. Earl's best friend. Who is a dim-witted tyrannosaurus) raises one tiny arm and asks Mr. Richfield a question. "Since vacations was only created yesterday, sir," Roy stammers, "I was wondering how is it possible to design & construct a world-class family resort in a single day ?"

Richfield replies that " ... No challenge is too great when you attack it with imagination, ingenuity and a relaxed attitude toward building codes."

Earl then tells his boss that he personally thinks that Wesaysoland looks wonderful. But -- that said -- Sinclair still says that he's going to have to take a pass on visiting the park. Given that Fran already has her heart set on their family spending the entire 14 days in one of Pap Geezer's swamp cabins.

This is when Mr. Richfield hands Earl a glossy Wesaysoland brochure. After pointing out that all of the park's toy concessions & candy stands have been circled in red, he then suggests that Earl give this brochure to Baby Sinclair.


 Copyright 2007 Disney

One extremely loud & long tantrum later ... The entire Sinclair family stands outside of the gates of Wesaysoland. Where they're then greeted by that theme park's whimsical and highly copyrighted mascot, Moolah the Cash Cow.

Moolah then directs Earl to one of Wesaysoland's admission booths. Where Sinclair is then encouraged to " ... trade in your cash for colorful, playful Moo Money. Which can be used anywhere inside the park. Except to purchase food, merchandise or emergency medical treatment."

After Earl buys their tickets, the entire Sinclair clan walks through the main gates at Wesaysoland. Only to discover " ... a vast world of enchantment (that's) still under construction."


Copyright 2007 Disney

As they pour over Wesaysoland's souvenir map, Earl & his family find that almost none of the park's promised shows & attractions are actually ready to ride. These include:

  • Moolah's Cow Milking Spectacular (Still under construction)
  • Pirates of the Dairy Belt (Closed for repairs)
  • The Land of the Future (Coming in only 10 years)
  • Fantastic Journey through the Four Stomachs (Never existed)
  • The Haunted Slaughterhouse (Ditto)
  • Salt Lick Mountain (Ditto squared)

And even the handful of rides that actually are operating in the park that day (like Dr. Terror's Twirling Tea Cup of Doom and Mr. Amphibian's Wild Rocket Mars Crash Landing) leave a lot to be desired. Take -- for example -- that "Mars Crash Landing" attraction. Which is -- truth be told -- just an empty refrigerator carton that the Wesaysoland cast member then tips over once the guest is seated inside. But take a gander at the cautionary warning that's posted right outside the entrance to the "Mr. Amphibian" ride. Which advises Wesaysoland visitors not to ride this attraction if they're ...


 Copyright 2007 Disney

... prone to heart attacks, sudden spleen ruptures, rapid blinking, hiccups, pregnancy, lazy foot, phlebitis, mange, rickets, hoof and mouth, scurvy, fallen arches, nearsightedness, halitosis, arthritis, shingles, flatulence, tourette syndrome, warts, pink eye, shingles, chapped lips ...

There were 15 or so other medical conditions also listed on this warning sign. But the type got so small at that point it then became impossible to read.

Okay. At this point, it's obvious that Michael Jacobs & his production team are out to spoof virtually every aspect of the Disney theme park experience. Ridiculing everything from the names that are used in these places (Wesaysoland is broken up into three separate domains: ExcitementLand, Souvenirland and FriedFoodLand) as well as those ridiculously long lines that people typically encounter whenever they visit one of these parks (Earl & Roy stand in one queue for 9 hours. Only to discover that there's not actually a ride at the end of this line. But -- rather -- Wesaysoland's stroller rental office).


 Copyright 2007 Disney

And if the "Dinosaurs" production team hasn't gotten their the-Mouse-is-mercenary point across already, Mr. Richfield now appears on monitors all throughout Wesaysoland and riffs on Walt's old "Disneyland will never be completed" speech by saying ...

"Yes, we're still building the dream. For as long as dinosaurs have imagination and children have discretionary income, Wesaysoland will never be truly finished. Welcome to Wesaysoland. Where everyone has a good time because We Say So. "

Earl bluffs & blusters, insisting to his family that it actually was a smart move for them to spend their first vacation at Wesaysoland. Where " ... I hear it really comes alive at night." But eventually even he breaks down and says:


Copyright 2007 Disney

"Oh, what could I have been thinking of. I should have known that a big amusement park with rides & attractions would have been the worst possible place for a family!"

It's at this point that the Sinclairs now attempt to leave Wesaysoland. Only to be told by the dinosaur at the admissions gate that -- since they booked a 14-day package -- the family must now spend the next two weeks inside the theme park. Where they'll then be forced to purchase over-priced snacks like "Ice on a Stick." Which sells for $6 a pop.

When Earl refuses to listen, the gate attendant then suggests that the Sinclairs might take this news better from Moolah, Wesaysoland's " ... charming and legally unassailable mascot." The costumed cow then waddles up to Earl & family and says: "Hi, folks! What's your beef ?" He also tells the Sinclair family that they really do have to spend the whole two weeks in the park, closing this speech out with an "And that's no bull !"


 Copyright 2007 Disney

Earl then pushes past Moolah (Which then causes this character to cry out: "Oh, don't hurt Moolah ! He's just a teenager who needs a summer job ") and tries to lead his family out of Wesaysoland. Only to have the park's gate snap closed in his face, as an automated recording now blares that " ... The gate is now electrified. Please step back from the gate." More importantly, that "... this is not a ride. This is not a ride."

These are just a few of the Disney-related jabs that Jacob & his production team try to land over the course of "Variations on a Theme Park." And just wait 'til you hear about the pay toilet that the Sinclairs find in their Moolah-the-cash-cow-themed hotel room. Or the half-hearted, under-paid teenage employees that they encounter as they wander through Wesaysoland.

As you might expect, the folks at Touchstone (And at ABC, for that matter) weren't all that thrilled when they finally got to see this episode of "Dinosaurs." Which is why "Variations on a Theme Park" never actually aired (stateside, anyway) during the fourth & final season of the show. This and six other episodes were held back, never officially airing on the American Broadcasting Company's airwaves. Only after "Dinosaurs" was broadcast overseas (As well as when this show began being syndicated in the U.S.) did the public finally get to see these seven episodes.


Copyright 2007 Disney

You can see "Variations on a Theme Park" for yourself -- as well as the controversial "Dinosaurs" finale (Where Jacobs first has the dinosaurs ruin the Earth's environment. Which then brings about the Ice Age. And -- as this series draws to a close -- it's insinuated that the entire Sinclair family is about to freeze to death) -- by picking up a copy of the "Dinosaurs - The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons" DVD. Which officially goes on sale next Tuesday.

Me personally? I still think that "Dinosaurs" is a ridiculously entertaining show that's woefully under-rated these days. I mean, even though it's been 13 years since this ambitious puppeteering program last aired on ABC, it holds up beautifully. The writing's sharp. And as a direct result of all that money that Michael Jacobs made Disney spend on "Dinosaurs," the individual episodes still look great.

So if you're in the mood to see the mighty megalasaur "Making Fun of the Mouse," then I suggest that you pick up a copy of this new DVD set sometime next week.

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  • good day i watch this show all the time and loved it the baby alway hit the day with the pen and say not the momma! and im the baby got to love me that part was very funny to me good times

  • i stay have good times watching this show when it come on in the90's i like the pink baby thats the only reason why i love to watch it  to everyone that watched the show

  • Beautiful! I remember watching episodes (well really small snippets that I remember) when I was a child! I was born in 92' so I'm 22 now. I love the opening and remember it 'til this day! It's so important now to realize the reality behind every episode. "VARIATIONS ON A THEME PARK " is no exception with its pokes at the real world. Fabulous!

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