The Dark Side of “Dinosaur Train”
Child abduction, time travel, and murder aboard the Dinosaur Express.
Dinosaur Train is an adorable children’s show on PBS. It has a rocking theme song, curious young dinosaurs, and a scientific foundation. That is if you don’t dig too deep. Which is exactly what I did one recent weekend while watching a marathon of the show with my son ⏤ I started picking the plot apart. And let me just say, what I turned up was deeply disturbing. Or, you know, at least scientifically implausible. Here’s what I uncovered:
The show opens up with a catchy song, during which we learn Mrs. Pteranodon has three eggs that are hatching. Out springs her three pteranodon offspring: Shiny, Tiny, and Don.
“But wait, there’s one more, Mom!” sings Tiny. That’s when we see another egg hatch in Mrs. Pteranodon’s nest. Out of that egg comes Buddy, a baby Tyrannosaurus.
“What am I doing in a Pteranodon nest?” Buddy asks.
That’s a really good question, Buddy.
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At first, I tried justifying Buddy’s presence in that nest as an accident. Maybe Mrs. Pteranodon, in a panic, built her nest without noticing there was a rogue egg hanging out. Maybe? This seems unlikely but semi-plausible. That is until we learn in the episode “Meet the Grandparents” that their very nest is the one the grandparents of Tiny, Shiny, and Don lived at many years ago. This leads me to believe Buddy’s egg wasn’t there on accident, but for a far more sinister purpose.
We learn throughout the show that the Pteranodon family primarily eats fish, the only soulless and voiceless creatures in the entire program. As newborns, Tiny, Shiny, and Don wouldn’t be able to wolf down all that fish. What could they eat? The innards of an underdeveloped egg. Buddy’s egg.
I wholeheartedly believe Mrs. Pteranodon took Buddy’s egg for the sole purpose of smashing it and feeding it to her newborns. Unfortunately, Buddy hatched and revealed his big green eyes and adorable smile. Mrs. Pteranodon was no doubt conflicted. Rather than murder a baby T-Rex in front of her newborns, she opts instead to adopt the little guy. “This is your family and I’m your mom,” Mrs. Pteranodon begrudgingly sings.
Dinosaur Train doesn’t just feature child abduction. There’s another layer to Dinosaur Train’s dark underbelly. All of the dinosaurs, save the poor fish, talk. The carnivores talk to the herbivores, the herbivores talk to the pterosaurs, and so on.
In one episode, “Tiny and the Crocodile,” Tiny admits that she’s afraid of Dienosuchas, which are basically prehistoric crocodiles. Apart from their horrifying size, massive teeth, and ability to murder anything they want, why is Tiny so afraid of Dienosuchas? They primarily eat Pteranodons.
To overcome her fear, Tiny decides to venture out and meet Deanna Dienosuchas, a grumpy old lass. It’s during their meeting that we learn Dienosuchas hunt by hiding under the water and pretending to be a log. While Pteranodon are diving for fish, the Dienosuchas will ambush them and murder them into oblivion. Be afraid, Tiny. Be very afraid.
Tiny and Deanna Dienosuchas bond, of course. Tiny comes to the conclusion that perhaps she shouldn’t be so afraid of Dienosuchas, and everyone goes home to live happily ever after. Right? Except for the countless Pteranodon that Deanna Dienosuchas will no doubt feast on once the lovely Pteranodon family has left.
This is a recurring theme throughout the show; herbivores and carnivores interact, become friends, have fun, and realize they aren’t so different. As the audience, of course, we know these dinosaurs have to eat. How else do you grow up to be a 20-foot Tyrannosaurus? Beside the Pteranodon family happily eating the dead, soulless fish, we never see any of the dinosaurs eating. This is for good reason. They’d be eating the lovely cast of characters we’ve grown to love.
Further adding to the moral quandaries of the show, the cast is regularly hopping aboard the dinosaur train and traveling through time to visit other prehistoric eras. It’s through this time travel that they manage to meet dinosaurs from entirely different eras for the sake of curiosity and education. But at what cost? They have the technology for time travel; surely they’ve read The Sound of Thunder. I can’t even begin to fathom the consequences of their era-hopping actions. This may be more heinous than the copious amounts of off-screen murder taking place.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love watching Dinosaur Train with my son. It’s educational, the theme is catchy, and the characters are all charming. I just can’t help thinking of the poor Pteranodon family that didn’t survive to get their own show.
John Shieldsmith is a father, writer, and the owner of thethriftydad.com. He’s created content for Reader’s Digest, helped rebrand Fortune 200 companies, and written for various gaming sites.