“‘You are in your middle years, Mr. Denison,’ she observed gently, ‘so your eyes are the test of all things. When one is very young or very old, one sees more with the heart then with the eyes.’ When I asked to sketch her portrait, she would always say, ‘Perhaps later. Come back when you are older.'” – Dinotopia Journey to Chandra
I think this is my favorite Dinotopia book! It is the last one written by James Gurney and it is really charming.
James Gurney, author/illustrator/artist, is a wonderful storyteller and an even better magician with pictures. In the first four Dinotopia stories, we have large lap size books which are lavishly illustrated and beautifully narrated. The story centers on a lost island that is protected by a magical reef. For reasons which become know by the end of the series, this particular island was immune from the apocalyptic events which eradicated the dinosaurs. Consequently, this island is still a dino paradise. More importantly, it is a place of symbiotic cultural blending. Over the centuries, when storms or calamities have wrecked ships travelling near the magical island, some passengers were rescued by dolphins and safely deposited on the shores of Dinotopia.
This utopian culture has saurians and humans living in symphony. For reasons that are not understood, leaving the island is impossible. Therefore, shipwreck victims who make it to Dinotopia stay and blend their language and culture into the unique Dinotopian culture.
The books are quite wholesome and a feast for the imagination. The art is exquisite and it bears the hallmarks of a creator who worked for National Geographic on archeological dig sites but who was descended from engineers and patent holders. Gurney is absolutely inspired in these stories.
The stories are loosely connected. One really must read the first book first. After that, it is sort of a toss up because they are not chronological and don’t really build on each other.
Our favorites were the first and fourth books. Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time and Dinotopia: Journey To Chandra. In the first book we are treated to something that is much like Swiss Family Robinson meets Noah’s Ark meets Jurassic Park. All family friendly. Very creative. Very captivating.
In Journey to Chandra, our primary characters make a journey across the entire island and visits each subculture of Dinotopia. It feels like a beautiful social studies lesson and it is a lot of fun to see which real life cultures Gurney used to inform each of the regions or subcultures.
After the first four books, a spin-off series of chapter books were created by other authors. At this point, they don’t appeal to our family and they lack Gurney’s art and so we took a pass on those.
Now… it gets interesting and complicated… Dinotopia came to the tv screen in two separate efforts. One was far superior to the other.
In 2002, 3 long playing episodes were set in a Dinotopia 2 generations removed from Arthur Dennison (the primary character in 3 of the books). This series boasts a cast of moderately well know actors (yes that is Downton Abbey’s Carson in there), a high level of family friendliness (although scary parts are present) and a good story line. But it was cancelled and the ending is unresolved.
Purchase the DVD: The correct dvd for this series is here. (Cheapest way to get it is with the Journey to The Center of the Earth combo. Journey, however, was not family friendly by our standards.)
Youtube Trailer: The trailer for this first series is here
In 2003, 9 episodes of a reboot were launched. This also was not renewed. The sets and the dinosaurs are the same. The actors are different. When they launched it, the took scenes from the first movie and spliced in new scenes with the new cast to help set up a cohesive transition. It is clear that it is the story, same setting just a new cast and a new budget.
Our family is watching this series (presently) but it pushes the envelope on family friendliness for us. And, frankly, we are unimpressed with the green screens, the poor acting and the more sensational story lines. It simply isn’t consistent with the kind of wonder, awe and joy that was in the books and the first series. This one is edgier. It is nice to have more of the story but it is a step down in many ways. Parents of young children must preview each episode as many deal with conversations about sex.
Purchase that DVD here: It was cost prohibitive for a long time and was just released this winter at an affordable price
IMDB & Trailer here: Dinotopia II