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Dinosaurs: Thunder Lizards 1999

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Chip Taylor Communications, 2 East View Drive, Derry, NH 03038-4812; 800-876-CHIP
Produced by KRMA-TV Productions
Directed by Daniel Mercure
VHS, color, 30 min.

Jr. High - Adult
Biology, History

Date Entered: 11/09/2018

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College

Nearly everyone has heard of the Bermuda Triangle, but probably very few people know about the Dinosaur Triangle. Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have provided more spectacular dinosaur fossils than any place else in the world. Most of the important dinosaur discoveries in the 1800s occurred in Colorado, where the first and second largest Stegosaurus skeletons were found. Almost every year, new species continue to be found—primarily by volunteers, who assist paleontologists in the hard work of digging up very fragile fossil remains. Dr. Robert Bakker explains that the process of locating dinosaur fossils includes lots of walking in likely locations (such as arroyos) and carefully watching for skeletons. Then, the hard work of digging slowly with very small tools begins, with the right kind of glue handy for quick fixes. Bakker explains that different types of rocks require different kinds of glue. Removal of fossils is then followed by at least one year of preparation, with the work again done mostly by volunteers--a wonderful coupling of scientists and amateurs, working to bring dinosaur fossils back to a museum. Dr. Bakker claims that it is the volunteers who usually find new species, and they are “paleontologists” in his eyes.

Part travelogue and part field trip, Thunder Lizards takes the viewer to Rabbit Valley, Colorado where children are able to dig up dinosaur fossil replicas as an educational activity. The children learn about digs, do what real paleontologists do, and experience the feeling of discovery that will maybe lead some of them into a career in science.

Dr. Richard Stucky, Chief Curator of the Denver Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Bakker talk about the exciting combination of research, preservation and education that can take place when teachers and parents expose children to the wonders held in natural history museums, as well as other venues for learning. The Denver Museum of Natural History has specimens not available anywhere else in the world, and through exhibits such as Prehistoric Journey, they try to correct misconceptions about dinosaurs. Museums serve as an extended classroom, teaching children such things as anatomy, art and science.

Also featured in this video is an interview with James Gurney, author and illustrator of Dinotopia, who discusses how the idea for his book grew out of a campfire talk with archaeologists where they talked about wanting to find a lost city. A sampling of artwork from Gurney’s book accompanies his description of what he came to envision.

Among the other venues spotlighted for dinosaur fans are a town named Dinosaur, a dinosaur zoo (which is really a collection of metal sculptures loosely shaped to resemble dinosaurs), and Carlson Vineyard that incorporates dinosaur images and names for their wine labels. Dinosaur postage stamps serve not just the needs of stamp collectors, but to show the way Colorado looked 100 million years ago, and allow people to see dinosaurs amidst the plants and climate of their time. School children successfully campaigned to have the Stegosaurus--the most dangerous plant-eating dinosaur--selected as Colorado's state fossil.

Quality production values are evident throughout this lively and informative video. It leaves the viewer eagerly anticipating a visit to the nearest natural history museum. Appropriate for intermediate grades to adult level, Thunder Lizards is highly recommended for both school and library collections.