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Opinion: “Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?” – The Neo-Jurassic Generation

“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?”

There is a photograph of me, at the young age of three years old, with my older sister in the back garden of the home I grew up in. We are surrounded by pulled up weeds standing in for tiny trees, dishes full of water in place of vast lakes, and between them, herds upon herds of plastic dinosaurs. I may not remember the moment, but this is a snapshot of the first time I saw a dinosaur.

We all have our own stories on how it first happened: some earlier in life, some not till later. But all equally important. There’s a reason you’re on this site, reading this piece right now. I saw the first Jurassic Park a couple years later on VHS, a birthday present from my father. I’m sure most of you reading understand what happened next. Life-changing moment leading to a lifelong obsession, so on, so on.

Michael Crichton mused on what it is that makes dinosaurs so fascinating to children. They are the legends of the modern age. They have the fantasy appeal of classical mythology, but they were real. Dinosaurs were scary: scarier than adults, scarier than school. But they can be controlled – by learning their names, what they ate, when and where they lived, children have power over them, and also power over their parents. Generally speaking, dinosaurs are one of the few subjects children are experts on, and can trump their parents’ knowledge hands down.

We’re all introduced to these myths at different ages, through different mediums. I’m sure many of us have fond memories similar to that I described above. These could be reading books, playing with toys, or more pertinent to this community, watching films. In our modern world, the Jurassic series has served as either an entry point to or a celebration of our favourite prehistoric reptiles for over two decades now.

As we grow older, some of us leave these legends behind, some of us treasure them for years to come, and some of us will defend the originals, what we hold dear. We all want whatever comes next to be as special  and fantastical as it was, and still is in our minds. Unfortunately, this can’t always be true for everyone. We all have our own desires and wishes for the future for the Jurassic franchise, and with each new installment, there is more chance of opinion between us to become fractured and divided. It all comes from a place of passion and love, wishing the best for our own personal favourite legend.

In the 1990s, public interest in dinosaurs and palaeontology was at an all-time high. This was in no little thanks due to Jurassic Park. It bled into other widespread media globally, reaching across generations. This ranged from a slew of animated dinosaur features coming off the tails of the 1993 blockbuster to the largest sitcom ever at the time featuring a palaeontologist as one of its lead characters. But the following decades saw a slump. Many museums even moved away from the display of prehistoric creatures to represent other aspects of the natural world. Dinosaurs just weren’t as fashionable anymore.

I am very honoured to work in a profession that allows me to directly engage with the public, discussing scientific topics such as natural history and dinosaurs. I grew up for the most part in the post-Jurassic Park III slump. When I was a kid, at least in my school and area, it wasn’t trendy to like dinosaurs. And due to having grown up in that period, I am consistently astounded by the renewed interest and knowledge that kids have these days. They come from all over and in droves, ready to share their knowledge and find out even more. Liking dinosaurs isn’t a fringe interest anymore. Dinosaurs are cool.

We have entered the Neo-Jurassic age. And that is thanks to Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom.

No matter our opinions on these latest entries in the series as veteran Jurassic fans, the gates have opened to the next generation. These children are just discovering their legends, myths and stories for the first time, just as we did years ago. And most importantly, it’s getting them engaged in science at a rate unprecedented in recent years. I am consistently astounded by what children are coming out with now. They tell me where obscure creatures like Sinoceratops were discovered. What a strange little pterosaur called Dimophodon was speculated to eat. It’s not just the T. Rex anymore, they’re discovering all these weird and wonderful prehistoric species that were unknown to me as a kid. They’re even bringing in toys of real paleontological deep-dive species such as Metriacanthosaurus and Minmi, thanks to the fabulous prehistoric range of the Mattel toyline.

As it was for many of us, the Jurassic series serves as a gateway to further knowledge. It can lead to palaeontology, genetics, biology, ecology, chaos theory, or even tourism and theme parks. The list goes on and on. Even if they come in with misconceptions, such as believing a Mosasaurus was larger than a blue whale, or that many dinosaurs that we no know to be covered in feathers were completely scaly, they are engaging. This is the jumping-off point into real science, and they are looking for answers. It is this insatiable desire for knowledge that is what I believe makes dinosaurs so appealing to children. There’s always more to learn, always new discoveries to be made, mysteries to be solved. A new generation has been inspired by their own stories and legends.

And that is something worth treasuring.


31 thoughts on “Opinion: “Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?” – The Neo-Jurassic Generation

  1. Oh man you really brought up memories, especially of the dark age that was the Jurassic Park 3 slump. Yeah I will never understand why Dinosaurs weren’t seen as cool in my Jr high school especially when in comparison to what was consider cool (Wrestling, reality TV, generic rap music, forgettable pop culture of whatever I can’t even remember) really for a long while it was fad and something that was seen as having to grow out of. Jurassic World really proved that this series has a bigger cultural impact as much as any other big franchise and that Dinosaurs will always be popular and be a part of our childhood and nostalgia than whatever flavor of the week society wants to shive dinos in favor of. Always puts a smile in my face walking the store aisles and see that something I was into and shunned for in school is back and stronger than ever.

    1. I was in early grade school around the JPIII slump, and boy did I love dinosaurs and was crazy about them, and didn’t care if no one else cared, because I told them anyway.

      I guess I should be thankful for that, that D-innonence. (Yes, I just coined that term.)

      I am very sorry you were shunned, perhaps I was too, I just did not notice.

      Welcome back to Jurassic Park, and Welcome to Jurassic World!

    2. Didn’t JP3 come out around the same time as BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs? I remember when that first aired on the Discovery Channel back when I was in junior high, and there was definitely a dino-fervor around the time that it aired.

      1. You have just inspired me to do a meme with that one scene in Fallen Kingdom with the Allosaurus running beside the gyrosphere with the WWD music for the Allo: Du du du du dundun, du du du du dun, dunnnnnn!!!!!

  2. Discovering dinosaurs through the Jurassic franchise today is a pity. The dinos are not scientifically accurate anymore.

    I loved dinosaurs even before Crichton’s book was published. I had rented all the books on this subject in my local library even if i didn’t understand everything, and i bought magazines.
    I remember the first time i heard about JP : i thought it was going to be awful because it was made by adults, and adults didn’t know anything about dinosaurs. They were always wrong at telling their names and thought they were all carnivores !
    But i loved JP because the dinosaurs in it were accurate. It was a way for me to see dinosaurs as i thought they really used to be. As my books told me they were.

    Today, a kid who loves dinosaurs has no way to see them in a movie. He can only see outdated representations of them.
    And a kid who discovers dinosaurs through the Jurassic movies learns wrong things. He’s soon to be disappointed when he’ll find out what dinosaurs really looked like. Those kids will not end up in paleontology courses in 10 years. I did (and i failed my degrees but that’s not the point 🙂 ).

    1. This old chestnut? Learn the lore or go away.

      And we have PHYSICAL PROOF that Tyrannosaurus rex and some hadrosaurs, at least, had scaly/leathery skin just as they do in the films.

      1. I don’t care about a lore written by fanboys who are paid to justify what’s wrong in the movies.
        And i’m sure the kids you’re talking about aren’t aware of that lore. They take what they see in the movies for granted.

        The fact is : JW purposely shows outdated dinosaurs (not to mention the indochimeras) and misleads the so called neo-jurassic generation through the gate of fake knowledge.
        No matter what excuses you’ll make up to justify this.

        1. Why would they ever do that though? They have nothing to gain from it. It makes more sense for them to be inaccurate in the lore. The point is that they aren’t real dinosaurs and are genetically created monsters.

        2. Do you realize, since you’re so righteous, that if the Tyrannosaurus rex still existed today, no one would think it was cool. They’d be eating them out of red and white buckets!

          Feathers aren’t cool. Jurassic Park is.

          1. Laaris hit the nail on the head.

            Id also like to add that feathered (or partially feathered) dinosaurs if effectively designed can be presented just as terrifying as their scaly Jurassic Park counterparts. The introduction of the hybrids in the World series was the perfect opportunity to make this transition. Not all dinosaurs had plumage, and I dont think anyone is expecting them to all be portrayed this way in film, but some representation would be great.

          2. Except now there’s evidence that Tyrannosaurus rex wasn’t as feathered as modern paleo-artists have been making it out to be, and that it was actually scaly like its JP/JW appearance. So really, with the exception of the arm pronation and a few skull details, I’d say the JP/JW Rex is rather accurate.

            And also, if T. rex was still alive, I think hunting them for food would be looked at the same way people try to hunt elephants and such. That is, absolutely frowned upon.

        3. The levels of Well Ackchyually in this post are reaching lethal levels.

          ‘lore written by fanboys’

          Crichton was a fanboy? I must’ve missed something along the way. Did he not write the book?

      2. Oh Ben, you old doof. DO US ALL A FAVOR AND WATCH TREY THE EXPLAINERS VIDEO ON YOURUBE SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE SKIN IMPRINTS. You listened too much to the media. And I agree with Laaris. I discovered Dinosaurs through Jurassic Park, and BBCs Walking with Dinosaurs the tv show and all the specials. If I watch those, those are childhood memories that remind me of how much our knowledge has changed today. Heck, the SPINOSAURUS is a great example. JPIII was my Discovery of the Spino, but I was watching it until a few years ago without knowing how it has been scientifically accurate since 2014! The raptors too. Those are complicated. The JP raptors look similar to WWDs Utahraptor, so how was I supposed to know it was feathered? Nowadays I keep up with scientific discoveries and findings. Jack Horners TED talk on different species like Torosaurus and Triceratops, or Dracorex, Stygimoloch, and Pachycephalosaurus being the same animals but in different stages was a game changer for me. Nowadays they might be saying, “The Spino might have been semi land Dino because we did a computer model and it COULDNT have dived under water!” but I have come to accept the changes that were made and have to believe, “Ok, so the Trex really was a giant fluffy baby chick”, and “the Nanotyrannus was a baby Tyrannosaurus”, and “ Torosaurus was an adult Triceratops” and “the Spino had puny legs as long as it’s arms and webbed feet and a dent in the sail”, but I grew up with the wrong concept. Now I can hope to teach my future kids scientifically accurate versions so I didn’t feel betrayed when I found out all of this. But also let them watch Jurassic Park movies and stuff I grew up with because, hey, in the end it’s just a timeless movie. Ben, hope this “enlightens” you and STOP SAYING NEGATIVE THINGS ON A STUPID COMMENT SECTION!!!! And yes, I know all about the lore and canon, but I for one can learn to love feathers, or be bitter about it for the rest of my life. Which do you want, Ben?

        1. Which do I want? LMAO! I want Jurassic Park of course! And lucky me, those beasts aren’t feathered! Neither will they be changing just to suit some armchair paleontologist’s pathetic outcry 😀

          1. Ben I hear you. I love scales too. I love that they don’t change the classic JP dinosaurs, with the exception of quills on the JPIII raptors. They even made the stegosaurus even less accurate in JW! Feathers presented in the right way can be cool though. I like the idea of feathers now, even though I thought it was weird before. But I too don’t want them to change the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, because you can’t have a JP movie that ties into the lore and say, SHORT SPINO LEGS! REALISTIC STEGOSAURUS BODY SHAPE!!!! FEATHERS! SIZE REDUCTIONS IN RAPTORS!!! WOW YES SUCH GOOD MOVIE!!!!!!!!!! No. It just isn’t possible, and how would they make money off of a movie people don’t want? Lol I would rather they not change anything, but in real life,

            “Change is inevitable. Change is like death. You don’t see it until you’re standing at the gates.”
            – Dr. Ian Malcom

        2. Hmm let me see… Absolute proof that Tyrannosaurus rex had leathery/scaled skin due to found fragments… OR the POSSIBILITY that it also had feathers based on… What?

          Were it not for the skin discoveries, you people would INCORRECTLY have the T. rex completely covered in feathers. As it is though, you had to scale (lol) them back when the proof showed otherwise… How many more times will you have to scale (lol) back those feathers as time goes on hmm?

          1. Bro. Bro. BRO!!!! I addressed this in my freakin comment! I would love for the trex to be scaled, but THE MEDIA BLEW UP THE SCIENTIFIC PAPER THAT ADRESSED THE SCALES. Do yourself a favor and watch Trey The Explainers video like I said. Here, I’ll even put a link!
            He discusses how the media blew up the news. Watch this please, and trex was NOT completely covered. It had clear areas on the head, tail, underbelly, feet, and legs. Those were scales, much like a chicken with a bone crunching mouth and way cooler. Please do yourself a favor and watch the video.

  3. It started with The Land Before Time with me when I was…three, I think. I legitimately thought I was a T.rex. I think I suffered from species dysphoria on a literal level, lmao. Aaaaaahhhh, good times 🙂

  4. I think I’ve loved dinosaurs ever since I was old enough to comprehend what they were. Then I started getting into things like The Land Before Time and Prehistoric Park, and my interests really took off.

    I first heard about Jurassic Park when I was about 8. From the way my parents talked about it, it sounded like a scarier version of Prehistoric Park, where the animals escape constantly and eat people left and right…which actually is kinda accurate when you think about it. And they cloned the animals instead of going back in time to save them from extinction.

    Well, I finally saw Jurassic Park in all its cinematic glory when I was 14, and I’ve been officially hooked ever since. I still am, and I likely always will be.

    Jurassic Park/World and Isla Nublar may have been destroyed in Fallen Kingdom, but my love for the dinosaurs that John Hammond brought back to life still goes on.

  5. I was 9, almost 10, years old when the first JP movie came out in 1993. No summer has ever been that fun, that magical, that inspiring. There was nothing like walking into the stores and seeing all the now classic toys on the shelves. God, seeing that classic yellow logo and sunset background always brings me back. I still have every original JP toy my parents bought me. In fact, just yesterday I brought them all home as I put them in a month long display at me local library. The public loved seeing those classic toys.

    I love the original Jurassic Park.

  6. i dont care about scientific acuracys of dinosaurs.
    i love how dinosaurs inspire the imagination. feathered or scaley who the hell cares?
    let someone make a dinosaur film that i scientificaly accurate and actually enjoyable to watch

    just the bones inspire awsomeness

    i can’t wait to go to IOA!

  7. The first time I saw a dinosaur was between my 5th and 7th birthday. I got a puzzle book from my parents written by garry fleming. It contained amazing art of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Dinosaurs! and not nly that, it also had pterosaurs, aquatic creatures and cenozoic mammals. At that point. At the point I first got that book and saw those art pieces for the first time, My life changed forever. At my 12th birthday I got a VHS from my grandfather. It contained a movie I had never heard of but immediately loved. Jurassic Park. Since those years, The years I was first introduced to the most amazing and magical creatures that this earth has ever seen, I have always loved dinosaurs and everything to do with them. And I always will.

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