Think back to the first time you saw Jurassic Park. The dinosaurs were monstrous in every way. That is certainly not the case with PBS's show Dinosaur Train. Dinosaur Train is an animated 30-minutes show that features a family of Pteranodons that travel throughout the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods to meet different dinosaur species.
The star of the show is Buddy, an orange Tyrannosaurus Rex, whose egg mysteriously showed up in Mrs. Pteranodon's nest. He was adopted by Mrs. Pteranodon as a part of her family. Buddy's curiosity typically spurs the family on to their adventures. The rest of the family consists of three Pteranodon siblings, Tiny, Shiny, and Don, and their dad, Mr. Pteranodon.
Each adventure usually begins with Buddy and the Pteranodon kids playing and becoming curious about something they find. Their mother then takes them to a train station where they will be taken to meet another dinosaur species that will help them in their prehistoric quest for knowledge. On the train, they interact with Mr. Conductor, a quirky dinosaur who teaches the kids about the species they are about to visit. The train then goes through a "time tunnel" in order to get the family to the appropriate time period for the dinosaurs they are about to meet. While there they play and learn about the species before heading back to the train station and back home.
Each adventure is then followed by a short segment of Dr. Scott, a real-life paleontologist who talks about and shows pictures of real-life examples of the creatures that the Pteranodon family just met.
Dinosaur Train is a fun and educational show that is easily digested by adults. The songs are catchy and the characters have meaningful conversation between them, as opposed to the overly bubbly or whiny voices of Barney and Friends (shudder). One of the things that I like the best is the vocabulary that kids are exposed to while watching. Sure, my 3-year old son will have few reasons to ever use Lambeosaurus in normal conversation, but just the fact that he is exposed to big words with new letter combinations, and can repeat them, is important to me.
I also like the fact that they still show that some dinosaurs were ferocious, but they do it in a way that is not frightening to their audience. If the Pteranodon family meets a dinosaur that had long, sharp claws, the show may have the dinosaur carve up a piece of wood or a tree.
Of course, a kids show wouldn't be complete without a life lesson, and Dinosaur Train is no exception. Whether it's learning how to share or learning how to be a good sport, Dinosaur Train will leave its young audience with a lesson to take away.
As I started to write this article I wanted to include some negatives about the show. But I really do not have any. As far as kids programming goes, I am a big fan this show and I'm very happy when my son picks out Dinosaur Train to watch. I'll leave you with this:
Time tunnel! Time tunnel approaching, folks!