Saturday, June 16, 2007

SATURDAY MORNING CULT TV BLOGGING: Valley of the Dinosaurs: "Forbidden Fruit"

"Deep in the heart of the Amazon, the Butler family was exploring an uncharted river canyon. Suddenly, caught up in a violent whirlpool, they were propelled through an underground cavern and flung into a hostile world of giant prehistoric creatures, a world that time forgot. Now befriended by a family of cave dwellers, each day is an adventure in survival for the Butlers in...the valley of the dinosaurs."
-Opening narration from Valley of the Dinosaurs

In the autumn of 1974, American children had a choice between watching stop-motion dinosaurs on the live-action Sid and Marty Krofft spectacular Land of the Lost or cartoon dinosaurs on Hanna-Barbera's similarly themed animated series Valley of the Dinosaurs.

The similarities between the two programs are quite interesting. Both shows involve modern American families on inflatable rafts "tumbling" down dangerous bodies of waters and ending up in prehistoric worlds. On Land of the Lost, it's the closed pocket universe of Altrusia; in Valley of the Dinosaurs, it's merely a hidden valley in the Amazon. Both series also involve contemporary, 20th century technological man interacting with more primitive "natural" creatures, whether a Neanderthal family in Valley or Chaka's people, the Pakuni.

The first half-hour episode of Valley of the Dinosaurs aired on Saturday, September 7, 1974 and was titled "Forbidden Fruit." This episode was directed by Charles A. Nichols and the writing team included Peter Dixon, Peter Germano, Dick Robbins and Jerry Thomas. Interestingly, the story editor on Valley of the Dinosaurs was Sam Roeca, who later served as story editor on the third season of Land of the Lost. Talk about closed pocket universes...

Anyway, the Butler family consists of white-haired patriarch, John Butler, his troublesome and prone-to-mischief son, Greg (who likes to say things such as "jumping jeepers!"), hot teenage daughter Katie, and the protective mother of the clan, Kim. The Butlers have also brought along their loyal dog, who resembles Scooby-Doo (remember, this is Hanna-Barbera too...), named Digger.

The thematic leitmotif of Valley of the Dinosaurs involves the Butler's learning to cooperate, respect and live alongside a "mirror" human family of primitive cavemen, which includes patriarch Gorok, hunky son Lok, and matriarch Gara, among others. Tana is the little cave-person girl and Greg's playmate. The cave family even cares for a pet Stegosaurus named, I believe -, if I heard it right - "Glump." Each episode involves one family teaching the other family a lesson in tolerance and diversity. The differences in evolution don't matter, the show informs us as viewers; we can still be "good neighbors."

For instance, "Forbidden Fruit" involves the Butler family discovering a stash of delicious tree-growing fruit. However, the cavemen, led by Gorok, forbid the family from eating it. Why? Well, apparently, a local brontosaurus is quite adamant about devouring all the fruit itself. Still, Greg fails to honor this edict and steals a basket of the fruit, which results in the angry brontosaur assaulting the home of the two families, an expansive mountain cavern. The attack by the dinosaur precipitates a cave-in, and then a flooding of the habitat. The two families must then work together to siphon water out of the cave, utilizing bamboo chutes that happen to be on hand. Greg feels guilty for breaking the cave man law and finds a way out to warn the village about the dinosaurs.

In the end, order is restored and Gorok provides viewers with the lesson of the week. "We have laws and customs," he reminds the Butlers. "You know things we do not, and we listen. We know things you do not...and you listen." Indeed, Gorok. Indeed. This episode also features the cave man realization that "The Butlers...they are strange...but nice."

While we ponder these thoughts, below - for your viewing pleasure - is the opening montage and theme to
Valley of the Dinosaurs:

1 comment:

  1. Dave M.3:20 PM

    I'd always assumed that VALLEY OF THE DINOSAURS was a rip-off of LAND OF THE LOST because the premises were so similar. The quality of the artwork for the title sequence appears to be better than that of many other Hanna-Barbera series of the 70's. I wonder if that was due to the animation being handled by their Australian studio for this show. I can't remember, but didn't the 'cave' family speak English. At least the Pakunis in LAND OF THE LOST initially couldn't (CHAKA being fully fluent by the third season, even with slang and jokes, was ridiculous).

    I wonder if VALLEY OF THE DINOSAURS is another one of those shows where the titles are better than the series itself. That was certainly the case with THE LOST SAUCER.