Ever wonder what the world of Cybertron was like before the Autobots and the Decepticons? I imagine it was a lot like Dinotrux. Dinotrux is Dreamworks’ first original series and it is releasing on Netflix on August 14, 2015. It takes place in a prehistoric time, where the world is still young and the only disasters are natural ones. Only instead of a world being ruled by dinosaurs and reptiles, this world is ruled by Dinotrux and Reptools.
Dinotrux are crosses between dinosaurs and construction vehicles, like the show’s lead ‘Ty’ who is a T-Rex crossed with an excavator. Then there are the Reptools, who are reptiles (mostly lizard) crossed with hand tools, like ‘Revvit’ who is a lizard crossed with a rotary drill. One of the staples of the series is that despite being animated, all the characters are grounded in physics.
Dinotrux is based off of Chris Gall’s award-winning book series of the same name, but takes a very original take; especially in writing and character design. The character designs are complex, and designed as if they were functioning construction equipment. The flawless integration of mechanical design and use makes it seem like there could be Dinotrux that actually live and function.
The pilot episode of the series ‘Ty and Revvit’ begins with Ty, a T-Trux, who is trying to escape from a volcano eruption. He is among a number of other dinosaurs and even helps another one get away, but is injured in the process. With one broken tread, he makes his way to a valley where he finds plenty of ore, which is the food source of this world. While eating, many other dinotrux avoid him as T-Trux are seen as trouble, however a little reptool named Revvit is bold and tries to sneak away with some break away pieces of ore. Unfortunately for Revvit, the piece of ore is to big for him and he ends up right in Ty’s view. Ty being the nice guy that he is, smashes the piece of ore so Revvit can eat it. To return the favor, Revvit fixes Ty’s tread. This moment is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but also a fierce rivalry as a bigger and meaner T-Trux returns and demands Ty to leave.
Ty refuses to leave, believing the valley has plenty for all and that they could all work together. The other T-Trux, D-Structs, doesn’t care and proceeds to beat up Ty and gives him one day to leave. Ty doesn’t give up, and realizes that even if he can’t beat D-Structs on his own, together with Revvit and the other dinotrux in the valley they could win. Ty and Revvit then set off to recruit other Dinotrux, which for the most part doesn’t go well. It isn’t until they all work together to rescue Dozer, a triceratops crossed with a bulldozer, that they all finally believe in Ty’s vision and that Dinotrux can work together. After rescuing Dozer, the Dinotrux and Revvit stand up to D-Structs and get him to back down… for now.
From the pilot episode, Dinotrux has the makings of being the next big CGI show. It has the character archetypes that a good series needs, and has a pretty unique take on some childhood staples. I personally remember having a toy Caterpillar dump truck that my dad tricked me into filling with weeds from the yard, then there are countless bags of dinosaur toys from the dollar store, the first generation of Power Rangers, Dinobots, Jurassic Park, etc. There aren’t many more combinations that simultaneously trigger nostalgia and childhood wonder. Also with Jurassic World being the world wide phenom that it is, there couldn’t be a better time to play on the dinosaur motif.
Dreamworks’ animation is responsible for my favorite CGI movie of all time, Kung Fu Panda, and is probably only second to Pixar. What is unique about Dinotrux is that this is a new property and audiences will have to get to know and become fans of these characters as the show progresses, rather than coming in with expectations of characters like with their other properties.
The one downside to the series I found was that it feels completely like a child’s cartoon. It doesn’t have the general all ages feel like the Dreamworks’ features tend to do. This is a trend I have noticed with all of Dreamworks’ animated series, but it is expected since they all generally air on children’s networks. However, it does prevent me from watching them with the same level of interest and does prevent me from watching the series regularly.
Overall however, Dinotrux has the makings of the next cartoon hit. An incredibly well put together world, fun characters, and a perfect blend of nostalgia and intrigue. If they can just slip in some of that Dreamworks’ wit, it could potentially be the next Shrek. Dinotrux will release this Friday, August 14th on Netflix.