Prehistoric Planets new series brings dinosaurs back to life

On a secluded beach, newly hatched turtles scramble for sand for water safety. But they have been found by predators.

Stalking on its long hind legs, the hunter approached curiously. His claws were like machetes, his teeth were like daggers.

But it was a teenager himself and had never seen a turtle.

The baby Tyrannosaurus rex places one tentative claw on the turtle and watches in bewilderment as it squirms freely. Alarmed, Tiny Rex ran to the beach, returning to the safety of its mother – a full-grown male Tyrannosaurus, 40 feet long and weighing ten tons.

A T-rex swims.  The BBC Studios Natural History unit and a team of special effects wizards have re-created a dinosaur from 66 million years ago

A T-rex swims. The BBC Studios Natural History unit and a team of special effects wizards have re-created a dinosaur from 66 million years ago

The father sniffs the baby, rubs the side of his jaw along the hairy side of the baby, and then gives him a nudge, urging his son to try again, as if to say, ‘Come on, it won’t bite.’

Touching and astonishing to look at, the scenery is made perfect by voiceover – from the wildlife narrator, Sir David Attenborough. ‘He’s got killer instincts,’ laughed the great announcer, as he watched the dinosaurs’ clumsy attempts to catch snacks, ‘but the problem is his lack of experience.

“This could take a long time.” After recording his comments, Sir David took off his headphones and sat back down in amazement. ‘I think I saw them through binoculars,’ he marveled.

This clip is part of Prehistoric Planets, the most ambitious series about dinosaurs ever created. A collaboration between BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit and a team of special effects wizards led by Emmy-winning producer Jon Favreau, who directed Marvel films (and appeared in them as Iron Man’s friend Happy Hogan), it recreates dinosaurs from 66 million years ago. , just before a meteorite hits Earth and destroys it.

A father and son kiss each other.  This new series features many prehistoric animals whose existence was only recently discovered, in addition to some of their extraordinary behaviors

A father and son kiss each other. This new series features many prehistoric animals whose existence was only recently discovered, in addition to some of their extraordinary behaviors

Accuracy of scientific detail and high definition images make this five-part series coming to Apple TV+ a huge leap from CGI depictions like 1999’s Walking With Dinosaurs and 1993’s Jurassic Park. ‘When people first find dinosaur fossils, they think they are dragons,’ said series producer Mike Gunton, who was behind hit series like Planet Earth II and Dynasty.

‘Our goal is to bring what we now know to the screen. This is more than a TV show. This is part of science.

‘We have gathered the threads of science, just as Sherlock Holmes gathers clues in a mystery. This is not a jaw and claw show. It’s about the world that exists – Planet Earth, 66 million years ago.’

Aimed at a wide family audience, the series features many prehistoric animals whose existence was only recently discovered, in addition to some of their extraordinary behaviors.

Striped T-rex baby.  Aimed at a wide family audience, the series features many prehistoric animals whose existence was only recently discovered, in addition to some of their extraordinary behaviors.

Striped T-rex baby. Aimed at a wide family audience, the series features many prehistoric animals whose existence was only recently discovered, in addition to some of their extraordinary behaviors.

Take, for example, T-rex. Children on the beach are almost unrecognizable from previous generations of plastic toys.

It has leather, for starters. Scientists are still debating whether the follicles on his body are feathers or feathers, or something in between.

It seems that they shed this coat as they approach maturity. However, as babies, they may have black skin and tiger ginger which gives them camouflage to hide them from predators.

One of the many surprises of the show is that a different species of Tyrannosaurus existed during the Cretaceous period, the last of the dinosaurs. The Qianzhousaurus fossil was identified in southern China nearly ten years ago.

Called the ‘Pinocchio Rex’ because of their long snout, they are fast runners. Another relative, Nanuqsaurus, lived at the north pole, perhaps with a thick coat of fur to protect it from the cold.

The fossil record also reveals that some Tyrannosaurs were confident swimmers, using their tails and hind legs to propel themselves through the water.

Perhaps the most stunning sequences in the series are those featuring mating shows, including a dogfight between the large-winged pterosaur Barbaridactylus for the attention of the female waiting below. When it comes to T-rex love, their muzzles are thought to have nerve endings, making them as sensitive as a dog’s nose.

This is not a jaw and claw show. It’s about the world that exists – Planet Earth, 66 million years ago

Scientists believe they rub their snouts as a sign of affection during courtship. ‘These animals are not empty boxes,’ said Mike.

‘They are characters. They make decisions.’

Generations of children have wondered why Tyrannosaurus had such short arms. Prehistoric Planets provide the answer, taking inspiration from birds, the evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs.

Many bird species use their brightly colored wings in mating shows. It seems Tyrannosaurus did the same.

The clue is that the forearms have ball and socket joints on the shoulders, allowing them to rotate and sway. The sinister blue scaly skin on the inside of their wrists and elbows makes for a dramatic sight when they flaunt it in a mating dance.

Another dramatic discovery based on bone structure allowed the team to show how sauropods, the largest dinosaurs of all, stood on their hind legs to fight for dominance. These long-necked giants, like the diplodocus, had a fortified pelvis.

Scientists think this allows them to pick up their weight when they are raised. Fossil evidence shows some suffered from scars on their necks, caused by opposing teeth clawing at them.

To make the show as realistic as possible, Mike insisted on framing each shot as if it were another wildlife film. ‘With CGI, the camera can fly between the legs of the T-rex or hover with its jaws open.

‘But it looks wrong. A real-life wildlife cameraman can’t do that.

‘He will be eaten. We want every shot to look like it was filmed in the wild.’

The show was CGI Barbaridactylus pterosaur.  Five episodes take us to forests, fresh water, deserts, beaches, and expanses of ice.  The backgrounds are real, filmed all over the world, so CGI animators can incorporate their creations into real landscapes

Barbaridactylus pterosaur CGI show. Five episodes take us to forests, fresh water, deserts, beaches, and expanses of ice. The backgrounds are real, filmed all over the world, so CGI animators can incorporate their creations into real landscapes

Apple executives insisted that no one could reveal the technical secrets of how dinosaurs were created until after the series premiered. But producer Tim Walker revealed that each creature was designed from an exoskeleton, with layers of muscle and flesh added at each stage.

‘This is a magic trick,’ he laughed. ‘I wish I felt passionate about learning when I was in school. Everything in this series makes me want to find out more.’

Five episodes take us to forests, fresh water, deserts, beaches, and expanses of ice. The backgrounds are real, filmed all over the world, so CGI animators can drop their creations onto real landscapes.

The result is a show unlike any seen before. Mike admits the most stressful thing was showing Sir David the initial edits – his approval was priceless.

‘It’s not a monster. They are extraordinary animals with complex behaviours,’ said Sir David.

‘I don’t know how you could do better.’ The great man’s reaction was everything Mike had hoped for.

  • Prehistoric Planet, Monday through Friday, Apple TV+.

Leave a Comment