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American history teacher John Butler along with his wife Kim and their two children Katie and Greg, as well as their dog Digger, are on a rafting trip on the Amazon river. As they are going down the river, their boat gets caught in a dangerous current and capsizes. When they surface they find themselves in a prehistoric valley where they meet caveman Gorak, his wife Gara and their two children Lok and Tana. The two families soon become friends and Gorak and his family help the Butlers in their many attempts to find a way to return home while trying to survive in the valley. Written by
Brian Washington <Sargebri@att.net>
With Jackie Earle Haley having an Oscar nomination this year for Little Children, I decided to check out what there was of one of his earliest works that I had watched 30 years ago, Valley of the Dinosaurs.
Haley did the voice of the small Butler child.
Valley of the Dinosaurs was the cartoon story about the nuclear Butler family (father, mother, sister, brother and a dog) who rafted their way down a whirlpool to the afore-mentioned valley, where they met their equivalent cave versions, father, mother, brother, sister and a pet stegosaurus.
They were all paired up accordingly for the fathers to work in the garage, the mothers to tend to kitchen work, the teen-aged daughter to have adventures with the strapping bohemian surfer dude teen-aged cave son (interesting that there never was an episode with Lok on some makeshift surfboard) and the young son (voiced by Haley) to wander off with the blonde cave daughter.
Ironically, the cave daughter, Tana, did bear an animated resemblance to Kathy Coleman, who played daughter Holly on rival Land of the Lost.
It really wasn't that much of a coincidence that Valley of the Dinosaurs and Land of the Lost both premiered the same year. Cartoon themes were very common.
An even better one was Speed Buggy and Wheelie & The Chopper Bunch, both Hanna Barbera cartoons.
But I digress.
My brothers were fans of LotL, and they even said LotL wasn't so much a dinosaur show, but was more fantasy.
VotD, on the other hand, was straight rugged, outdoor camping stories.
There was criticism that children weren't learning anything from Saturday morning fare and the like, so we were given Schoolhouse Rock, and, having seen the old primetime Planet of the Apes show with Ron Harper and James Naughton, I've been surprised at how instructional in gardening and the like that show was.
VotD does the same thing, perhaps a bit too much. We learn about wind conditions, how pulleys and levers work, siphoning water and various other helpful boyscout techniques.
To kids, . . . . . it was annoying.
Made worse would be the father, sporting that Race Bannon voice, telling kids not to do something, then the kids, usually Haley's character, would do it anyway, chaos ensues, who did it, the kid would confess and we would get a stern parental lecture.
A very stern parental lecture.
There would be other episodes where a rock was sacred to the cave people and it was sitting on top of a volcano, fish were put out for a crazy werewolf creature (with Scooby Doo's howl I might add) and the cave family would insist 'it is our tradition' and Father Butler would have to display a little scientific know-how to dealing with the volcano or the animal creature.
I guess about the worst one I have seen thus far was when the fathers and Lok used a giant turtle shell to maneuver underwater and (ready for this?) they polished up one side of the shell with sand to make it see-thru.
Each episode seems to end with the cave daughter, or sometimes the American daughter, observing one of the animals in some little situation and saying "Looks like Digger yadda yadda yadda . . . " and they all laugh.
Jayna of the Wonder Twins would repeat this finale on the Superfriends years later with ending each episode with 'Looks Like Gleep.' In the end, it doesn't compare to Land of the Lost. It is a different show, hardly a cheaper version to Land of the Lost's superiority or anything like that.
Now, over thirty years later, Jackie Earle Haley is nominated for an Oscar, against Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls.
Good luck, little Butler.
Strangely enough, there is an episode that deals with a windmill or something being used to signal planes that are flying over, which gives a hint that this was how the family got out of the valley.
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