Sunday, March 08, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: The Early Extinction of Dino Riders

Dino Riders was a multimedia franchise from toymaker Tyco that briefly appeared and disappeared in the latter part of the '80s. Featuring the tagline "Harness the Power of Dinosaurs," they obviously realized, as I've mentioned before, that kids love dinosaurs. Given that, this should've been a slam dunk. In 1988, G.I. Joe and Transformers had lost some cache, and Masters of the Universe was discontinued the previous year. But unfortunately for Tyco, Dino Riders appeared just as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles juggernaut was getting underway, and never stood a chance.

The premise of the line was simple: crash landing on prehistoric Earth from the planet Valoria, good guy Dino Riders and bad guy Rulons outfit dinosaurs with high-tech gear and shoot stuff at each other. Like I said, not a complicated hook, but pretty much right in line with the stuff that passed for boys' toys back in the day (G.I. Joe vs. Cobra, Autobots vs. Decepticons, etc.). And also right in line with boys' toys for the era were the commercials, which you can see a cross-section of below:

Of course, as with any kiddie property, they needed a TV show to sell the message, and this is where Marvel Productions came in. Marvel, which had enjoyed considerable success producing both Joe and Transformers for Hasbro, launched a syndicated series-of-series under the umbrella title "Marvel Action Universe" in fall of '88. Of the three shows included therein, one was reruns of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from the early '80s (which I discussed here), one was the RoboCop cartoon (which I discussed here), and the third leg of the tripod was Dino Riders. Here's the intro:

As developed by comic writer Gerry Conway and his then-wife Carla, the animated Dino Riders did its best to create a mythology to hang the half-hour toy commercials on, and while they ended up with a show that was perfectly okay, it didn't really distinguish itself, especially with the siren song of those Heroes in a Half Shell beckoning. Lasting for one season of fourteen episodes, Dino Riders went away in December of 1988. Marvel didn't give up the ghost entirely, though. They also put out a comic series in the early part of '89, but that went away after a brief three-issues.

So, with the cartoon gone, you'd think that would've been it, but the toys actually stuck around for a little while, with the third and final wave hitting stores in 1990. The line may have been a swing-and-a-miss, but Tyco repurposed the moulds in 1993 for toys based on the Cadillacs & Dinosaurs cartoon on CBS (which I discussed here). Surprisingly (though not really, I guess), despite other '80s fossils being dug up, there hasn't been any move for a Dino Riders revival. And while there's yet to be a stateside release of the cartoon show on DVD, you can catch the entire first episode below via YouTube (for now):

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Pray for M.A.N.T.I.S.
Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Hammerman -- Don't Touch This
Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Jumping Back to 21 Jump Street

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