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Dinosaurs and Trucks Collide in DreamWorks' New Netflix Kid Series ‘DinoTrux’

DreamWorks brings mechanical / organic hybrid characters and their tales of friendship and adventure together in a Netflix original series.

'Dinotrux.' All images courtesy of DreamWorks Animation.

The Mechazoic Era arrives today – DreamWorks has launched a brand new original Netflix series, Dinotrux, based on award-winning children’s book writer and illustrator Chris Gall’s three-book series of the same name. Aimed at 4-8 year old kids, the series is set in a pre-historic world where enormous hybrid dinosaur / construction vehicles, the Dinotrux, roam the Earth, living, working and sometimes battling with other each other. The Dinotrux world is also populated by another mechanized hybrid species, the tiny Reptools, part reptile, part handtool, that live in constant fear of these gargantuans.

The series brings these and other mechanical beings together in a set of 10 episodes centered around the adventures of Ty, a T-Trux (Tyrannosaurus Rex / Excavator hybrid with massive mechanical jaws and a wrecking-ball tail), forced by an exploding volcano to leave his home, who befriends a lizard / rotary drill hybrid named Revvit - together they convince other Dinotrux and Reptools to work together to build a new home and protect it from D-Structs, a larger and fiercer T-Trux who refuses to share his territory with anyone.

Other notable hybrid characters include the Craneosaurus, a mix of a Brontosaurus and construction crane, the Anklyodump, a mix of an Ankylosaurus and dump truck, the Stegarbasaurus, a mix of a Stegosaurus and garbage truck and many others. The world is also populated by tiny Reptools, Scraptools and Bitbugs, little insects designed from nuts, bolts and screws.

With longtime creative partners Ron Burch and David Kidd helming as writers and executive producers, Dinotrux, at its core, pairs vibrant and colorful new characters with stories about how teamwork and friendship can be used to solve problems. The show is designed to introduce young kids to characters that deal with the challenges of fitting into new herds, much like when they are dealing with new groups of people in their lives at school and at play. People that look and talk different. As Burch notes about the show, “It’s about building community, making friends, teamwork and always trying to do the right thing.”

According to the producers, each episode is like a mini-movie. “We see the show as a 22-minute movie every week. Basically, it’s your kid’s first action movie,” explains Kidd. The show has action and humor and is targeted at younger boys. “We’re a bridge show. From our dead-center target of 5-6 year olds, we straddle from 4-8. But we also want it to be a show where a viewer’s sister, their brother, their older sibling is cruising by and they think, ‘Hmmmm.’”

Each of the big characters has a skillset necessary to help the group build their community and team together to help each other out of jams. Like the Rolladons. Says Burch, “We created these characters called Rolladons. They are steamrollers mixed with a variety of Triceratops. Their characters come out of who they are. When we thought about Dozer, the Dozeratops, well, he’s low to the ground, he pushes things…he’s pushy. He’s gruff. Of course. All you have to do is look at him and you know exactly who he is.”

While the initial episode introduces the main characters, their Mechazoic world and origins of their friendships and adversarial encounters, other first season episodes include stories about dangerous encounters with a flock of Scrapadactyls and a pack of Scraptors, in addition to a rescue mission in a tar-filled sinkhole and long journeys across deserts and sandstorms.

“We start with a story we want to tell,” notes Kidd. “For example, there’s a story that comes up a few episodes into the first season where Dozer uncovers a nest of Tortool eggs. Tortools are tortoises crossed with handtools. A couple of the eggs hatch and the first thing they see is Dozer. So they imprint on him. Like baby ducklings, they follow him around. So we have the gruffest, most ornery character in charge of these incredibly cute little guys. We thought that would be a great story to tell about seeing another side of Dozer.”

With no previous series or feature film familiarity or characters to fall back on and using a series of 2D book illustrations as inspiration, DreamWorks faced many creative challenges. First and foremost, they had to create a fairly realistic prehistoric world where giant Dinotrux could share screen time with tiny Reptools, a visual mix of inanimate objects and organic creature hybrids that kids could easily identify and embrace. The studio had its hands full creating not just new CG environments, but more than 30 original hybrid creatures to populate it. According to supervising producer Randy Dormans, the most important design issue was that each character had to be based on an identifiable truck / dinosaur or tool / reptile combination that adhered to the laws of physics. “They’re not Legos. They’re not transformers,” says Dormans. “We don’t cheat things. Characters are animated as if they’re constructed, as if they’re completely made of metal. That’s a big distinction. They can move along the ways they’re articulated. Chains, gears, hinges, pistons, all that works as if that’s how the character was constructed.”

“We very much went back to basics. The Mechazoic world is designed to be very realistic, as if these characters really existed in that world,” continues Dormans. “If they are made of metal, they act as if they’re made of metal. They don’t bend. They don’t deform. We really treat them as if they’re built out of iron and steel. However, even though they’re made of metal, there is a lot of squash and stretch to the characters. Think of the magic carpet in Alladin. It has character and personality, but it’s just a carpet. It’s all in the pose.”

Capturing a child’s imagination and then holding their attention is always challenging. Finding meaningful stories that both entertain and educate is even tougher. “It’s all defined by the spirit of creativity and cooperation,” concludes Burch. “When faced with hard choices, these gigantic good guys with big hearts always solve their problems in a constructive way. They build out of a need, whether it’s rescuing somebody or needing to protect their food. We try to make ‘building’ the solution instead of violence.”

Dinotrux launches today, August 14, 2015, on Netflix.

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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