I love dinosaurs. I Love dinosaurs with a capital L. These mighty and fearsome creatures have been an integral part of my life since childhood when I started to devour anything I could find that had to do with Dinosaurs.
As a kid, I would read every book and comic, and watch every movie and animated adventure that aired with these awe-inspiring animals. So, with Cartoon Network soon to release a new season of the fantastic Primal animated series, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about dinosaurs and dinosaur cartoons.
This is why, just for fun, I’ve created a list of the best dinosaur cartoons from the ’90s. So, read below as we explore my favorite old dinosaur cartoons from the golden decade of animation, and which cartoon was so good that I’ve included it as an honorable mention, even though it wasn’t technically about a dinosaur.
The Best Dinosaur Cartoons From The 1990s
The Terrible Thunderlizards
The Terrible Thunderlizards is arguably the funniest show in the category of animated entertainment featuring dinosaurs.
Originally meant to be a spin-off of Eek! The Cat, The Terrible Thunderlizards started as a small segment on the Eek! Extravaganza kids show.
The segment follows the adventures and misadventures of a trio of dinosaur ex-convicts (we eventually learn why they had been sentenced to jail time: a false accusation of having helped an evil Thuggasaur) that have been tasked with killing two prehistoric humans. The reason for this grisly task is that dinosaur scientists have determined that if humans are left alone to reproduce and populate the earth, the future of dinosaur-kind will be imperiled.
The comedy elements of the show come into play because, despite their advantageous size, fierceness, and weaponry, our klutzy trio fail to accomplish their mission every single time.
The cast of characters was very diverse and varied and included such unforgettable members as:
Doc Tari, a scientifically included Parasaurolophus. He is the team’s captain and was inspired by basically every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of the 80s.
DayZ. Kutter, a Styracosaurus (often confused with a Triceratops) who is very handy with knives. That is unless he is using those knives to kill his human targets.
Bo Diddly Squat, an Allosaurus who, as the name aptly suggests, is a dim-witted nincompoop.
General Galapagos, the mercenary trio’s mean Tyrannosaurus boss.
While not my favorite of the bunch, I would rewatch this show in a heartbeat if I was looking for a quick, good-natured laugh.
Dink, The Little Dinosaur
True story, The Land Before Time is the single greatest work of art of all time, across all of Space!
Okay, okay, I know that I may be exaggerating, but my love for that movie, its family of loveable characters, and its capacity to trigger emotional catharsis is unparalleled. So, when I saw Dink, The Little Dinosaur pop up between 1989 and 1990 I was immediately intrigued. After all, the Dink animated series and the Land Before Time movie have a lot in common.
By far, Dink, The Little Dinosaur is the cutest and most child-friendly entry on our list. The show did a fantastic job of designing narrative arcs that were specifically written to teach children valuable lessons of empathy, tolerance, altruism, teamwork, and a plethora of other positive behaviors.
Teamwork was a big deal in just about every episode of Dink, The Little Dinosaur. The second season, which is my favorite by far, added a segment called the “Factasuaurus”, in which weekly lessons and fun-fact sessions were taught to the viewers. I learned so much about dinosaurs that I can truly thank the makers of this show for developing my life-long love of these awesome creatures.
The show follows the adventures of Dink, a kindhearted, bright, and loyal brontosaurus (I wouldn’t blame you for thinking Littlefoot from The Land Before Time is the same species as Dink. In fact, for many years, even the most experienced paleontologists couldn’t tell a brontosaurus from an apatosaurus).
Dink is almost always found hanging out with a pack of equally friendly and equally loveable friends. These include:
Amber, a Corythosaurus. Amber acts as Dink’s big sister. She’s very caring and friendly.
Scat, a Compsognathus. Scat is the group’s scaredy-cat. He’s always eating and speaking of himself in the third person. My kids love Scat.
Shyler, an Edaphosaurus. Shyler is the baby of the group. Shyler is super shy and the rest of the crew is always looking out for him.
Flapper, a Pteranodon. Flapper is the group’s funny guy. The jokester talks with a lisp and is always getting into funny situations.
Crusty, an old turtle. Crusty is actually the group’s mentor, constantly looking out for them and teaching them valuable lessons that we, the viewers, can absorb as well.
Asides from these 6, the show featured a wide and varied cast of other dinosaurs and creatures. There is also a wide cast of villainous characters who do their very best to eat our loveable cast of characters.
While the show eschews towards a younger audience, the animation is well-done, the voice-acting is decent, and the lessons found within are valuable to audiences of all ages.
The next entry on our list of best dinosaur animated tv series can be best described as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets Jurassic Park!
Extreme Dinosaurs is the forgotten spin-off of another fantastic Saturday morning cartoon, Street Sharks. If you remember Street Sharks, a cartoon that stars anthropomorphized mutant sharks, then you already know what to expect from Extreme Dinosaurs: slick animation, snappy humor, a rocking power metal theme song, and anthropomorphized dinos.
We first met our trio of extreme dinos in May of 1997 during the last few episodes of Street Sharks. Known initially as the Dino Vengers, it wasn’t until September of 1997 that they would debut in a cartoon all of their own, under the new name of Extreme Dinosaurs.
The first season, consisting of 52 episodes in total, was very well received by critics and general audiences alike. Likely due to the popularity of dinosaurs in general as well as the high quality of the animation.
The story starts when we meet an evil, interdimensional criminal named Argor Zardok (that’s an evil name if I’ve ever heard one). Argor travels to prehistoric earth to steal some dinosaurian specimens and transform them into a loyal and beastly army. He captures 4 dinosaurs and places them inside 4 evolution-boosting chambers, thus giving birth to our 4 main characters:
T-Bone, the T-Rex. T-Bone is our skillful leader, capable of stomping the ground with enough force to shake everything around him.
Spike, the Triceratops. Spike is a fierce expert martial artist and resident chef/gardener.
Stegz, the Stegosaurus. Stegz is the team’s technology expert. He’s the most intellectually capable member.
Bullzeye, the Pteranodon. Bullzeye is our team’s laidback goofy jokester. Think Michelangelo from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The thing is, all four of our dino buddies were intrinsically good-natured, so when Argoz tried to control them into doing evil acts, they declined and were abandoned for it. Before leaving this prehistoric earth, Argos attempts a second time to create evil dino henchmen. This time he succeeds and creates a trio of vile and vicious humanoid raptors: Bad Rap, Haxx, and Spittor.
Without getting into spoiler territory, our 4 dinos end up on modern-day earth where our adventures take place.
Unfortunately, the show was very short-lived and was canceled a few months after its original release. But trust me on this, if you love good quality animation, light-hearted yet emotional storytelling, and, above all, dinosaurs, this show’s 52 episodes are well worth your time.
Cadillacs And Dinosaurs
This next show’s intro sequence starts in such a bonkers way that it will always have a special place in my heart.
The show opens with a screech and a close-up of a saurian eye as a wild flying pterodactyl zooms across the screen. This sequence is closely followed by a loud roar, except this roar is not emanated by a living creature, instead, we see a human hand shift speeds in a car, a human foot hit the gas, and a convertible Cadillac drives down a wild and arid savannah.
This is Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, one of the wackiest and action-packed fantasy cartoons of the 90s.
The show was based on a 1992 arcade Beat Em Up also called Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. The game was very similar to Streets of Rage or Final Fight, and this same spirit was adapted for the small screen. The show ran for one season, from 1993 to 1994, containing 13 action-packed episodes.
Surprisingly enough, for a show about dinosaurs and convertible vehicles based on a violent video game, the Cadillac and Dinosaurs animated series dealt with some pretty heavy topics, such as climate change and political turmoil.
The show features an extensive cast of human and saurian characters. Amongst the most noteworthy dinosaurs, I distinctly remember a Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, Pteranodon, Brachiosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Mosasaurus, and many, many more.
This show likely has the most varied representation of dinosaurs in the animated medium.
Ultimately, this show conveyed a message of altruism and interconnectedness. The main cast of characters was good-natured, sympathetic, pacifists. Most of the time, conflict was handled tastefully, and with respect for all living creatures.
Don’t let the silly title fool you, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs were way ahead of their time. I would not hesitate to recommend streaming it even today.
Beast Wars: Transformers
The Transformers franchise has been around for a long time, and by the time the 90s rolled around, it had gone through more than a few iterations. Thus, when the franchise runners decided to reinvent the concept once again, it did not come as a surprise.
What did come as a surprise to most fans was the direction that the production took. In hindsight, however, the idea was pure genius: place our beloved transformers in a Prehistoric world.
Thus was born Beast Wars, one of my favorite animated series from the nineties. Why? Because In Beast Wars: Transformers, the former inhabitants of the planet Cybertron, the Autobots, and Decepticons, gain the ability to transform into prehistoric terrestrial animals including, of course, dinosaurs!
To be fair, the initial reaction to the series was mixed. Some diehard fans felt that the new concept betrayed the very identity of the franchise; however, the majority of the fanbase, myself included, immediately embraced the bold new direction chosen.
The series, the first-ever 3D-animated Transformers tv series, replaced the stalwart Autobots and cruel Decepticons with two new factions of transformers: the devoted Maximals facing the wicked Predacons.
The story begins when a merciless Predacon leader named Megatron (it wouldn’t be Transformers otherwise), steals a Golden Disk, a powerful source of very valuable information. With the disk in his possession, Megatron and his Predacons flee through space.
Hot in pursuit we find Optimus Primal and the rest of his Maximal team. Both sides end up going through a mysterious portal in space and end up displaced both in space and time.
During the initial battle between the two factions, the Axalon, the Maximals’ ship, is severely damaged and Optimus Primal orders all of the stasis capsules holding the protoforms of his companions released. Many of the capsules were left orbiting the planet, and would eventually begin to slowly fall. This would set up the initial narrative arc, as both factions raced to retrieve their allies.
The planet ends up being very rich in a crystal called Energon, which is very radioactive. So, to protect themselves from radiation, the Maximals and the Predacons adopt alternate organic forms which include a Velociraptor, a Tyrannosaurus, and a Pterodactyl. Later iterations of the Beast Wars animated series would go on to introduce a Triceratops, a Stegosaurus, a Giganotosaurus, a Dimetrodon, an Archaeopteryx, a Styracosaurus, a Euplocephalus, a Tylosteus, and more.
If you love dinosaurs, the Beast Wars franchise should be on your radar.
Godzilla: The Series
This next entry is not technically about a Dinosaur per se, which is why I’ve had to relegate it to this “runner-up” section.
Godzilla: The Series is an animated series based on the hugely popular 1998 Godzilla film, produced by American Columbia TriStar Television and written and directed by the one and only Roland Emerich.
The cartoon works as a direct sequel to the film and revolves around a baby Godzilla who survived the film’s climax. The baby Godzilla is adopted by Dr. Nick Tatopoulos and a group of other eminent scientists who dubbed themselves H.E.A.T.
H.E.A.T then uses this new Godzilla to fight a plethora of monstrous mutant and supernatural creatures that regularly attack humanity around the world.
The premise is straightforward, the animation is top-notch, the character design is mature, every episode is very well written, the action is beautifully choreographed, and the voice talent is some of the best in the industry. You see, several of the actors from the 1998 live-action film return to take over voice acting duties for their corresponding characters.
This animated series is in my humble opinion one of the hallmarks of western animation.