March 09, 2019


(Syndication, October 1-December 31, 1988)

Marvel Productions, Steven Hahn Productions, Tyco Toys

Dan Gilvezan – Questar, Vector
Peter Cullen – Mind-Zei, Gunnur, Bomba, Antor
Joe Colligan – Yungstar
Noelle North – Serena
Charlie Adler – Turret, Hammerhead, Lokus
Wally Burr – Tagg. Narrator
Cam Clarke – Ikon, Aero, Krok
Townsend Coleman – Astra, Zar
Rob Paulsen – Kameelian, Faze
Frank Welker – Glyde, Emperor Krulos, Rasp, Skate, various

            In 1985, Tyco Toys was looking to create a new surefire toyline. It was decided to combine the past and the present by having a line centered on dinosaurs brandishing futuristic space weaponry. It was developed for two years under the name “Project B.C.” before coming to store shelves as Dino-Riders. Dino-Riders depicted the warring factions of the peace-loving human Valorians and the warmongering animal-like Rulons. The figures were released either in two-packs containing one Valorian and one Rulon with generic weaponry, or one or more with a dinosaur. The dinosaurs came with wearable weaponry and a place for the figures to ride.

            To help promote the figures, Tyco funded the creation of a cartoon to be produced by Marvel Productions and Steven Hahn Productions and developed by comic book writers Gerry and Carla Conway. The series would relay the story about how the Rulons, led by the amphibious Krulos (Frank Welker), wanted to conquer the universe using their brain boxes which allowed them to control a living being’s mind. The only ones who could resist the box’s powers were the peaceful Valorians, who possessed high mental powers harnessed through amulets they wore. Krulos decided to eliminate the Valorians and attacked their planet. Predominantly a peace-loving utopia, the only defense Valoria had was a shield that bought them enough time to construct a ship to take away 400 of their citizens. They sought to escape through time utilizing their STEP (Space/Time Energy Projector), but wound up taking the Rulons with them to prehistoric Earth. There, the Valorians and Rulons conscripted the dinosaurs into their conflict; the Valorians by communicating with them telepathically while the Rulons used their brain boxes. While great care was taken in the detail of proper dinosaur names and visuals (as far as science knew at the time), different species that existed at different times were often anachronistically shown together.

Questar on his battle dino.

            The Valroians consisted of Questar (Dan Gilvezan), the strong-willed and courageous leader; Mind-Zei (Peter Cullen), a blind warrior with a strong sixth sense; Yungstar (Joe Colligan), an overeager and prideful show-off; Serena (Noelle North), a healer who could detect when people were in trouble; Turret (Charlie Adler), a technician and scientist; Llahd (Stephen Dorff & Shawn Donahue), the youngest member of the group who desired to show he could be as much of a hero as anyone; Gunnur (Cullen), a battle-hardened war veteran who trained the others; Tagg (Wally Burr), a mid-level official who aided in training the others; Ikon (Cam Clarke), a pragmatic statistician who served as one of Questar’s top advisors who could answer his questions instantaneously with his staff; Vector (Gilvezan), another advisor and general contractor whose wrist computer allowed him to assess construction projects around the camp; Aero (Clarke), Yungstar’s chief rival who was the best at handling his Quetzalcoatlus; Tark, a high-ranking official whose experience and knowledge had earned him great respect; Ayce, a trainer and equipment expert; Aries, a young warrior who lacked confidence; and Neutrino, an assistant for various training courses and a capable soldier.

The Commandos prep for battle.

            While the Valorians were a peaceful race, they still saw it pragmatic to have some fighters in their ranks. As a result, there was a subset of the Valorians known as the Commandos: a special forces military unit with specialized skills. Leading them was Astra (Townsend Coleman), a former teacher at the Valorian University and a battle-hardened war veteran; Bomba (Cullen), an explosives expert; Kameelian (Rob Paulsen), a master of disguise and a specialist in surveillance and reconnaissance; Glyde (Welker), an aerial and artillery expert; Faze (Paulsen), also an artillery expert; and Rok, an expert and traversing difficult terrain.

Krulos tamed the mighty T-Rex.

            On the Rulons’ side were Rasp (Welker), Krulos’ snake-like second-in-command who was a smart, resourceful and wouldn’t hesitate to overthrow Krulos as much as he aimed to please him. He commanded the Viper Legion amongst the Rulon army. Hammerhead (Adler), the shark-like commander of the Sharkors who was hot-headed and prone to berserker episodes. Krok (Clarke), the crocodile-like general of Krulos who was absolutely loyal to him. The lower ranking officials in Krulos’ army were the manta ray-like Skate (Welker) and the locust-like Lokus (Adler). The lowest of them all was Antor (Cullen), the slow-witted ant-like general who served as the butt of jokes and commanded the Ant-Men, the primary cannon fodder for the army. Krulos’ frog-design was inspired by the popularity of The Muppets and was named “Kermit” on product sheets before his release (fitting, considering they got Kermit’s actor from Muppet Babies to play him).

            Dino-Riders’ first episode was released onto VHS in 1987 with several commercials to get children interested in the toys before they ever hit shelves. It would debut on television on October 1, 1988 as part of the syndicated Marvel Action Universe. Along with the Conways, it was written by Donald F. Glut, Paul Kirshner, Kayte Kuch, Christy Marx, Larry Parr, Sheryl Scarborough, Alan Swayze and Michael Chase Walker, with Kuch, Parr and Scarborough serving as story editors. Animation duties were handled by AKOM Production Company, Hanho Heung-Up Company and Mihahn, Inc., with music composed by Haim Saban, Shuki Levy and Udi Harpaz. Much of the series was centered around Krulos trying to acquire the STEP while obliterating the Valorians. The Valorians continued to remain on the defensive, with Questar refusing to go on the offensive no matter how much his men advised it would help them end the war. There were also moments where Krulos was defeated by his suit, which kept him constantly hydrated, being damaged but he was saved by the Valorians.

Rasp and Antor.

            The series proved successful and helped boost the sales of the toys. During the third wave of releases, Tyco decided they wanted to change things up. They introduced new mammals and cavemen characters from the Ice Age, and interestingly enough no new Rulon figures (also the only time the concept was historically accurate by keeping primitive man and dinosaurs separate). To introduce the new beings and settings, a direct-to-video 14th episode of the series showed that the Valorians managed to get the STEP activated again, but an attack from the Rulons had the Commandos take the STEP to keep it away from them, ending up in the Ice Age. There, they were entered into a conflict between two warring cavemen tribes. characters. Unfortunately, the new figures weren’t well-received and the line faltered. The Ice Age figures proved to be the final entries into the series. A second season or even a spin-off set in the Ice Age was in the works, but with the show’s job done Tyco ultimately ended the series after the singular season.

Krulos commands you to buy toys!

            Besides the action figures, a line of various merchandise based on them and the show was released. Amongst them were role-playing weapons, a kite, puffy stickers, framed animation cels, a belt buckle from Product Dynamics, a poster, clothing, a Ben Cooper costume of Questar, lunchboxes by Aladdin Industries, sticker albums, a Colorforms playset, and a Super Dough modeling playset. Italy received some unique merchandise in the form of schoolbags and supplies. Golden Books published a line of coloring books that were available individually or as part of a set, as well as jigsaw and frame tray puzzles. Marvel Comics published a 3-issue comic series based on the show by George Caragonne and Kelley Jones, with the first two reprinted by Marvel UK in a hardcover annual. The comics took on a decidedly more mature and darker tone than the cartoon.

Marvel Action Universe promo.

            As said, the first episode was released on VHS as The Dino-Riders Adventure Volume 1 by Tyco with a re-release by Marvel Video. The second episode was released in The Adventure Continues Volume 2 the following year. The finally North American release was Ice Age Adventure in 1989, containing the 14th episode. Internationally, additional episodes were released one or two apiece across various VHS collections. With the Dino-Riders line ended, Tyco found themselves stuck with a lot of dinosaur toys. However, the highly detailed and accurate bodies didn’t go unnoticed. The Smithsonian Institution partnered with Tyco to repackage the dinosaurs without the humanoids and weapons as the Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Reptile Collection for sale at the National Museum of Natural History.

“The Adventure Begins” (1987 VHS, 10/1/88) – When the Rulons attack, the peaceful Valorians are forced to flee into the distant past to escape them.

“Revenge of the Rulons” (10/8/88) – An earthquake causes the dinosaurs to stampede and destroy the Valorian defenses, ending up with Llahd being captured by Rasp.

“The Rulon Stampede” (10/15/88) – As Serena is pushed to the limit, the Rulons plan to stampede their army of dinosaurs through the Valorian camp.

“The Blue Skies of Earth” (10/22/88) – Embarrassing himself in front of his rival Aero, Yungstar leaves the camp and stumbles upon the Rulons’ plans to attack by air.

“Toro, Toro, Torosaurus” (10/29/88) – Llahd wants to prove himself a hero, but is unable to rescue a herd of Torosauruses alone.

“T-Rex” (11/5/88) – Krulos upgrades the T-Rex’s arsenal and it proves more than a match for the Valorians.

“Krulos” (11/12/88) – Krulos’ suit is damaged in an earthquake and the others squabble over who will be the next leader, while Serena is captured when she searches for a wounded being.

“Tagg, You’re It!” (11/19/88) – Heling some dinosaurs reclaim their watering hole, Tagg discovers a Rulon tunneling operation that’s been causing a series of strange earthquakes.

“Thanksgiving” (11/26/88) – Yungstar and Llahd are captured while the Valorians investigate a new Rulon dam.

“To Lose the Path” (12/3/88) – When the Rulons’ chemical waste causes dinosaurs to fall ill, Yungstar grows so angry that he loses his telepathic abilities.

“Enter the Commandos” (12/10/88) – Questar sends the Commandos to investigate why the Rulons are stealing Triceratops eggs.

“Battle for the Brontosaurus” (12/17/88) – The Commandos and the Rulons are in a race to bring a giant Brontosaurus into their respective ranks.

“One to Lead Us” (12/24/88) – Framed for conspiring with the Rulons, Questar takes self-imposed exile to clear his name as Krulo launches his most ambitious attack yet.

“Ice Age Adventure” (1989 VHS) – The STEP sends the Commandos to the Ice Age where they help a tribe of Cro-Magnon fight against their enemies.

No comments: