Dinotopia is a fictional utopian place discovered and described by author and illustrator James Gurney. It is the setting for the book series with which it shares a name. Dinotopia is an isolated island inhabited by shipwrecked humans and sentient dinosaurs who have learned to coexist peacefully as a single symbiotic society.
Since its original publication, over twenty Dinotopia books have been published by various authors to expand the series. Several video games, a mini series, an animated film, a live-action film, and a TV series have also been released.
The name "Dinotopia" is a portmanteau
" and "utopia
". Ironically, Dinotopia means (in Greek
) "terrible place", "dinosaur" meaning "terrible lizard" (dino-saur) and "utopia" meaning "good place" (eu-topia) or "no place" (ou-topia). The disillusioned character Lee Crabb mentions this discrepancy, claiming that humans on the island are slaves to dinosaurs.
Upon the hidden island
of Dinotopia humans
and dinosaurs live and work together in harmony
with one another and with the Earth
itself (save for the few predators
who roam the jungle
interior of the island). It is a place of beauty
lost to the rest of the world. The island itself is surrounded by a storm system and dangerous reefs that prevent safe travel to or from the island.
Aside from a highly diverse ecosystem ranging from deserts to mountains to swamps, Dinotopia also has an extensive system of natural and man-made caves.
The dinosaurs, according to their own legends, have inhabited the island for millions of years, having sought shelter in the underground caverns during the climate changes that caused the extinction of dinosaurs elsewhere on the planet.
The caverns are referred to as the World Beneath, and many dinosaurs go there to die. According to legends, a half man-half ceratopsian being named Ogthar climbed down there (where the sun is said to sleep at night) and stole pieces of it (known as "sunstones"), using them to create the empire of Poseidos and populating it with metal dinosaurs. However, the sea grew angry with the artificial city and rose to destroy it.
The human population consists of shipwrecked travelers called Dolphinbacks (who are often rescued and brought to shore by dolphins) and the descendants of such arrivals. As such, they often fall into cultural zones based on the relative societies from which their ancestors came, creating a cultural landscape across the island that is both unified and incredibly diverse.
Dinosaurs are not the only prehistoric creatures on the island. In the higher regions of the Forbidden Mountains (a Himalaya-like mountain chain), woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, Chalicotheres, and other prehistoric mammals can be found. At least one Lystrosaurus and one Edaphosaurus can be found in the city of Pooktook. Pterosaurs are also common, especially the Quetzalcoatlus skybax, which serve as steeds for the skybax riders.
Both halves of the society share responsibility equally and live under a common set of laws known as the Code of Dinotopia. The society is highly communal, lacking a monetary system or even a concrete concept of ownership. Individuals are educated from youth to be compassionate, co-operative, and generally conscious of others' needs. For example, food on the island is provided at no cost, but citizens take only what they need and leave the rest for others.
Dinotopia began as an illustrated children's book called Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time
. It was a huge cross-over success, appealing to both children and adult readers, which led James Gurney to write and illustrate three more books called Dinotopia: The World Beneath, Dinotopia: First Flight
and most recently Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara
. They all deal with the adventures of Arthur and Will Denison to one degree or another. These are considered the main books of the series and establish the fictional world in which the others are set.
A children's flip-up version of the first book was also issued.
The Dinotopia Digest series consists of sixteen young adult novels penned by several different authors. These books feature other characters who are not specifically involved with the events of the main books.
Two full-length adult fantasy novels were also issued with Gurney's authority, written by Alan Dean Foster: Dinotopia Lost and Hand of Dinotopia.
Several video games, as well as a miniseries, a TV series, and a children's movie, were also produced. These are also set in the Dinotopia universe, but do not tie in directly with the main series.
The plot of the main Dinotopia
books concerns Arthur Denison and his son, Will, and the various people they meet in their travels in Dinotopia. The first and fourth books
are written as if they were Arthur's journals
, with Gurney going so far as to explain in the introductions how he happened to come across the old, waterlogged volumes.
A Land Apart from Time
In Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time
, the Denisons are shipwrecked near Dinotopia and, after making it ashore, are found by the people of the Hatchery. The Hatchery
is a place where dinosaurs are born, tended by both dinosaurs and humans. The Denisons then set out to explore the island, hoping to find a means of returning to their old lives. Arthur Denison mentions Tyrannosaurus rex
after setting forth on the island
; however Henry Fairfield Osborn
, president of the American Museum of Natural History
, named Tyrannosaurus Rex
in 1905 and the events in Dinotopia are supposed to take place in the early 1860s.
Arthur and Will undergo a broad journey, circling the island, as they endeavor to learn the customs and culture of their new neighbors. Arthur in particular develops an interest in the scientific accomplishments of the natives, which far exceed that of any human culture. Among the subjects he studies are the flora of the island, the partnership of its inhabitants, and the existence of a place known as the World Beneath. This World Beneath is an explanation for Dinotopians surviving the saurian extinction; according to the story, most of the Earth's dinosaurs were destroyed, whilst a few hid in vast underground caverns. These few became the original Dinotopians. No one has entered the World Beneath for centuries, but Arthur intends to do so.
His son Will, on the other hand, has chosen to train as a messenger of the sky; a Skybax rider, who lives in symbiosis with his mount, the great Quetzalcoatlus (nicknamed Skybax), a species of pterosaur. Training alongside Will is a girl called Sylvia, with whom Will falls in love. The natives refer to this and any other profound bond as Cumspiritik, which means literally "together-breathing." (Romana Denison of the later Dinotopia film series is said to be Will's daughter.)
Arthur, for his part, travels into the World Beneath, at the same time that Will and Sylvia are learning to fly with the Skybax. When he returns, he is fascinated by the ancient relics found there and convinced that they may be key in enabling him to leave or explore the island.
Meanwhile, Will and Sylvia learn and master Skybax flight. When at last they have been accepted as Riders, they travel to meet Arthur and his Protoceratops guide Bix, but are distracted on the way by a thunderstorm. Luckily, they survive and arrive on time to meet their kin. Will is at the time too young to marry Sylvia, but it is promised that they will. Arthur recognizes that his son has grown up, and they each accept the changes that are results of their new lives on the island.
- Protoceratops - The character Bix is a Protoceratops
- Stegosaurus - Appear throughout the book as background characters.
- Triceratops - Appear throughout the book as background characters. The character Brokehorn is a Triceratops.
- Ankylosaurus - Appear throughout the book as background characters.
- Styracosaurus - Appear throughout the book as background characters.
- Pachycephalosaurus - Appear throughout the book as background characters. The character Gastrolith is a Pachycephalosaurus.
- Unidentified Iguanodontids - One of the genera of dinosaur at the Romanos hatchery.
- Oviraptor (called "Ovinutrix" - egg nurse) - The hatchery nurses.
- Maiasaura - One of the genera of dinosaur at the hatchery
- Brachiosaurus (called "Brach" - bus) - appear throughout the series as background characters.
- Eucentrosaurus - Appear throughout the series as background characters.
- Lystrosaurus - One of the many animals living in the city of Pooktook.
- Archaeopteryx - One of the many animals living in the city of Pooktook.
- Compsognathus - One of the many animals living in the city of Pooktook.
- Edaphosaurus - One of the many animals living in the city of Pooktook.
- Muttaburrasaurus - One of the many animals living in the city of Pooktook.
- Dimorphodon - One of the many animals living in the city of Pooktook. The Dinotopian version of carrier pigeons.
- Tuojiangosaurus - One of the many animals living in the city of Pooktook.
- Rutiodon - Shown helping with the bellows in the casting and forging room at Volcaneum.
- Unidentified Pareiasaur - One of the animals in the casting and forging room at Volcaneum.
- Pterodactylus - One of the animals in the casting and forging room at Volcaneum.
- Quetzalcoatlus skybax - Appear throughout the series as the mounts of the Skybax riders.
- Ceratosaurus - Shown greeting a Skybax rider at volcaneum.
- Lambeosaurus - The Habitat partner Paddlefoot is a Lambeosaurus.
- Parasaurolophus (sometimes called "Overlander" - Dinotopian version horses) -
- Corythosaurus - A genus of Hadrosaur living in Hadro swamp
- Hylaeosaurus - One of the armoured dinosaurs that warn Arthur, Bix, and Will about the rapids near Waterfall city
- Polacanthus - One of the armoured dinosaurs that warn Arthur, Bix, and Will about the rapids near Waterfall city
- Euoplocephalus - One of the armoured dinosaurs that warn Arthur, Bix, and Will about the rapids near Waterfall city
- Troodon (called Stenonychosaurus) - Malik the timekeeper of Dinotopia is a Troodon.
- Deinonychus - Enit the chief librarian of Waterfall city is a Deinonychus.
- Chasmosaurus - Appear throughout the series as background characters.
- Ornithomimus - Featured throughout the series.
- Saltasaurus - On the first page a Saltasaurus can be seen helping the farmers.
- Unidentified Dolphin - The rescuers of shipwrecked travelers on Dinotopias coast.
- Tyrannosaurus - A genus of predator living in the rainy basin.
- Woolly mammoth - A mammal living in the forbidden mountains.
- Struthiomimus - Appear throughout the series as background characters.
- Dryosaurus - The character Kalyptera is a Dryosaurus.
- Camarasaurus - In the book it is described as needing dental work often.
- Deinocheirus - The dinotopian version of race horses.
- Edmontosaurus - One of the many dinosaurs living in sauropolis.
- Pteranodon - The guardians of the portal to the World Beneath.
- Moropus - A mammal living in the forbidden mountains.
- Brontotherium - A mammal living in the forbidden mountains.
The World Beneath
The first sequel, Dinotopia: The World Beneath
focuses mainly on Arthur Denison's return expedition to the World Beneath and opens with Will fly testing an invention of his father, clockwork dragonfly
-like machine dubbed the Dragoncopter. The Dragoncopter fails and Will is narrowly saved by Cirrius, his Skybax mount before it plummets into a waterfall.
After returning from his first expedition in A Land Apart From Time, Arthur presents two items he discovered- a sunstone and half of a key- to the council at Waterfall City in an attempt to get a second expedition into the World Beneath.
A musician named Oriana Nascava comes forward with the missing half of Arthur's key, claiming it to be a family heirloom. She is only willing to give it up if she is allowed to accompany Arthur in his expedition, a term that he reluctantly accepts. Together with Bix as a guide and the scandalous Lee Crabb, the group travels to the shady Pliosaur Canal where they board a submersible in order to take an underwater route to the World Beneath.
Meanwhile, Will and Sylvia have been assigned to accompany a sauropod caravan through the Rainy Basin and keep a watch for predatory Tyrannosaurus. However, Cirrus flies Will to ancient ruins in the jungle which the Tyrannosaurus are strangely protective of.
Arthur, Oriana, Bix, and Lee continue to explore the caverns underneath Dinotopia where they come across instantly germinating fern spores, uncut sunstones that appear to store ancestral memory, and mechanical limbs that twitch when the sunstone is brought near. Eventually, they reach an enormous man-made chamber filled with abandoned dinosaur-like vehicles called Strutters, left behind by the ancient civilization of Poseidos. Will, Oriana, and Bix commandeer a ceratopsian strutter while Crabb takes a strutter modeled after a sea scorpion and they both climb out of the World Beneath, ending up in the Rainy Basin. They join the sauropod convoy, but are attacked by a pack of tyrannosaurs and allosaurus, during which Crabb escapes in his strutter and the head of the ceratopsian strutter is ripped off.
After escaping the carnivores, Arthur realizes that the Tyrannosaurus at the ruins may have been guarding the mythical ruby sunstone, and takes his strutter back into the Rainy Basin with Oriana and Bix to discover it. Along the way, they come across a trapped juvenile Giganatosaurus and free it. The grateful father, named Stinktooth, protects Arthur and his companions from the tyrannosaurs and allows them passage into the ruins.
Inside the temple, Bix reveals that in the past, people have escaped the island and brought with them culture from Dinotopian civilizations, influencing ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations.
However, they are too late, as Crabb has arrived first and taken the ruby sunstone. Vowing to escape Dinotopia and bring back an army of strutters to plunder the island, he destroys Arthur's strutter with his sea scorpion and escapes. Riding on top of Stinktooth, Arthur chases Lee into the sea and pulls the sunstone out of the power socket in the strutter before Lee can escape. During this chase, Arthur's journal is lost to the ocean where it will be discovered by Portuguese sailors and eventually make its way to the library where James Gurney discovers it.
At the end, the ruby sunstone is lost, a new romance is suggested between Arthur and Oriana, and Crabb is placed under guard by a pair of Stygimoloch.
Dinotopia: First Flight
was a prequel
published by Gurney and included a board game
The main protagonist of the story is Gideon Altaire, a flight school student living in the capital city of Poseidos off the Dinotopian mainland, in which all organic life (save for humans) has been replaced by mechanical counterparts. After discovering an injured Scaphognathus named Razzamult, Gideon discovers that the city is planning to launch an attack on the mainland and conquer all of Dinotopia and that they have stolen the ruby sunstone from the pterosaur home of Highnest.
Gideon sneaks into a factory and discovers an enormous air scorpion attack strutter under construction. He locates and steals ruby sunstone and frees a group of captive pterosaurs before escaping to the mainland in a police skimmer. He arrives only to find the island already under attack. He discovers and enlists the help of a band of indigenous creatures- Binny, a Necrolemur, Bandy, a Plesictis, Bongo, a Plesiadapis, and Budge, an Estemmenosuchus. During their trek towards Highnest, they are ambushed by a spider like attack strutter which proceeds to steal the ruby sunstone.
Gideon and his band reaches Highnest, where they help the pterosaurs evacuate the eggs, then take to the air atop their pterosaurs to engage the air scorpion. During the battle, Gideon manages to pull the ruby sunstone out of the flying machine's power socket, causing it to crash and stopping the invasion of Dinotopia.
Interestingly enough, Gideon is presented as the first ever Skybax rider, although the species he rode was Quetzalcoatlus northropi.
Journey to Chandara
A fourth Dinotopia book by James Gurney, Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara
, was published in October, 2007. In it, Hugo Khan, the mysterious and reclusive emperor of Chandara, an empire long since isolated from the rest of Dinotopia, has heard of Arthur Denison and Bix's exploits and sends them a personal invitation to his court. Along the way, the duo encounters several new locals, including an old magician named Cornelius Mazurka and his companion Therizinosaurus
Henriette in the ruins of an old city, a town called Bilgewater made completely out of salvaged ships that the inhabitants believe will carry them into another world, and Jorotongo, a consistently festive and completely nomadic village comprised of pilgrims from the Sunflower
, sister ship to the Mayflower
Eventually, they meet Lee Crabb on route at Sauropolis, who escapes from his Stygimoloch guards and steals the invitation. Without proper passes for the border guards, Arthur and Bix are forced to sneak through the swamp of Blackwood Flats while evading packs of carnivorous Allosaurus. After passing through the mountain city of Thermala, the duo encounter Nibor Dooh, a bandit who steals all the possessions of passing travelers and compensates them with the possessions of the previous victim. Although Arthur loses all of his scientific equipment, he is given a set of desert robes which allow him and Bix to blend in to a Chandaran caravan and pass the border without harassment from the guards.
They stop by the ruins of Ebulon, where Arthur finds Will and Sylvia preparing for an air-jousting tournament. Soon after that, they make their way to the capital city of Chandara. By the time they arrive, they find themselves with little possessions left to barter save for ideas, so Arthur sets up shop in the Marketplace of Ideas. During the night, the writings at Arthur's stand catches the attention of the emperor and he and Bix are invited into the court.
Once at the court, they discover that Lee Crabb has also entered the court under the guise of Arthur Denison and is attempting to gather up a stockpile of weapons, arguing that he is preparing for a Tyrannosaurus invasion. Hugo Khan finally reveals himself to be a small Microraptor, and the real Denison promptly exposes Crabb. Khan punishes Crabb by assigning him to be a chef for a band of Acrocanthosaurus Shaolin-monks, who ate their last chef after he failed to satisfy them.
To commemorate Arthur and Bix's presence on the court, Hugo Khan flies out during the night to find a child in sorrow. The next day, Arthur, Bix, and a handful of the Emperor's selected entertainers arrive at the house of and greet Rita Rose and Jeffer, an orphaned Europasaurus hatchling who has lost the ability to walk. At the end of the day, Hugo Khan expresses his wish for Chandara to be reopened culturally to the rest of Dinotopia. Arthur and Bix accept the Emperor's offers to stay in Chandara for a while to fully discover the city and its culture.
- Achelousaurus - Seen carrying pomegranate juice for sauropods.
- Therizinosaurus - The character Henriette is a Therizinosaurus.
- Unidentified snake - A species of animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Unidentified dragonfly - A species of animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Unidentified turtle - A species of animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Unidentified crocodile - A species of animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Archaeotherium (mentioned only) - An animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Camptosaurus (mentioned only) - An animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Scaphognathus (mentioned only) - An animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Allosaurus - An animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Red-faced Tyrannosaurus - An animal living in the Blackwood flats. They are scavengers unlike their cousins in the Rainy Basin.
- Unidentified opossum - A species of animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Unidentified shrew - A species of animal living in the Blackwood flats.
- Paraceratherium - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains. Hill people use Paraceratherium for carrying supplies in caravans. The characters Kamba and Muhimmi are Paraceratherium.
- Pelorovis (mentioned only) - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains.
- Megaloceros - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains.
- Macrauchenia - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains.
- Imperial Mammoth - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains.
- Anancus - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains.
- Megaladapis - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains.
- Megatherium - A mammal living in the Forbidden mountains. The Boon Sloth (the Dinotopian version of Santa Claus) is a Megatherium.
- Unidentified Pterosaurs (mentioned only) - A flock of small Pterosaurs unintentionally warn Arthur and Bix about the Kleptodon tribesman Nibor Dooh.
- Chondrosteosaurus - The main diet of a Skybax in Ebulon.
- Kentrosaurus - The Khasra baker stacks bread rings on a Kentrosaurus.
- Leptoceratops - Bix's distant cousin Ishter is a Leptoceratops.
- Bagaceratops - Bix's distant cousin Sita is a Bagaceratops.
- Montanoceratops - Bix's distant cousin Shalashu is a Montanoceratops.
- Psittacosaurus - Bix's distant cousin Erbettu is a Psittacosaurus.
- Dilong (mentioned only) - The guards of Khasra.
- Unidentified Cynodont (mentioned only) - A Bulldog-like Cynodont escorts Arthur and Bix to the compound run by Bixs, distant cousins.
- Utahraptor (mentioned only) - The barbers of Khasra.
- Edmontonia - Pavimentum the Fibonacci gardener is an Edmontonia.
- Anchiceratops - The character Boustrophedon is an Anchiceratops.
- Beipiaosaurus - A Beipiaosaurus is seen living with the Shinshik family in Teleost.
- Caudipteryx - A Caudipteryx is seen living with the Shinshik
- Acrocanthosaurus -
- Turiasaurus - A Turiasaurus is seen wading in the Chandara canals.
- Sinornithoides (mentioned only) - A group of Sinornithoides jump in front of Arthur to get a closer look at his mustache.
- Mesopithecus (mentioned only) - A Chandaran art teacher.
- Shuvuuia (mentioned only) - Djhuty a saurian architect (who somehow managed to escape Dinotopia and became the first Egyptian architect) is a Shuvuuia.
- Iguanodon - A Chandaran ferry pilot.
- Baryonyx - A Baryonyx is described as being "proud of his teeth which are well suited for catching fish. He insists on a careful brushing from his dental assistant.
- Einiosaurus - A pair of albino Einiosaurus are seen bathing in a swim tank.
- Chirostenotes - The courtiers of the emperor.
- Oviraptor - The characters Haber, Dasher, Virdis & Vestus are Oviraptor.
- Unidentified butterfly - A sentient butterfly named Zephys.
- Mononykus - Gedyu the partner of Kiri Uru Mistress of the art of teas is a Mononykus.
- Unidentified Therizinosaurid - The character Kotoman.
- Microraptor - Hugo Khan the emperor of Chandara is a Microraptor.
- Europasaurus - The lame hatchling Geffer is a Europasaurus.
- Protarchaeopteryx - Seen dancing to music played by a hadrosaur.
Other books in the series
From 1995, James Gurney worked with a number of other authors on a series of short novels for children using the Dinotopia characters and themes, published by Random House
- Windchaser by Scott Ciencin
- River Quest by John Vornholt
- Hatchling by Midori Snyder
- Lost City by Scott Ciencin
- Sabertooth Mountain by John Vornholt
- Thunder Falls by Scott Ciencin
- Firestorm by Gene De Weese
- The Maze by Peter David
- The Rescue Party by Mark A. Garland
- Sky Dance by Scott Ciencin
- Chomper by Don Glut
- Return to Lost City by Scott Ciencin
- Survive! by Brad Strickland
- The Explorers by Scott Ciencin
- Dolphin Watch by John Vornholt
- Oasis by Cathy Hapka
Two full-length adult fantasy novels were also issued with Gurney's authority, written by Alan Dean Foster: Dinotopia Lost (1996) and Hand of Dinotopia (1999).
A 2002 six-hour TV mini-series produced by Hallmark Entertainment
was also based on James Gurney's work, and was advertised as the first "mega-series." The show featured new characters such as Zippo (changed to Zippeau for the TV series to avoid legal issues with the lighter maker Zippo), a troodon
who is said to have worked with Sylvia; and a new plot device, the sunstones, which are described as a source of power and protection originating in the World Beneath. This in turn became the pilot for a short-lived series, wherein the failure both of the sunstones and of Dinotopian officials to adhere to the underlying meanings of their culture
caused several discontented people – a leader-in-training, Zippeau
himself, and two twentieth-century Dolphinbacks, Carl and David
– to embark on a quest
that led ultimately to the World Beneath. The characters in the miniseries refer several times to figures from the various books, including Will Denison, Gideon Altaire, and Lee Crabb, whose son Cyrus features as the antagonist
. The mini-series won an Emmy for its special effects.
The later TV series
A TV series of thirteen episodes was produced as a result of the success of the mini-series, but none of the cast of the mini-series reprised their roles. In the TV series, a group of people known as Outsiders, led by LeSage (Lisa Zane
whose character is an old friend of Rosemary Waldo) live outside the laws of Dinotopia and are one of the dangers of Dinotopia. Other dangers are the featured carnivorous dinosaurs, including Pteranodon
, Tyrannosaurus, and crocodile
Only five of the thirteen episodes were aired on ABC, but all thirteen were broadcast the following year in Europe.
Sci-fi veteran David Winning directed two episodes of the series, and location shooting for three months in Budapest, Hungary. Georgina Rylance played Marion Waldo.
There is also a 2005 traditionally-animated
movie called Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone
. This film deviated from the original books in more than the miniseries by featuring Ogthar, a mythical ruler of the World Beneath (mentioned in the miniseries) as a human warlord
rather than a benevolent, if commanding emperor; by creating an "evil" counterpart to the sunstones; and by having Ogthar command dinosaurs (rather than humans) as his cohorts.
A number of Dinotopia computer games have been produced, including Dinotopia: Living the Adventure (PC), Dinotopia: The Timestone Pirates (Game Boy Advance), Dinotopia: The Sunstone Odyssey (Xbox & GameCube), and Dinotopia Game Land Activity Center (PC).