By Ed Sum (The Vintage Toy Tempest)
Anyone who loves dinosaurs, monster trucks and demolition derbies should find DreamWorks’ DinoTrux on Netflix amusing. It’s made for children who do not stick firecrackers under their Hot Wheels. Well, if they did, the product would be a touch more violent. Instead, this series focuses on team building exercises and how to get along. The producers are certainly on the right track to focus in on looking at how diverse talents can gather their resources together to get a job done. In the world of construction, that’s especially important.
In a strange way, if this world actually existed, these sentient mechanical creatures most likely helped build neolithic wonders like Stonehenge. In the Mechazoic period that they live in, these robots live a simple life. Transformers fans might wonder if these creatures might predate the coming age of Cybertron. The idea is very probable, but for creator Chris Gall who authored the children’s books of the same name, that’s most likely not what he had in mind.
The concept was in development for seven years by DreamWorks Animation. They had the idea of adapting Gall’s series of books to film but somewhere along the pipeline, just where it is destined led them to decide it’s better off as a TV product.
As the title suggests, these mechanized dinosaurs have a sole purpose in life, and that’s to construct. They sustain themselves on an ore to keep themselves functional. Ty-Rux (Andrew Francis) is an excavator cum Tyrannosaurus Rex beast who is forced to forge a new life after his home gets devastated by a volcano. He finds a new valley to occupy, but D-Structs (Paul Dobson) is the bully of the species here. He doesn’t believe in sharing and he dominates the landscape. This character has some brooding traits similar to Megatron from Beast Wars, so some may wonder if Vancouver, BC based Bardel Entertainment is paying homage or inserting some references for older viewers to recognize.
But for the main protagonist, Ty faces an uphill challenge to eke out a new life after getting displaced. He gains allies — Skya (Ashleigh Bell) a brachiosaur and crane hybrid, Ton-Ton (Matt Hill) a Ankylosaurus and dump truck combo and Dozer (Brian Drummond) a Triceratops and bulldozer half-breed — that helps him confront Danger. Because of the way they act, they sometimes behave like a prehistoric version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Along for the ride are reptools who fix the Dinosaur robots. Revvit (Richard Ian Cox) is a scrappy diminutive lizard with a horn of a flathead screwdriver. His design is like that of a Dremel tool and he has his own team who helps the larger DinoTruxs stay healthy. Both he and Waldo (Doron Bell), Ace (Cree Summer) and Click-Clack (Fred Ewanuick) provide the best moments of humour. They quite literally steal the show.
The Scraptors are just as menacing as their historic cousins and the series improves as new characters like Garby (Trevor Devall), the rock eating garbage truck are introduced in the episode, “Garby.” He’s like the Norm Peterson of Cheers with his atrocious habit of wanting to guzzle down every single rock he sees. Two other standout episodes in this 10-episode series are “Tortools” and “The Fake Ravine.”
The mecha designs are rather cool for each of these personalities. The details in the CGI render has to be noted especially when this product stands out more than the other works made by DreamWorks for this streaming service. To see how well that will transfer to the toys will have a few collectors wanting to take a look.
In a launch party for the show in the UK, Bryce Dallas Howard was on hand to help promote this show and play with the ‘bots. She may have a role in a future episode, but only time will tell if that’s the case. To know what’s coming is exciting as even some adults may gravitate towards picking up the said Scraptors to build a herd of their own. They are by far the most menacing creature of the series and they make the pterodactyl version look tame. This emphasis on having a complete toy line is a radical departure from what DreamWorks has done with other properties, namely Penguins of Madagascar and TURBO. New How to Train Your Dragon merchandise is suspiciously missing in this year’s roster of Spin Master Toys ever since this series changed networks. If DreamWorks wants to get out of their financial slump, they really should consider aggressively selling licensing opportunities to merchandisers more. Whenever the opportunity can exist to sell the animation, this studio really needs to drive the licensing of their exclusive material Home.