Dinosaurs at the Oscars

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Academy Awards for all things Dinosauria

As the 84th Annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are approaching, now is an opportune time to briefly discuss the role of dinosaurs in films that have received nominations or indeed won the Oscar accolade.

“Gertie” de dinosaurus

Dinosaurs have appeared in feature films almost since the beginning of the movie genre. The first movie to feature a dinosaur was the 1914 animated feature “Gertie the  a dinosaur cartoon of Sauropods based on the skeleton of a prehistoric animal then known as Brontosaurus from the American Museum of Natural History (New York).

Dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts have since proved popular with movie audiences. A slew of monster movies have been made, including The Lost World (1925), based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel up to 10,000 B.C., from the Warner Bros. studios and released in 2008. The quality of these movies and the number of cases leave a lot to be desired.

Fur bikini won’t win Oscar

Indeed, from a paleontological perspective, most movies are largely inaccurate in their depictions of the Dinosauria and other extinct creatures. Science should never get in the way of a good movie plot, and movies like “One Million Years BC,” released in 1966 by the British film company Hammer, proved highly successful at the box office. Sadly, described by some critics as “a bad movie saved by a great movie poster,” it was overlooked at the 1967 Academy Awards. That year, films like “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Graduate” were acclaimed. Even the fur bikini worn by the film’s female star, Raquel Welch, was not nominated for an Oscar for best costume. That Oscar went to the musical “Camelot,” so even the iconic,

A Tribute to Ray Harryhausen

A word for the amazing and talented Ray Harryhausen and his masterful creation of what he called “Dynamation,”  cutting-edge stop motion movies that brought many prehistoric animals to our screens. He worked on the dinosaur and other prehistoric animal effects for “One Million Years BC” and on other titles such as “Valley of the Gwangi” (1969), a western/dinosaur fantasy shot in the Cuenca region of Spain, a location that is now famous for its real dinosaur fossils. Harryhausen never received an Oscar for his special effects featured in a particular film, but his contribution to the genre was recognised when he received a special award in 1992.

King Kong

One of the major influences on Ray Harryhausen’s career, and indeed on the careers of a number of other famous filmmakers, was the 1933 movie King Kong. the main attraction, the giant monkey named Kong. The film is considered by many to be one of the most influential films of all time, with Fay Wray playing the heroine of the film “The Beauty Who Killed the Beast,” dubbed the “queen of the scream” for all her screams that can be heard in most action scenes. This movie didn’t win an Oscar, and the directors Merian C. Cooper et al could have been feeling a little harsh by,

King Kong, the original 1933 film, showcased some revolutionary techniques and innovations for filmmaking, such as the amazing stop-motion animation sequences (the work of chief engineer Willis O’Brien, who also worked on the film “The Lost World”).  Despite not receiving a single Academy Award nomination, the original King Kong movie is often voted in the top 100 most important and influential films of all time among film critics and movie fans alike.

King Kong (1976): Wins an Oscar

The remake of King Kong (1976) fared better. The 1976 version won a Special Achievement Award at the Oscars for its visual effects. The most recent remake of this film, directed by Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson (King Kong 2005), fared even better. It won three Oscars: for sound editing, sound mixing, and, unsurprisingly, visual effects.

“Jurassic Park” wins awards

Perhaps the Dinosaurs’ greatest success at the Oscars was at the Sixty-sixth Academy Awards, honouring films released in 1993. Groundbreaking CGI — Best Visual Effects The big winner of the evening may have been the movie “Schindler’s List,” but with three awards, dinosaur movies were finally recognised for their contribution to the industry. The scene where dinosaurs are first encountered by the scientists sent to investigate the proposed theme park, a shot of a huge Brachiosaurus (a Sauropod dinosaur just like “Gertie” in 1914),

“The Lost World,”  released in 1997, the sequel to “Jurassic Park,” was nominated in the special effects category but lost that night to the big winner, the movie Titanic. The third film in the trilogy (a trilogy to date, as a fourth Jurassic Park movie is rumoured to be made), titled, unsurprisingly, “Jurassic Park III,” released in 2001, received no nomination whatsoever for the seventieth film. The fifth Academy Awards ceremony was held the following year.

The continued popularity of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures will no doubt motivate future filmmakers to include these spectacular animals in their film projects. Dinosaurs are usually visually stunning; their large size and ferocity make them a favourite among moviegoers, young and old. While the quality of some offerings can be questioned, the legacy of dinosaurs in movies will live on, and we can look forward to more Oscars for the Dinosauria and their on-screen creators in the future.

Who knows, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might introduce a special “YouTube” category, given that our own modest offering has a chance of succeeding.