Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Dinosaur Train

Dinosaur Train

Spring 2017 Television
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
Rating: TV Y

Dinosaur Train, a half-hour animated series produced by The Jim Henson Company and airing on PBS, strikes just the right balance of education and entertainment for its target audience of children aged 3 - 6.

This delightful series blends dinosaur facts with social and emotional learning as a crew of young dinosaur characters encounters new creatures and fun adventures as passengers aboard the Dinosaur Train.

Spunky little T-Rex Buddy and his siblings and friends tour the prehistoric world aboard this magical train, which has the ability to travel to different time periods to explore a range of land- and water-dwelling creatures that lived in different eras. Buddy was adopted by a Pteradodon family (as explained in the lengthy opening theme song) so he is extra-curious to learn more about different dinosaur species, coming from a "mixed-species" family, himself. The train's wise Conductor provides facts and sparks curiosity throughout the journey, and occasionally everyone breaks into bouncy songs. Stories are separated by live-action shorts featuring likable Dr. Scott, a paleontologist who provides even more dinosaur facts. (For instance, all dinosaurs walked on their tip-toes. Who knew?!)

In an episode with two separate storylines, "Spooky Tree" / "Spinosaurus Super Model," the dinos attend a sleepover but a spooky story frightens some of the attendees. In the second story, one of the dino kids hopes to convince a neighborhood grump to pose for a sculpture but that spinosaurus proves to be one temperamental model. In the live-action sequences with Dr. Scott, he explains the growth patterns of dinosaurs; and later, he presents theories about how the ancestors of unique species may have traveled across waterways on natural rafts.

Some Dinosaur Train episodes feature two-part storylines, as is the case in "Junior Conductors Academy." Here, the youngsters attend a special academy to learn more about the conductor's special skills, a plot that parallels a human child's experiences and anxieties about starting school. Dino-fact superstar Buddy expects to be the best student at the school but he encounters another student with even more knowledge. That leaves Buddy feeling insecure, until he realizes that everyone has different strengths and challenges, and collaborating with diverse groups usually produces better results than competing against them.

In "Crystal & King Benefit Concert," another 2-part episode, spotlights conservation themes. When the dinosaurs realize a waterway is being overfished, they organize a benefit concert to raise awareness. As they work together to plan the big event, reassuring themes of teamwork and problem-solving are woven into the plot.

The entertainment never wavers but facts remain front-and-center. And each episode concludes with a recurring message and rallying cry from paleontologist Dr. Scott: "Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!"

Gina Catanzarite   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

Look for this product at:
The Jim Henson Company

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