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The Dinosaur and the Missing Link

It's easy to take computer-generated dinosaurs for granted. They are everywhere from commercials and documentaries to Hollywood films. But a century ago, filmmakers had to bring dinosaurs to life the old fashioned way. Frame by frame and centimeter by centi...

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It's easy to take computer-generated dinosaurs for granted. They are everywhere from commercials and documentaries to Hollywood films. But a century ago, filmmakers had to bring dinosaurs to life the old fashioned way. Frame by frame and centimeter by centimeter, poseable models provided the best way to bring dinosaurs to life.

In 1917, special effects artist Willis O'Brien released a short silent film called The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy. It's a strange bit of cinema. Cavemen, the ape-like "missing link" and an ornery sauropod dinosaur act as the players in this early precursor to films like 1981's Caveman. Crude though they were, these stop-motion creatures created by O'Brien would help launch his film career. Better known as the special effects wizard behind The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), O'Brien was among the first filmmakers to resurrect dinosaurs on film, leaving an impressive legacy still carried on by special effects experts today.

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About Brian Switek
Brian Switek

Brian Switek is a freelance science writer specializing in evolution, paleontology, and natural history. He writes regularly for National Geographic's Phenomena blog as Laelaps.

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