Pixar Rewrites Dinosaur History

What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet and giant dinosaurs never went extinct?

Artist Donald E. Davis' depiction of the asteroid impact
Artist Donald E. Davis' depiction of the asteroid impact which played a critical role in the end-Cretaceous extinction. Image from Wikimedia Commons

What if the non-avian dinosaurs didn’t go extinct 65 million years ago? Dinosaur fans love to ask the question—what if one of the most devastating extinctions of all time was cancelled?—and the speculative answers have ranged from fanciful to silly examples of our own arrogance. According to news released this week, the movie studio Pixar is getting ready to present its own version of what our world might look life had Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops and their kind been given a stay of execution.

In addition to future releases such as Monsters University and Wreck-It Ralph, WIRED reports that Pixar has announced it’s working on a movie given the thrilling temporary name “The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs.” (This announcement makes sense of rumors that have been floating around since last year that Pixar has been working on a dinosaur project.) The general idea is, “What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never went extinct?” CNN reports that “This hilarious, heartfelt and original tale is directed by Bob Peterson (co-director/writer, Up; writer, Finding Nemo) and produced by John Walker (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant).” Pixar’s dinosaur film is set to debut in late 2013.

When I heard the news, the first question on my mind was, “What sort of dinosaurs are we going to see?” Are we going to get classic Mesozoic dinosaurs, or are we going to get novel dinosaur species that are the descendants of the Cretaceous survivors? The movie could provide Pixar with a good opportunity to take a subtle but powerful stand for evolution—of course we shouldn’t see Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Spinosaurus and other favorites because evolution would have kept on changing life during the past 65 million years! Actually, I would be a bit disappointed if Pixar didn’t try to introduce new dinosaurs. I know I’ve been critical of speculative dinosaurs before, but in this case, the premise demands species that have never been seen before. Life changes, and dinosaurs would have certainly continued to evolve.

(All this is ignoring the fact that dinosaurs are still around. We really do know what dinosaurs would look like if they survived, because birds—the modern descendants of dinosaurs—are everywhere. Since birds aren’t quite as thrilling as big honkin’ theropods and sauropods, though, it’s understandable that Pixar is focusing on the non-avian dinosaurs.)

Despite the poorly-executed cash grab that was this summer’s Cars 2, I still have faith in Pixar. Not only have they created some of the best animated films ever, they have been behind some of the best films to be released in the past few years, period. I can’t wait to hear more about their alternative history where dinosaurs still rule the earth.

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