This entry is cross-posted from my Tumblr, and is being reposted here in the final week of this campaign. They are about 5% away from their goal and only have a week left. Too close to give up now!
Some of you may recall my oft-repeated adage of bygone years that the best way to assimilate the idea of accurate dinosaurs into public perception is to start from the ground up: with the kiddos. Mainstream movies are still a ways off (thanks JW), but books—particularly brightly-colored, fun, and attractive picture books—have captured the imaginations of our youngest denizens since the advent of the printing press, and continue to do so even in this age of digital opulence.
David Orr (anatotitan on here) is a talented illustrator, graphic designer and paleo aficionado, as well as the frontman of the lovely blog Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs. He has now teamed up with his equally-talented wife Jennie to create a project intended to do exactly this: repackage the outdated perception of prehistoric animals into something modern, sciencey, and exquisitely fun. “But Emily!” you say. “These animals aren’t accurate—they’re wearing tophats, bowties, and parachutes! What are you smoking?!”
And that’s precisely the point. Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals can be effectively cartoonized without compromising the form, the bauplan, the je ne sais quoi that 21st century science has brought to bear. Orr’s Velociraptor may be dancing, but you can be sure it’s feathered in all the right ways. His Iguanodon may be inky, but its hands are thumb-spiked and weight-bearing on the three center fingers, with that weirdly free-floating “pinky”—features that many serious renditions of this animal get completely wrong. And his Cotylorhynchus might be wearing a scarf, but hell—how many kids do you think have even heard of Cotylorhynchus?!
And this is the simple brilliance of Orr’s brainchild. It is cartoonizing these animals in the way that we’ve been cartoonizing cats, dogs, and other familiar animals for decades, and without, say, leaving off their fur, breaking their wrists, or otherwise compromising the most salient aspects of their anatomy. This is what we need to do with dinosaurs to get children to understand that these are animals too.
And this is why you should contribute to Mammoth is Mopey, this wonderful children’s book about prehistoric animals in whimsical situations. Because you, like I, care about de-monstering these creatures for generations to come. And the children of today will be the film execs of tomorrow.