Friday, December 5, 2014

Stegosaurus

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"So what do you make of this, Tim?"

"Well... it looks like a Stegosaurus walked over there- on its hind-legs- and laid down there. Somehow, it formed the perfect shape of a fertility idol. Breasts and all."

"A hoax then?" 

"Definitely a hoax. A stegosaurus woman? That's just ridiculous."

"But who would waste so much time making this...and why?"

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I've spent  the better part of my life obsessed with dinosaurs. So, given my *ahem* track record, it's not that surprising that I would draw a giant buxom stegosaurus woman. But the thing is, that isn't what a stegosaurus looks like. The head is wrong, the feet are too big, it's just off in general. I know what a stegosaurus looks like, so why did I purposely do it wrong? Now that is an interesting train of thought. Well, interesting to me. It could be horribly tedious and overly self-indulgent for you. Yeah, this is gonna' get "artsy" in a hurry so if that's not your thing then hey look up there. Dino-cleavage. How's that for a "covered lizard"? That...that was a binomial nomenclature joke. We're off to a good start.

The shaggy ferns and orange barren turf should be familiar to everyone: that's vintage paleo-art's bread and butter. Everybody has seen Heinrich Harder's paintings or the Invicta toys poster at least once, probably as an impressionable pupa. I love Jurassic Park as much as the next guy (no, lies, more. Much, much more) but I also adore the classic world of tail-draggers and swamp dwellers.There's just something so alien about that landscape, and the beasts that stomp across it. I can't even imagine a world like that existing outside of those gorgeous paintings, because nothing like it does.Sadly, the world at large seems to be embarrassed of our early adventures in paleontology. In the pursuit of "accuracy" we're losing an amazing fantasy art form. Who cares if it's wrong? It's still completely valid as escapist fantasy. And it's not like we really know anything about dinosaurs anyway. OH! CONTROVERSIAL!

Those early depictions of thunder lizards bring us to the lady herself: I adore the old-time Stegosaurus. They're fat, they're slow, and they're just friggin' adorable. Unfortunately, the more we understand about them the farther they slip away from me. They don't really have turtle-y heads, or ponchy gullets. They didn't pick fights with T. Rexes. Now that's not to say I hate modern stegos, not so! I still love the big burly critters. I just wish they were fatter and cuter. Is that so much to ask?  So what convinced tiny me that armor plated cow-lizards were the bees knees? Evidence A-1: Playskool's Definitely Dinosaurs



Yep, these two adorable creatures are from my youth. Made in 1988, this line of vinyl dinos straddled the line between cute and realistic. They were my brother's, and I guarantee they were my first exposure to stegosaurus and probably dinosaurs in general. Is it any wonder that the idea of stocky belly-draggers stuck in my head? They were apparently fast-food premiums from Wendy's, too, which I never would have guessed. I mean look at 'em! Those are nice sized toys, not the tiny low-detail stuff you expect to see. And there were alot of them. Every dino had multiple colors, and there were at least six different species. The entire line covered the old world dinosaur gamut, from tail dragging Tyrannosaurus to Brontosaurus. Wendy's was out to prove they had the biggest "D" on the block in  '88. "D" is for dinosaur.

Most of the dinosaur toys of the 80's looked something like this. Even the G1 Dinobots had archaic alt-modes. It was really Jurassic Park that shoved everyone in the modern direction, but Stegosaurus managed to stick to it's guns for a few years more. Then The Lost World happened in '97, and the cold hand of progress wagged it's finger and said no more big-mouthed fat Stegos. 

So, question number two, why is she brown and orange? Oh, that's an easy one. Fantasia, the Rite of Spring segment. The showdown between the stegosaurus and tyrannosaur is one of the most iconic moments in a film chock full of iconic moments.If you haven't seen this amazing piece of animation history (and a lot of you haven't, I'd wager) it's a series of animated segments set to classical music. Rite of Spring just happened to feature terrifying blood thirsty dinosaurs. Set to orchestra music. I know, but it's great trust me. There's also an entire segment about a giant demon hosting a monster orgy set to Night on Bald Mountain. Rite of Spring scared me more. In fact, I loved Bald Mountain. Huh. I'd love to link the whole segment here, but the swift hammer of Disney legal is unmerciful. Instead, I'll link the Stegosaurus page on the Disney wiki. Don't miss the stats bar on the side. I love his goal: Don't be eaten or die. A flawed hero indeed.

I also happen to own one of the old Lindberg model kit stegos molded in dark brown. I see the thing everyday, so it's probably subliminal suggestion as well. And I really like cream colored bellies on animal characters. No idea why, I just do. It's tied to some Fruedian childhood trauma I'm sure.

But there's still one last piece of the puzzle missing: all of the stegosaurus I've shown so far have cracked scaly skin, so why is she so smooth and round? The simple answer is that I can't think of anthropomorphic dinosaurs without thinking of "We're Back!"


Their wasn't a stegosaurus in the movie, but the big, chubby, round proportions should be pretty familiar. I absolutely love the way these characters look.  They manage to be detailed, yet almost completely smooth and featureless at the same time. And surprise surprise, they look like old-school dinosaurs. You can see the influence of this movie in a lot of my artwork, not just dinosaurs.I've drawn that chubby fold around characters joints without even realizing it before. I don't know if this is something everyone does, but I feel the way a character looks in my hand as I'm drawing them. That's why I draw so many curvy round characters, that's the sensation I enjoy the most. Well, that and I just like big squishy soft things. I get the feeling We're Back! is to blame for that.



Whelp, this has been the least educational article ever written about the stegosaurus. I hope you've enjoyed listening to me babble aimlessly about disjointed dino media. And if you didn't, you've already read the whole thing so what do I care? I'm off to see if the Jurassic World website has updated. Probably not. Just five more months...

        



 

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