Dinotrux, the new original series from DreamWorks Animation Television and Neflix, launches on Friday. The series is based on Chris Gall’s illustrated children’s book series, which features a fictional prehistoric world inhabited by hybrid characters that are part dinosaur and part mechanical construction vehicle. It centers around Ty Rux, a massive Tyrannosaurus Trux, and his best friend Revvit, a razor-sharp Reptool. The Dinotrux and Reptools join forces for the first time ever to build a better world and battle the D-Structs, an evil Tyrannosaurus Trux who threatens to wreck everything they’ve built. Ron Burch & David Kidd are the exec producers and Randy Dormans the supervising producer. I recently spoke with Dormans.
Bill Desowitz: What makes Dinotrux different?
Randy Dormans: A couple of things that make it different for us as far as character design is that our characters have to be clearly identifiable dinosaur and construction vehicle or truck for the big guys. For the Reptools, they’ve gotta be a very identifiable tool and lizard or reptile of some sort. So Ty is a T-Rex mixed with an excavator and Revvit is a rotary tool like a Dremel, mixed with a chameleon.
It’s very easy to look at the Pixar franchises [Toy Story and Cars], which is the first thing I thought of because they are these inanimate objects in a fairly realistic world. Lightning McQueen’s mouth has a lot of squash-and-stretch to him.In reality, our show is not like these two shows at all. It’s much more like Pixar’s original short, Luxo Jr. It’s all in the pose and very much back to basics and our guy [Ty] is like that. He doesn’t deform — he’s constructed as if he’s actually made of metal. The LEGGO Movie is the only other thing that does that. The difference is those characters don’t move convincingly. Our guys, if they are articulated, move in a particular way: their chains move, the gears run, the hinges, the pistons, all that stuff works as if it were actually constructed that way.
BD: Let’s talk about the world of Dinotrux.
RD: Where we’re going with the world gets much better, very quickly, and looks much more realistic. The lagoon stuff, the palm trees, the desert set, D-Structs lair are an indication. We try to make the backgrounds look very realistic to help these characters seem rooted in reality. We’re also very conscious of the fact that we have two different scales. We have the massive Dinotrux, based on construction vehicles, and we have the Reptools.
Early on we tried to emphasize the size of of both the big guys and the small guys and figure out where we wanted to put the camera. So it’s got a cinematic approach, especially for a television show geared at a young audience. The height disparity is something you have to think about and was part of the appeal for me. There was no existing world or movie to reference, and it shows a little bit in the first couple of episodes where we have some really wide shots; we don’t get the camera in as close to some of the characters; we’re up a little too high. I think we learned very quickly on that and establish a style as the episodes progress.
BD: What other defining characteristics are there about the Dinotrux?
RD: The eyes. They are treated like headlights, so the lights are always on. Otherwise, it looks like the characters are dead. So during the day their headlights are on and it’s not always easy to see.
BD: What’s the biggest difference between the series and books?
RD: Unlike the book series, there are no humans in the world. Humans aren’t mentioned at all, and warning signs didn’t work so we looked for other inspiration and found these art sculptures and lended themselves to scrap and that’s how we came up with Scrapadactyls. There’s no identifyable tool but it’s clearly a pterodactyl. We put a pair of needle-nose pliers on it and it clicked for us. We changed the color to make it feel like he came from different pieces.
We don’t talk about where those pieces came from because they came from other dinosaurs, probably. We have some characters that don’t talk and typically they don’t have an articulated pupil — they have a very dark eye, which makes them less of a personality. Not talking depended on what their role was in the world. They end up being a utilitarian piece of the world.