L-r: Johnbutler, Cara, Lok, Gorok, from the Charlton comic book. Artist: Fred Himes.


Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1974
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One of the recurring themes in fantasy fiction is people interacting with dinosaurs. Cartoons, especially, are rife with it, from as far back as Prehistoric Peeps and Our Antediluvian Ancestors. Turok, Son of Stone was a well-known and long-lasting one, but for real excitement, you have to get …

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modern people involved. Placing a few dinos in an updated setting is only half the battle, so Dinosaurs for Hire doesn't quite do it. The modern heroes have to meet the big guys on their own turf.

That sort of series usually starts with a variation on how Dorothy got to Oz (barely a relation) — i.e., by a means unlikely to be duplicated, in which the hero isn't in full control of the conveyance and can't always see where he's going. A tornado for Dorothy; a trip through a whirlpool on the Amazon for high school science teacher John Butler and his family in Hanna-Barbera's Valley of the Dinosaurs.

John, his wife Kim, their older daughter Katie, their younger son Greg and even their dog Digger, were rafting down the Amazon, apparently enjoying a family outing, when they struck a rock, got dumped out, were caught in a whirlpool, and wound up swept through an underground cavern. By the time they lifted themselves up (uninjured) they'd been washed ashore in a hidden (and uncharted) valley where dinosaurs had managed to survive as well as they had on Dinosaur Island.

There are fans who suspect the valley might have been the same one Dino Boy had gotten stuck in years earlier. Then again, there are those who don't care.

It doesn't seem likely that a high school teacher would be equipped to head a family trying to survive in the wild, so it's fortunate that they fell in with a family of locals — Gorak, a cave man; his wife Gara; their kids Lok and Tana; and even a surrogate dog, a baby Stegosaurus named Glump.

One would think folks born into such a situation would resemble South American Indians, but no, these were stereotyped cavemen, the "natural" cohabitants with dinosaurs. The only anomaly was Gorak's pencil-thin moustache, which looked as carefully cultivated as The Angel's or The Wizard's, despite the fact that tonsorial tools were scarce in their environment.

The native family helped the interlopers devise a way out of the valley, as well as helping them survive at all, on CBS's Saturday morning schedule, starting September 7, 1974. Only one season of 16 episodes was made. They'd all aired by the time the Charlton comic book version came out with a cover date of April, 1975. There were 11 issues, the last of which was dated December, 1976.

John was voiced by Jackie Earle Haley, the face actor who played the live-action Rorschach, and Gorak by Allen Oppenheimer (Mighty Mouse). Kim was Shannon Farnon (Wonder Woman in early '80s Super Friends) and Gara Joan Gardner (several voices in Kid Power). The pets were both voiced by Frank Welker (Scooby-Doo).

After the show ran its course, it went into reruns. Years later, it was still enough in the public eye to get re-licensed for comic books. Harvey Comics put out a single issue in 1992.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Cartoon Network.