Sunday, December 30, 2012

IFX Review: Dinotopia: The World Beneath

The January 2013 of ImagineFX magazine has a review of the

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Jurassic Lark: James Gurney’s palaeontological masterpiece receives a welcome reissue

Just as Steven Spielberg resurrected dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, James Gurney’s classic Dinotopia: The World Beneath has been reanimated by those good folks at Dover Publications. The process didn’t require DNA and dodgy science, though. Instead, the book’s been tarted up and reprinted with a new introduction and afterword.

If you’ve not come across Dinotopia before (which surely makes you a cultural dinosaur), it’s a seminal work, combining Renaissance man Gurney’s abilities as a storyteller and an artist. The World Beneath is, in fact, the 1995 sequel to A Land Apart from Time, which was published three years earlier and received a similarly lush reprint last year. Both concern the titular continent, in which humans and dinosaurs coexist.

In The World Beneath, Gurney tells the story of Professor Denison, A Land Apart from Time’s original protagonist. Denison decides to investigate the mysterious caves beneath Dinotopia, which promises ancient technology and machines. He’s accompanied by his son Will and a fiery human Dinotopian named Oriana Nascava, as well as Bix, a friendly Protoceratops.

What’s so utterly inspiring about Gurney’s books is how detailed and well-researched the world is, and he even goes so far as to include maps and diagrams of places and items. Palaeontologist M.K. Brett-Surman a consultant to Gurney — contributes a foreword, stating that Dinotopia’s artwork is not “for a ‘kiddie’ book on dinosaurs, but a series of masterworks suitable for any museum!”

ImagineFX hero James, it seems, can turn his hand to just about anything in the world of Dinotopia. His characters are distinctive, and Dinotopia’s cities and environments were rich and steampunky before the term was coined. But the dinosaurs take centre stage, at once proud and primal, and — apparently — anatomically correct.

Gurney’s new afterword is worth the cover price alone, even if you own the original publication, for its insights. As well as sketches and colour scripts, he created maquettes of the dinosaurs, characters, and buildings to deliver the correct proportions and postures. 

The World Beneath was followed by three more volumes, all of which deserve a similarly rich edition. It also inspired a well-received TV series and made-for-TV film, but the books are still the best starting place. And while kiddies will enjoy them, they’re stunning and inspiring for any artist.


Unknown said...

James---wonderful, well-deserved review for a fantastic book. Thanks for your hard work!

Belinda said...

Wonderful!!! Love love LOVE your books!!! I bought the original ones for my daughter as they came out, and now she would like the signed reissues as well. So, I just wanted to the new material the same in both the regular and deluxe copies?

Anonymous said...

Nice review, although I don't think I've ever before seen the phrase "tarted up" with an intended positive connotation. Perhaps the writer is associating it with culinary meaning of "tart." --Bob Cosgrove

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Diane.

Belinda, every word and every picture is exactly as it was in the original edition. The art is digitally rescanned from the original transparencies, making the repros better than the original. There is also 32 pages of additional new material--a foreword by paleontologist Mike Brett Surman, and a "making of" section at the end that I added, with a gallery of preliminary studies and maquettes.

Unknown said...

Hello James,
You may not remember me, but you came up to San Jose, CA to interview with me for a possible job opportunity with Sente Technologies; it was a start-up arcade game company; Nolan Bushnell's re-entry into the video game arena. This was way back in the early/mid 80's, shortly after your "journey" that contributed so much to your first book that you collaborated on with Thomas Kincade. I still have the leave-behind cards you gave me.
It's great to continue to watch your career through F/B and your blog, now.
Best regards,
Ted Renteria

James Gurney said...

Hi, Ted,
Wow, that's going way back. I almost forgot about that visit, but I'm glad you reminded me. --JG

Justine said...

Any plans to reprint the children's books? I can find them used for my 8yo but the binding on almost 20yo children's paperbacks can be dodgy. He is a big Dinotopia and Jurassic Park fan. Justine Whaley Hennessy (Cubberley class of '75).

James Gurney said...

Justine, no plans at present. I'm keeping the focus on the main books that I wrote and illustrated, which are for all ages. Yay, Cubberley!