As soon as Netflix announced an animated Jurassic Park series last year, I knew despite my complicated feelings about the franchise that I would be all over it, for better or for worse. Now that Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous has finally been released, I found it to be an adventurous romp through Jurassic World that, cliched though it may sound, truly is fun for the whole family!
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous follows six teenagers who have been selected for a trial run of Jurassic World’s new summer camp program, the eponymous Camp Cretaceous. Located away from the park, they spend the night in a rather swanky treehouse and experience behind the scenes activities unavailable to other guests. As it turns out, however, this show takes place during the events of 2015’s Jurassic World, and it isn’t long before the campers find themselves thrust into the fallout of the Indominus rex’s escape.
Most of the people I follow online have had largely positive things to say about the show, though some have complained of a slow start or annoying characters. I feel like most of these negative comments sprang from older JP fans expecting something more tonally similar to the main movie series. Now, I am certainly not one to think that children’s media should be graded on a steep curve, and I have seen my fair share of draggy, annoying kids shows. After sat through some of the grating cartoons my kids watched however, I can tell you this ain’t one of them. That’s not to say there isn’t necessarily anything I would have changed about it either, but on the whole I feel pretty satisfied with what the Netflix/Dreamworks partnership delivered. Overall, I found the story pretty engaging, even enjoying the earlier episodes; and while several of the characters may start out as broad stereotypes, they generally become well-rounded individuals by the end (save perhaps resident scaredy-cat and germaphobe, Ben).
Since I am actively reminding everyone that this is in fact a kids show, I should mention my two boys (3 & 6 at the time of writing) loved it as well. We binged through it in a morning and an afternoon, and they are already asking to watch it again! As I am sure the marketing department will be thrilled to hear, my kids are particularly taken with Bumpy, the baby ankylosaur. It’s pretty much the new Baby Yoda. (I even caved and bought a Lego set
formeforthem a day later specifically for the Bumpy minifig.) For parents worried about particularly carnivorous scenes, I can assure them the violence is appropriately muted compared to the movies, as it should be for a kids show, though I was surprised at how much they still implied at times. Despite the toned-down violence, the show still manages to make the peril feel as genuine as in the movies. My 3 year old seemed mildly scared during some segments, though he has a habit of occasionally playing up whatever emotion one is “supposed” to feel during a given movie scene, so I’m not sure how much of it was an affect!
As another entry into the Jurassic Park franchise, the scientific accuracy is of course a mixed bag at best, though given that the plot is essentially “Jurassic World, but from different camera angles”, I suppose I can’t fault this show specifically for being saddled with the poor creature designs of the movie it is based on. (Mild rant: It’s particularly hard to let go of the inaccuracies of the Jurassic Park franchise specifically because at the time of the original’s release, it catapulted the general culture’s understanding of dinosaurs forward by a good two decades overnight, only for subsequent films to jog in place for about the same amount of time. Jurassic World even managed to go backwards by depicting many of its herbivores as 1960’s style tail-draggers.) I will say though, that the Carnotaurus was excellent. While I have to give credit for the art design to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom getting at least one species spot on, Camp Cretaceous manages to throw in a little real-world science and depict its high speed but poor turning radius. I’m like 75% sure this trickled down to the shows writers directly from this Mark Witton post, which is a fun nod if true. (If you want a bigger dose of real paleontology, however, I highly recommend Emily Graslie’s Prehistoric Road Trip.)
Dino-nerd Darius, who fills the role of the show’s main point of view character, even references classic JP characters Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler; Sattler for her in-universe research on micropaleontology and Dr. Grant for a paper on tyrannosaur face-biting, a reference to a real-world study by Drs. Dave Hone and Darren Tanke (presumably they are Grant’s co-authors in the JP universe?). I definitely would’ve been the Darius in that group. I’m sure he and I would have hit it off.
Speaking of Grant and Sattler, I liked the way this series felt like it subtly pulled the rest of the Jurassic Park franchise together in a way I’m surprised we haven’t seen before, a sentiment echoed by premier JP YouTuber Klayton Fioriti in his video review. Not only do we see events from Jurassic World such as Masrani’s helicopter crashing into the pterosaur aviary, but little callouts to the rest of the series such as the raptor resonating chamber from JPIII pepper the show as well. (While more of a thematic reference than an instance of world-building, the Nedry reference is pretty great too. SPOILERS) That sort of stuff is great fun for dorks like me.
While I have already received some friendly teasing from some of my paleo friends for my positive impression of this show, I can’t deny that I genuinely enjoyed Camp Cretaceous. I definitely recommend giving it a shot, especially if you’re a parent of dinosaur-obsessed children too young for a proper Jurassic Park movie. (In that vein, I also recommend checking out my review of the Little Golden Books adaptation of the original Jurassic Park film.) While I know I will probably lose some paleo cred for this, I think I’m gonna go so far as to give Camp Cretaceous the Dino Dad Stomp of Approval! Let’s bring on season 2!