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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dinosaur Train: What's at the Center of the Earth? is a TV movie associated with the Dinosaur Train preschool series in which the characters ride a special train that tunnels into the ground to explore some of the layers of the earth's crust. Educational content is central to the story with concepts such as fossils, mantle, hypothesis, and minerals identified and defined in ways young viewers can easily understand. Specific topics aside, the characters embody the excitement and joy of adventure and discovery at every turn of their journey, and respect for diversity is evident throughout. The story also emphasizes the validity of experiencing fear about an unknown situation and shows how two of the characters work to overcome their worries with others' help.
What's the story?
In DINOSAUR TRAIN: WHAT'S AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH?, Buddy (voiced by Dayton Wall) and the Pteranodon family take a memorable trip deep into the earth's crust on the Drill Train to learn about what lies between the surface and the inner part of the planet. With the Conductor (Ian James Corlett) at the helm, the Drill Train makes several stops in a quest to find the perfect place for the Cretaceous Cavern Station that's in the works. In each place, Buddy and his siblings -- Shiny (Erika Shaye-Gair), Tiny (Claire Corlett), and Don (Laura Marr) -- explore and discover fascinating qualities about layers, fossils, and minerals, as well as the new friends they encounter along the way. Segments featuring a paleontologist help kids match up what the movie's characters learn about fossils with how they're discovered and preserved in real life.
Is it any good?
These characters' adventures never disappoint viewers with their zest for learning and passion for adventure, and this subterranean excursion is no exception. The title's query is the question on everyone's mind as Buddy and his family set off on a trip like no other, burrowing into the ground to discover what lives deep underground and where and how to find evidence of what existed in the past. As they make one amazing discovery after another, viewers learn about the mysterious world miles beneath their feet and the curious creatures perfectly adapted for life there.
Other less-bookish educational qualities also impress in Dinosaur Train: What's at the Center of the Earth?, especially those related to how the characters treat each other. There's sibling affection and kindness to spare, but the standout issue of this story relates to coping with fear, which Shiny and her father experience at alternating moments during their ever-descending journey deep into the earth. It's a natural fit to address this concern in a story like this one, and kids will benefit from watching both a child and a grown-up work through their anxiety with help from friends and family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how diversity is celebrated in Dinosaur Train: What's at the Center of the Earth?. How are the creatures Buddy and his family meet different from them? Do those differences make them inherently better or worse than the dinosaurs? Is it always easy to be different from our friends and peers? Why, or why not?
Kids: Did you learn something new about the earth and its inhabitants in this movie? How do scientists study the creatures and people who lived long ago? Do you think it's important to know how they lived? Which other subjects spark your curiosity? Why do you think curiosity is an important character strength?
Are you generally excited about trying new things, or is there a component of worry to it? How does having family and friends around help encourage you to try? What are the potential rewards of doing so?
- In theaters: February 20, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: February 27, 2017
- Cast: Ian James Corlett, Dayton Wall, Claire Corlett
- Studio: PBS Home Videos
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Science and Nature, Trains
- Character Strengths: Curiosity
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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