Highlights of this first teaser, aside from some excellent zbrush creations from David Krentz and the stunning visuals and animation, include feathered dromaeosaurs, an iridescent gorgosaur and suitably snowy slopes in latest Cretaceous Alaska. I like the efforts to characterise individual animals without resorting to crazy variations in colour and form, such as the hole in the frill of the hero Pachyrhinosaurus. Presumably, this reflects a pathology that never entirely healed, and it's a cool idea. So cool, in fact, that I'm wondering why it's not more common in palaeoart. We can also see that the colour schemes of the animals are striking without being outlandishly garish, and the characters seem capable of emoting without using overblown actions akin to those of other CG dinosaurs, who seem to have gone to an acting school for 1920s silent movies. Moreover - stop press - plenty of shots even show animals not roaring and with their mouths closed. Gosh.
So, there's plenty to be happy about then, and my feeling from reading the comments of others is that I'm not alone in this view. Perhaps the only common niggle being raised is that the tyrannosaur is scaly rather than feathered, which jars with recent discoveries showing some big tyrannosauroids were covered in protofeathers (Xu et al. 2012). Obviously, it would have been extremely cool to render this in WwD3D, but the feathered tyrant Yutyrannus arrived just a little too late in the day for the design team to work feathers onto the Gorgosaurus. As hinted above, the creature designs for the WwD3D animals were being set in late 2010 and early 2011, well over a year before Yutyrannus was unleashed on the world. And we shouldn't be too upset: there is still controversial evidence that another tyrannosaur, Tyrannosaurus, was scaly, and the WwD3D Gorgosaurus still looks awesome.
But enough about dinosaurs: what about the real stars of the show, the pterosaurs? It may not be surprising that I had a hand in design and consultancy for the movie's azhdarchids, and I'm happy to say that I like what I can see thus far. Flap-gliding and full-on flapping flight are both on display, and just short of the one minute mark, we see a gang of azhdarchids surround and aggressively 'terrestrially stalk' the hero animals. If you're sad enough to have freeze-framed high-definition shots of the azhdarchids (which, er... I didn't, but a friend of mine did) you'll notice thick coats of soft pycnofibres, and that the internal anatomy of azhdarchid jaws have, for the first time, been accurately rendered on film. Indeed, the contours of the head are the best I've ever seen in a CG azhdarchid. Note the concave lateral skull facia, the tapering shape of the tomial margins... wonderful stuff. I'm very much looking forward to seeing them on screen later in the year.
So, this is all shaping up very well then, making the December 20th release date something to look forward too. It almost seems that fans of Mesozoic reptiles on film are being spoilt at present, with WwD3D following 2011's terrific (and underrated) Dinosaur Revolution/Dinotasia and the excellent BBC series Planet Dinosaur. Indeed, the BBC's dinosaur coverage is on something of a roll at present. Presumably as part of the PR campaign for the new film, its revamped Walking with Dinosaurs website has been providing good coverage of recent dinosaur topics in a way that is extremely accessible but not dumbed down (for a good example of this, see their coverage of the Torosaurus/Triceratops debate). Several well-known contributors to the palaeo blogosphere have been contributing new content to the site too, so it's definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.
And that will have to do for now: lots of work to catch up with. In the meantime, I leave you, and particularly if you're a 20th Century Fox or BBC executive, with a pitch for a WwD3D spin-off, starring the animals I'm sure will steal the entire movie. It's Box Office Gold, I tell you.
- Xu, Xing, Kebai Wang, Ke Zhang, Qingyu Ma, Lida Xing, Corwin Sullivan, Dongyu Hu, Shuqing Cheng, and Shuo Wang. 2012. A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China. Nature, 484, 92-95.