See the Cast Of ‘Dinosaurs’ Then and Now
The family sitcom formula went old school — like prehistoric old school — in 1991 by focusing on a family of dinosaurs in the aptly named comedy series ‘Dinosaurs.’ The show, produced by Jim Henson Productions, brought puppetry to a massive scale, putting puppeteers in complex animatronic suits to properly portray the larger-than-life members of the Sinclair family.
Each week, father Earl, mother Fran and the kids (Robbie, Charlene and Baby Sinclair) would explore a new topic or taboo, then learn an important lesson about life. As all four seasons of this Emmy-winning series are now streaming on Netflix Instant, we’ve been revisiting the Sinclairs and company, and couldn’t help but wonder where the people behind these dynamic dinos are now.
Earl Sinclair, Stuart Pankin
Then: Prior to voicing the oft-perplexed patriarch of ‘Dinosaurs,’ Pankin was famous for headlining the HBO comedy series ‘Not Necessarily the News,’ which won 10 CableAce Awards over the course of seven seasons.
Now: In his late sixties, Pankin is still performing. Recently he scored roles in the Academy Award-winning romance ‘The Artist’ and on the made-for-TV movie ‘A Christmas Wedding Date.’
Fran Sinclair, Jessica Walter
Then: Walter was an established television actress with nearly 30 years experience when she signed on to voice the ever-patient and caring mother of this dino family. She’d appeared on such popular shows as ‘The New Adventures of Wonder Woman,’ ‘Knots Landing’ and ‘The Love Boat.’
Now: For years, Fran Sinclair was arguably her best-known TV role. Then came a strange little sitcom called ‘Arrested Development.’ There Walter played the polar opposite of the always loving Fran with the endlessly suspicious and often hilariously cruel matriarch, Lucille Bluth. Though the series was cancelled in 2006, it found a wider audience afterwards. Miraculously it will return on Netflix later this year. In the meantime, you can enjoy Walter’s sharp tone on the equally outlandish and hysterical spy spoof cartoon ‘Archer.’
Robbie Sinclair, Leif Tilden
Then: The eldest son of the Sinclair family was voiced by the elusive Jason Willinger; Leif Tilden filled out Robbie’s dino-suit, physically performing the role. He’d got his start in this brand of puppeteering by playing Donatello in the live-action ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movies.
Now: Tilden retired from the physically demanding career of full-body puppeteer back in 2001, after completing shooting on the deeply weird comedy ‘Monkeybone,’ wherein he played the Cyclops. Since then, he’s moved into work as a location manager. Most recently, he worked on ‘Law & Order: LA.’
Charlene Sinclair, Sally Struthers
Then: Prior to voicing the fashionable and boy-crazy teen dino daughter, Struthers made her mark on television as Gloria Bunker-Stivic on the classic TV comedy ‘All in the Family,’ which led to the short-lived spin-off series ‘Gloria.’ However, her career as a voice actor began even earlier, dating back to 1971 when she played the teenaged Pebbles Flintstone on the ‘Flintstones’ spin-off ‘The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show.’
Now: From 2000-2007, Struthers experienced a comeback playing Babette Dell on the popular dramedy series ‘Gilmore Girls.’ Lately she’s devoted her time to regional theater, headlining productions of ‘Annie,’ ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘9 to 5.’ Her last small screen role was in 2011, when she voiced a character on the Fox cartoon ‘American Dad!’
Baby Sinclair, Kevin Clash
Then: Having worked with Henson’s muppeteers for years by this point, Clash pulled triple-duty on the little pink fireball Baby Sinclair. Not only did he lend his voice to the baby’s catchphrase-laden lines (“Gotta’ love me!” and “Not the mama!”), but also this master puppeteer operated Baby’s body and mouth.
Now: Clash went on to become best known for voicing the playful little monster Elmo, giving the long-running ‘Sesame Street’ a new jolt of life. Sadly, a public scandal demanded that Clash step down from his involvement in the show in the fall of 2012.
B.P. Richfield, Sherman Hemsley
Then: Long before he lent his voice to the carnivorous and cruel executive of the Wesayso Corporation, Hemsley made his television debut on ‘All in the Family,’ playing the gruff but lovable George Jefferson. From 1975-1985, Hemsley headlined the popular spin-off series ‘The Jeffersons’ and he rounded out the ’80s as Deacon Frye on NBC’s ‘Amen’ (1986-1991).
Now: After ‘Dinosaurs’ wrapped in 1994, Hemsley resurfaced on beloved family comedies like ‘Family Matters,’ ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Sister, Sister.’ He made his final television appearance in 2011 on the Tyler Perry sitcom ‘House of Payne.’ Hemsley died in the summer of 2012, leaving behind a rich legacy of laughter.
Grandma Ethyl Phillips, Florence Stanley
Then: By 1991, Stanley was a 40-year veteran of television, but she was most often recognized for playing the tough love-favoring Judge Margaret W. Wilbur on the 1980s sitcom ‘My Two Dads.’ On ‘Dinosaurs,’ her gravely voice lent gravity to Earl’s always badgering mother-in-law.
Now: Stanley’s next big voice acting role came in 2001, when she played the chain-smoking radio operator Wilhelmina Bertha Packard in Disney’s animated sci-fi adventure ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire.’ It was a role she reprised in the straight-to-video sequel, ‘Atlantis: Milo’s Return,’ before her death in 2003.
Roy Hess, Sam McMurray
Then: A standout character actor, McMurray made memorable appearances in such celebrated comedies as ‘Raising Arizona’ and ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ before he voiced Earl’s bumbling best friend on ‘Dinosaurs.’
Now: In demand for decades, McMurray has appeared in a wide array of television shows, including the blue-collar sitcom ‘The King of Queens,’ the iconoclastic cartoon ‘The Boondocks’ and the drama series ‘Scandal,’ which is currently in its second season.
Monica Devertebrae, Suzie Plakson
Then: Plakson had landed a string of one-off roles on television series like ‘Family Ties,’ ‘Murphy Brown’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ before she played Fran’s liberated and divorced gal pal, the brontosaurus next door.
Now: You might recognize Plakson for her recurring role on ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ where she’s played Marshall’s well-meaning mother Judy Eriksen since 2005.
Spike, Christopher Meloni
Then: Our jaws dropped over this one. Before Meloni voiced Robbie’s prickly best friend, he co-starred with Joe Pantoliano in the short-lived sitcom ‘The Fanelli Boys.’
Now: You’d have to have been living a solitary life under a rock out in the farthest reaches of space not to know that the man who played bad boy Spike found a successful niche in cop dramas, with roles on ‘NYPD Blue,’ ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ and of course as Detective Elliot Stabler on ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ from 1999-2011. Since leaving that last series, he has scored parts on the sultry HBO drama ‘True Blood,’ and in Zack Snyder’s hotly anticipated Superman movie, ‘Man of Steel.’