Skeleton of Harlan's ground sloth, which stood over 6 feet tall and weighed over 3,500 pounds.


The award-winning writer Harlan Ellison (no relation to the sloth), in a publicity still posing with a cast of a saber tooth skull from the La Brea tarpits.

I happen to have another copy of that same cast; I think that's the only thing the lowly me and the great Harlan Ellison have in common.


Hollywood has a great love for dinosaurs, but has really neglected prehistoric mammals. What I'd like to see is a movie like Jurassic Park, but with extinct mammals instead of dinosaurs. While the saber-tooth tiger shows up in films occasionally (like Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger), that's about it.  But... There is such a constellation of other weird and wonderful beasts to choose from! The magnificent woolly rhinoceroses! Elephants with shovel-tusks!  The bumpy-faced Uintatherium! For comic relief, you could have primitive horses the size of terriers.

Woolly rhinoceros (L) and the Uintatherium (R): Wouldn't they make interesting movie monsters? Both illos from The World of Prehistoric Life, ed. L. Plowden et al., 1971, Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc., p. 40 and 56. For a "portrait" of a woolly rhinoceros by noted artist Joe Tucciarone, click here. For more on the wooly rhinoceros, click here.

Long, long ago Hollywood even started filming a movie with one of those weird, forgotten beasts as a principal villain. It was going to be made by legendary special effects wizard Willis O'Brien. (OB was a stop-motion animator who brought King Kong to life in 1933. He also animated Might Joe Young in the 1949 original, as well as dinosaurs in 1925's The Lost World. He taught the tricks of the trade to Ray Harryhausen, who worked on various Sinbad and monster movies.)

After The Lost World and before King Kong OB shot some test effects film for an adventure movie called Creation, which was never finished. In the production still bellow, models of Chilean sailors are attacked by a model of an Arsinoitherium, a giant mammal like a rhino with a double horn. 

[Aside: Some Creation footage is available from LSVideo along with assorted shorts on Willis O'Brien Films (1915-31).  But the Creation sequence on this tape is about the hunter Hallett, played by Ralf Harolde, who shoots a cute baby triceratops and is then pursued by its mama, and features no extinct mammals.  Mammal footage for Creation may never have been shot and isn't known to exist today if it had been.  Oh well.  For more on Creation, check out The Making of King Kong, by Orville Goldner and George E. Turner, 1975, Ballantine Books, New York.] 

In any case: Can you imagine how cool it would have been if OB had been green-lighted to finish Creation? It's not too late for someone in Hollywood to make a Jurassic Park with cool extinct mammals...


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From LinLin 3/2/2000
Subject: prehistoric film

Dear Frank, I was just looking at your La Brea page and noticed your lament for the lack of movies w/ prehistoric mammals. It is true. Right now I am planning such a movie, although the exposure for the mammals is pretty limited. Also, it is an independent production (shoe string budget) but I hope to make it come off well anyway. I plan to have a smilodon, a wooly rhino, and prehistoric horses. The story surrounds a fellow who is zapped back in time to ancient America. I figured it may not be bad to give the Indians a chance to get in the limelight without cowboys all over them.
     I hope this news is slightly encouraging. Pray that it all comes together.
                                                 A like minded person, Tom


[I told Tom that he could send me any info. he wanted on his upcoming movie, and I'd post it here to help generate publicity for him. - FW]


More from From: LinLin 3/5/00
Subject: prehistoric film II

I am so turned on by this project. Just yesterday I talked to our special effects guy about doing the stop motion animation. This morning I went to the local library to check on exactly what sort of animals I could get away with (the setting is around 10,000 BC). So far I have a smilodon, horses, and a dead wooly rhino (I may be pushing it with the rhino). As an aside, I think the reason why Hollywood has never gone with ancient mammals is because in the process of animation the fur would be noticeable disturbed, like Kong's was.
    I'll close for now.                                   Tom


More from From: LinLin 3/7/00
Subject: prehistoric film II

Dear Frank, the working title for the script is "Daphne Man". I'll need to change it to something more gutsy like "Cult of the Killer Cat" or "Lost Nomad" or "Pleistocene Nightmare". Sounds good to me.                Tom


From Cathy Lehnertz 02/02/01

When I read your story of how there were only two places you wanted to visit in LA, and one was the Tar Pits, I was astonished!  In 1994 I went to visit my mother in Westminster, and she asked me what I wanted to see.  I asked her what my choices were.  When she mentioned the La Brea Tar Pits I went ballistic!  I remembered reading about them in grade school but was under the impression they were no longer around.  I spent almost an entire day there, and wanted to go back.  When my oldest son moved to LA, he was waiting for me to come visit  so WE could go to La Brea.  I don't think there is a more fascinating place on earth - and each time I visit my son, we must work in a trip to the Tar Pits.   Just thought I'd let you know that someone else shares your excitement about the La Brea Tar Pits.

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