Paleontology is a complex academic and scientific domain; a subject which is also popular among laypeople. This popularity creates some expectations in the public, who wants to receive a reliable as well as enjoyable representation of their favorite prehistoric creatures. Children, for instance, are particularly fond of dinosaurs as it is demonstrated by merchandise of all sorts, dedicated exhibitions, children’s narrative and syllabus books, movies, and TV programs. In cases such as these dinosaurs are often anthropomorphized so that children can easily identify with them. The characterization of dinosaurs is the work of creative experts but, most importantly, of the actual paleontologists who dig out the fossils, reconstruct and study scientifically the aspect and the lives of these extinct animals, and who often work as consultants for the entertainment/publishing industry. It is for this reason, then, that dinosaurs ‘for children’ are to be seen as a complex product derived from the dissemination of academic knowledge which, from the experts, is mediated to the public through shows and books. The present study analyses how academic knowledge regarding dinosaurs is disseminated to pre-school children. To do so, the animated series Dinosaur Train will be investigated. The series was chosen since it contains animated episodes as well as live action segments in which a real paleontologist, Dr Scott Sampson, describes the aspect, behavior and natural habitat of the dinosaurs seen in each episode. A group of sample episodes are analyzed to individuate the verbal and visual strategies that are used to transmit complex scientific knowledge to young children, making it engaging and, yet, educational at the same time. The verbal features are examined using Critical Discourse Analysis, while the visual aspects are investigated using Kress / van Leeuwen’s (2006) framework for visual analysis, and Baldry / Thibault’s (2006) tools for multimedia analysis.
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