If CBS’s programming executive would’ve had his way, the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ pilot would’ve hit audiences with a pet dinosaur for Gilligan himself.
Whether this would’ve been a blessing or a curse, two key factors stood in the way of Gilligan getting his dino-pal.
As ‘Gilligan’s Island’ creator Sherwood Shwartz’s tell-all book – Inside Gilligan’s Island – illustrates, the classic sitcom was nearly a hundred different things. One particular revelation, however, feels particularly surprising. The already busy (but lovably so) show came a hair-and-a-freckle away from featuring a dinosaur. Prominently.
And we’re not talking a throwaway plot device here, either. We’re talking a pet dinosaur for Gilligan – one the show’s namesake would lead around on a leash.
Look, this author loves dinosaurs just about as much as any red-blooded human will admit. Admittedly, giving Gilligan his own answer to the Flintstone’s Dino doesn’t seem too far-fetched for the zany show, either. But a cartoon is one thing.
Having Gilligan lead around a “living, breathing” dinosaur on a leash may have proven a step too far for audiences. Thankfully for television audiences, Shwartz agreed – big time.
“Just picture it! Gilligan and his pet dinosaur!”
According to Shwartz’s book, and in his own words, CBS programming executive Hunt Stromberg Jr. was decently pleased with the first ten minutes of the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ pilot. Right up until Gilligan goes “hunting for other survivors” across the island. Then, Shwartz tells, Stromberg became fixated on what Gilligan wasn’t finding. Like dinosaurs, for instance.
“Suddenly, Hunt pressed the stop button,” Shwartz recalls.
“That’s what I wanted you to see! Where Gilligan goes to the other side of the island,” he quotes of Hunt Stromberg Jr. “Do you know what he finds on the other side of the island?”
Shwartz says he feared the worst at the time from his eccentric exec. And he got it.
“A dinosaur!” Hunt exclaimed proudly to him.
“You mean a live dinosaur?” Shwartz replied.
“Of course!” Hunt retorted, annoyed. “Gilligan is leading him on a leash. Naturally he’s alive!:
“A leash?” Shwartz gulped.
“Just picture it!” Hunt follows. “Gilligan and his pet dinosaur! It’s our answer to Mr. Ed!”
Disney’s Dynavision Spells Doom for ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Dinosaur
As you may have guessed, the first of two reasons stopping this dinosaur from existing was creator Sherwood Shwartz’s hatred of the idea.
“I only knew I wanted no part of a dinosaur on ‘Gilligan’s Island’ he states plainly in black & white. But it would take more than just his staunch resistance to send Gilligan’s dinosaur back into extinction.
After a long discussion over the practicality of squeezing a dinosaur into their tight budget, Shwartz had the bright idea to scare the tight Stromberg with the financial concerns this idea would bring. The only feasible way he could see putting a dinosaur onto ‘Gilligan’s Island’ was with a new process Disney was perfecting at the time. The animation technique, called Dynavision, was a way to superimpose animation onto live action footage.
Shwartz, ever the clever man, however, knew exactly how to spin this revelation.
“I understand it’s quite expensive,” he warned Stromberg. Yet Hunt was so unbelievably fixated, he requested Shwartz call Disney to get a rundown on pricing for Dynavision. And so he did.
“The next day I phoned Hunt Stromberg and reported on my conversation with Disney Studios,” Shwartz recalls. “Their Dynavision process was a solution, in visual terms, to the dinosaur idea. However, it was not a solution in terms of budget.”
How much so, Stromberg wanted to know.
Schwartz then laid the dino-sized egg for his boss. Dynavision “would add more to the cost of each episode than the cost of the episode itself…”
“Mr. Stromberg was very disappointed,” he recalls. Ultimately, however, the CBS exec. was content in knowing it was only “economics” that could slay his mighty beast.
And the rest, as we often say on Outsider, is history. For plenty more remarkably fun anecdotes on ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ stay tuned to Outsider.com.