Half-brothers Karl, a born rebel, and David, the more curious and scholarly of the two young men, are flying a small airplane over the ocean with their rich father. The plane gets caught in a storm and crash-lands near an uncharted island. Trapped in the sinking plane wreck, the father orders the boys to abandon him and save themselves. The two manage to swim safely to shore where they meet Cyrus, the local misanthropic pariah who holds a serious grudge against the islanders. He informs them that the island is called Dinotopia as both humans, who have reached spiritual, philosophical and intellectual enlightenment here a long time ago, and dinosaurs, who somehow survived here and evolved into sentient talking dinos with human intelligence, live there together in utopian pacifist harmony, save for the carnivores. The boys travel to the island's capital, where they meet Mayor Waldo and his disciplined, orderly, caring and quite lovely scholarly daughter, Marion, who along with the senate helps her father and her mother, Matriarch Rosemary, run the island in peace, love and understanding. She gladly agrees to show the boys around and introduce them to Dinotopia's peoples and culture. A young, friendly, overly enthusiastic, English-speaking dino-scholar and troodon named Zipeau also befriends the two and eagerly agrees to welcome them into his own home until they can find their place in this amazing society, mostly resembling a highly advances version of Europe's medieval civilization. However, once the boys' learn that there actually is no way off the island because of the underwater reefs and storms that surround it, their individualistic personalities quickly clash with the more collectivist mindset of the islanders. While rebellious Karl plans to leave the island no matter what and find out what happened to their father, David is much more open to the idea of joining the Dinotopian society but rather disagrees with their decision to have him join the skybax riders, a unit of elite Pteranodon fliers that represent Dinotopia's main defense force and are led by the no-nonsense air commander Oonu. However, Cyrus approaches Karl claiming that a way out does exist but only if he gets him the necessary artifacts to chart the course out of there. The boys also learn that the incredibly powerful Sunstones, which serve as Dinotopia's only real power source but also represent the only thing that's keeping the carnivores away, are failing all over the island and only the forbidden ancient ruins of underwater dino temple may hold the key to Dinotopia's salvation.