Dragons are eating dinosaurs for lunch.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Dinosaurs so beloved, so overexposed, so marketed-to-death for the past decade or two are finally lumbering toward extinction.
So go, already! By the time you're a gummi worm, a bedspread and a Steven Spielberg sequel, you're not exactly hip anymore.
In the dinosaur's place, fire-breathing and triumphant, comes the dragon.
The scaly beasts are everywhere. You've got your dragon movie, "Eragon," and the bestseller it was based on. There's the dragon bible, "Dragonology," now sitting on the shelf of every tween once keener on T-Rex. And "Harry Potter" didn't hurt.
Two dragon cartoons are duking it out on TV, there are a couple of dragon porn sites (don't ask), and now comes crowning proof of dragon ascendancy. The fiercely dino-centric American Museum of Natural History home of "Night at the Museum" just unveiled its latest blockbuster: "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids."
It's like the Grand Ole Opry staging a tribute to Black Sabbath.
Clearly, the museum got the message: Dragons rule, which is why a 19-foot green one glares in all its glory at the entrance to the exhibit. Ellen Futter, president of the museum, said she was proud of this life-size model.
Then she paused and added, uh, not that anyone is exactly sure "how big a life-size dragon would be."
This is not just because dragons don't exist. It's also because stories of them do exist, on three separate continents, and these different myths extol different dragon traits.
The Asian dragon, for instance, is a good guy. He makes clouds that bring rain, he controls the seasons and the rivers, and he's brilliant.
Size-wise, however, "He can be smaller than small, bigger than big, higher than high and lower than low." Or at least so said a Chinese scholar around the year 1100 A.D., Lu Dian (who, like the wisest of all scholars, hedged his bets).
Categorizing dragons seems to have been a cottage industry for scholars throughout the ages.
An illustrated encyclopedia of snakes, lizards and dragons from 1640, for instance, seems to indicate its Italian author believed that dragons were just another slimy species.
Governments believed in dragons, too. There are dragon coins from Britain (the years of 600-800), Turkey (a couple hundred years later) and Russia (1709).
The dragons on these are the European kind making their big comeback today: evil fire-breathers who walked on two legs or four, flew or not and spent their time burning down villages, eating children and keeping maidens (often royal) captive. Hey, it's a living.
It's also marketing gold.
"Dragons are the low-hanging fruit of mythology," said the author of "Punk Marketing," Richard Laermer. The public totally gets them, but they're not sick of them yet. "In the '90s there were, like, 30 dinosaur movies," Laermer said. Paleo pets wore out their welcome.
Dragons, however, maintain their air of continental cool. If dinosaurs are New World, dragons are Old. If dinosaurs depend on science to tell their stories, dragons depend on wizards and scrolls. They're magical.
So what are they doing in a science museum?
To make absolutely sure no one assumes the institution is succumbing to anything less than academic rigor, the exhibit explains (one might say harps on) the fact that myths are important, even to scientists, because they show how humans struggle to understand natural history.
Yes. And the reason HBO airs "Strippers: The Naked Stages," is because it's sociologically enlightening.
No matter what the motive, "Mythical Creatures" is a thrilling show and its mythical merch even moreso: piles of dragon puzzles, stickers, books and stuffed animals, all coming soon to a mall near you.
This means, of course, that dragons will inevitably go the way of dinosaurs: sooner or later they'll be killed off by cuteness.
In the meantime, though, they're on fire.