I have a brilliant 3 year old nephew named Ben who has been a dinosaur expert for an impressive third of his life. He’s not into silly talking cartoon dinosaurs, either. He knows the real deal, knows their scientific names, and what kind of bastards they were. He’s very smart. And he’s an absolute whiz to buy for. Don’t you just love it when a kid gets passionate about something, and your gift-giving can just coast along on that special interest for ages? I’ve bought him dinosaur toys, stamps, sticker books, archaeological digs, eggs, puzzles, and pajamas. When I gave him an adorable little dinosaur sweater he texted me a picture of himself in it, and then refused to wear any stupid non-dinosaur clothes, which was a bit of a challenge for his poor mother, who was on mat leave with his baby sister, and already had enough laundry to contend with.
I was quite enraptured with Disney’s The Good Dinosaur, a simple but endearing story about, well, a good dinosaur, one who happens to meet a primitive human and befriend him. This was a bit juvenile for 3 year old Ben, even if it did quite suit his 30 year old Aunt Jay.
Not to be confused with The Good Dinosaur, Dinosaur came out in 2000 and is about a dinosaur named Aladar who gets adopted by a tribe of lemurs. The film depicts dinosaur end times – we see those nasty meteors hit, and the lemurs’ home is destroyed. They go on an epic trek toward more livable land (does this sound familiar? The Land Before Time anyone?) and encounter a big group of dinosaurs that actually make living a lot less peaceable.
The animation in this movie already looks quite dated, but even at the time it would have looked different from anything that had come before as the realistic-looking but nevertheless animated characters are superimposed onto ‘real’ backgrounds, photos taken in Hawaii and Tahiti. It was the first Disney film to be computer animated, and was also the first of its animated films to get a PG rating. The dinosaurs may look realistic (at least compared to other cartoons) but Michael Eisner wasn’t brave enough to allow the film to be silent, so they do talk. In fact, it has a hilariously-90s voice cast: D.B. Sweeney, Della Reese, Julianna Margulies, and Alfre Woodard just to round things out.
I missed this film in theatres, but it did well enough, recouping its enormous cost (it was the most expensive film made that year), and beating Mission Impossible 2, Gladiator, and unbelievably, Battlefield Earth in theatres. I’m not sure there’s much use in going back to check this one out. The story is pretty derivative, and the animation just hasn’t aged well. But if you have a budding paleontologist in the family, it may just be welcome canon. I’ll let you know how Ben reviews it, but just a warning: he answers most questions with a resounding “Yesh!”