Entry #29 in the 'Watch all the Classic Disney (Animated) Movies' Challenge
After an epic (and improbable) journey through water, sky and land, a baby Iguanadon hatches and is adopted by a family of lemurs. Named Aladar, this dinosaur is still living with the lemurs as he reaches adulthood. When a major meteor shower slams into the island, Aladar's family - grandfather Yar, mother Plio, brother Zini and sister Siri - are the only ones who survive. Riding on Aladar's back, he takes them to the mainland and for the first time, he meets up with other dinosaurs. He joins up with a herd on their way to the nesting grounds, led by the tyrants Kron and Bruton. Kron's Darwinian philosophy that only the strong survive clashes with Aladar's insistence that everyone stick together, and the dinosaurs clash again and again, with Kron's sister (Aladar's love interest) Neera caught in the middle. Throughout their travels, the constant threat of meat-eating dinosaurs like Velociraptors and Carnosaurs dog the herd's steps.
Sound a little familiar? Yeah, I agree. The story's quite similar to The Land Before Time, which I remember as one of the biggest films of my childhood. (Off-track: Did you know there are now twelve sequels to The Land Before Time? Who on earth is still buying them?) I loved dinosaurs as a kid, and I still love them now, yet I barely remember this film in theaters. Considering it was the most expensive movie of 2000, with an estimated budget of $128 million, you'd think Dinosaur would have had more of an impact at the time. Oh well. It may have taken me eleven years, but I've finally watched it!
The first thing that jumps out at you is the animation. It's pretty cool-looking. The backgrounds are filmed on location, looks like, and then the dinosaurs are animated into the filmed scenes. That's pretty unusual, and man, it sure looks good. I'm especially impressed whenever a dinosaur runs across the water, and the splashing of their footsteps matches up perfectly with the animation. The texture of the dinosaur skin looks spot on, too. From a purely visual standpoint, this movie is a 10 out of 10, no dispute.
Unfortunately, you can't rate an entire film entirely around how it looks. There's the story to consider, and as already mentioned, it's both predictable and unoriginal. Granted, how many stories can you tell about dinosaurs that will have the same emotional impact? There's got to be another angle besides losing a parent/home and being forced on an epic journey...
Then, as a movie watcher, the next thing you consider is the characters. Dinosaur suffers here as well, largely because Zini is the MOST ANNOYING CHARACTER EVER. He looks like something a cat chewed up and spat out, and well...he doesn't sound much better. I get that wise-cracking sidekicks are a mainstay of filmmakers everywhere, but I swear Zini never shuts up. Is he supposed to be sympathetic because he can't get a lemur girlfriend? Personally, I was rooting for Zini to become a Carnosaur snack throughotu the movie. The rest of the characters, from Aladar and to Kron, were pretty bland. I never felt like there was much depth to any of them, but they fulfilled their roles in the film.
I did think it a little weird that only the lemurs and the 'good' dinosaurs talked. I mean, if Iguanodons, Brachiosauruses, Styracosauruses and lemurs can all understand each other, why can't they also understand the Carnosaurs? I could understand if it was broken down by species - Iguanadons can understand other Iguanadons, and perhaps the Styracosaurus and Brachiosaurus just picked up their language; the fact that the lemurs were able to communicate with the dinosaurs - as evidenced by the fact that Aladar could instantly speak with the Iguanadons, despite never hearing their 'language' before - doesn't work for me. But I suppose I should just let this go, since the movie wasn't originally planned to HAVE dialogue. That came later at the insistence of then-CEO Michael Eisner.
I also had problems with Dinosaur because LEMURS AND DINOSAURS DIDN'T COEXIST. Lemurs (and other primates) didn't evolve until millions of years after dinosaur extinction. Also, even if lemurs had existed, they wouldn't have been in the same territory as Iguanadons, who likewise didn't live in the same parts of the world as Carnosaurs, who BY THE WAY were much smaller than portrayed in this movie. I'm not saying Disney has to get everything 100% perfect, but when there's an easy way to make a scene accurate - like using T-Rex instead of Carnosaur for your Big Bad Villain - why not do it?
But again, WOW. THIS MOVIE LOOKS SO FREAKING AMAZING.
So I'm a little torn. Story's about 5, and animation's about 10...let's score it right down the middle. I guess I'll rate it 7/10 stars.