Disney Marathon: ‘Dinosaur’


I didn’t see Dinosaur when it came out in 2000, being a first year university student working as a bartender. Then I totally forgot about it. And so, it seems, as did everyone else. When you ask people what they consider to be the quintessential Disney classics they aren’t going to say…what were we talking about?

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Dinosaur

Released: 2000

Director: Ralph Zondag & Eric Leighton

Cast: D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Hayden Panettiere, Samuel E. Wright, Julianna Margulies

Plot: An iguanodon is raised by a family of lemurs on an island seperate from other dinosaurs. When their home is destroyed by a meteorite they are forced to the mainland where they join a herd of dinosaurs on a journey of survival.

Review: Dinosaur is noteworthy for being the Disney animated movie that made the smallest splash in contrast to the amount of work and innovation that went into it. Everything was kicked off by Robocop and Starship Troopers director Paul Verhoeven of all people, along with motion capture animator Phil Tippett, who pitched the idea of an uncompromising realistic depiction of life for dinosaurs back in 1986. Many directors, the movie was officially in development from the early 90s. It took them several years to develop the software for the project, with Toy Story breaking the ice on mainstream cinema released computer animated movies in the meantime.

What we ended up with was a movie with incredible technical animation achievement being used to prop up a generic family adventure. The computer animated dinosaurs are as photorealistic as the technology would allow, and can still be appreciated in the modern day, and they’re integrated into live action backgrounds and scenario. It almost feels like a lost opportunity that the characters and the story would be left forgotten in spite of what the animators achieve. Whatever praise the movie earns, it’s thanks to the animators. It goes without saying that Dinosaur helped drive the early years of CGI animation.

But again, we come back to the story. Our hero, Aladar (Sweeney), is naive yet noble and rises the challenge. His love interest, Neera (Margulies) is there. In the role of Aladar’s adoptive brother and whacky side-kick we have Zini (Casella), who is best described as a sex-pest who is ultimately rewarded with a foursome. The antagonist is Kron (Wright), another iguanodon, who leads to the herd towards the nesting ground and paradise. His stubborn attitude is the centre of most conflict in the film, but this is due to him recognising that the threat that follows them and the sacrifices needed to get there. It’s often Aladar’s sympathetic approach that succeeds, but that’s more out of luck than any noble intention. Kron is tough, but his ultimate goal is the survival of the herd.

After the long, long set-up that ends without really connecting us with the characters we get introduced to another group of characters. Then they travel across the land looking for water while carnivores pursue them. That’s all there is to say about the story. It’s predictable and dull, and proved difficult to keep the kids from being distracted.

The inconsistency between the characters is also jarring. While the herbivores and the lemurs are all speaking to each other regardless of species just fine, the carnivores seem to be entirely mute. There’s not reason, they’re just brainless, speechless obstacles. Then there’s an ankylosaurus with the herd who’s just a dog in behaviour and coding. It’s arbitrary who is sentient and who isn’t. That’s a bit frustrating.

I can’t imagine watching Dinosaur again. For all the brilliant animation, there’s little connection to the characters or their journey.

Coolest Easter Egg:

Weirdest Trivia: Dinosaur was intended to be dialogue free, like Fantasia‘s dinosaur sequence, in order to make it distinct from The Land Before Time. Michael Eisner insisted that dialogue be included. The movie also swapped the T-Rex for a carnotaurus to avoid similarities to Jurassic Park and the opening shot of a meteor to avoid similarities to Armageddon.

Dinosaur has the allegedly highest death toll in a Disney animated movie…although I’m curious as to how they beat Mulan‘s massacre of the Hun army.

Rating: FOUR out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

As much as I appreciate the historical achievement of the animation, being a huge nerd and all that, it’s hard to get excited about the adventure.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. Wreck-It Ralph
  5. Alice in Wonderland
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Moana
  8. Big Hero 6
  9. Frozen
  10. Tangled
  11. The Sword in the Stone
  12. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  13. Mulan
  14. Emperor’s New Groove
  15. Fantasia
  16. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  17. The Three Caballeros
  18. The Princess and the Frog
  19. Hercules
  20. Oliver & Company
  21. The Aristocats
  22. Dinosaur
  23. The Fox and the Hound
  24. A Goofy Movie
  25. Treasure Planet
  26. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Amelia ranked it highly (and we recognise that she has a habit of rating things highly at first only to reneg later), but found some scenes a bit scary. At the beginning we see Aladar’s egg left alone while his mother is killed a devoured, and that was almost enough for her to pack it in.

  1. Frozen
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. Zootopia
  4. Moana
  5. Mulan
  6. Hercules
  7. Alice in Wonderland
  8. Wreck-It Ralph
  9. Tangled
  10. Dinosaur
  11. The Aristocats
  12. The Princess and the Frog
  13. Robin Hood
  14. Beauty and the Beast
  15. The Three Caballeros
  16. The Fox and the Hound
  17. Oliver & Company
  18. The Sword in the Stone
  19. Aladdin
  20. Treasure Planet
  21. Big Hero 6
  22. A Goofy Movie
  23. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  24. Chicken Little
  25. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Joshua struggled to stay engaged with this movie, but did voice his opinion that he doesn’t like all the Disney movies starting with the main character’s mother being killed. He’s very close to his mother, and this is starting to bother to poor lad.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Wreck-It Ralph
  10. Frozen
  11. Mulan
  12. The Princess and the Frog
  13. Robin Hood
  14. The Sword in the Stone
  15. Beauty and the Beast
  16. Oliver & Company
  17. Tangled
  18. A Goofy Movie
  19. The Aristocats
  20. Fantasia
  21. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  22. The Fox and the Hound
  23. Dinosaur
  24. Hercules
  25. Alice in Wonderland
  26. Chicken Little