Western Animation: The Land Before Time aka: Land Before Time
The Land Before Time is a Don Bluth film from 1988 and his second collaborating with Steven Spielberg.In the original film, a group of dinosaurs leave their homes for the Great Valley, a place of promise and opportunity. Along the way, a sauropod ("Long Neck") named Littlefoot becomes separated from his group and watches his mother die to protect him from a Tyrannosaurus ("Sharptooth"). Littlefoot meets up with other young dinosaurs of different species as they try to get back to their families.The first film, made at the dawn of The Renaissance Age of Animation, is well remembered for its excellent character animation (a hallmark of Don Bluth films), surprisingly complex plotting, and amazing soundtrack by James Horner. It was also the first major dinosaur film made after the Dinosaur Renaissance reached popular culture, and features the refined image of dinosaurs since then (see Shown Their Work below).The film released its first sequel in 1994, and Universal Cartoon Studios ended up making a sequel almost every year up to 2007, for a grand total of twelve. These sequels took a much Lighter and Softer tone than the original film, a move that alienated them from many of the first movie's fans. Still, others embrace these sequels into the canon of the series and see them as enjoyable, harmless, and frequently heartwarming kids films. Regardless of the position people take on these sequels, most people agree that their sheer number and lesser quality to the original makes them a classic example of Sequelitis. The series also had a short running TV show in 2008 that lasted for one season; when this ended the series was finally allowed a hard earned retirement.The sequels are:
The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure (1994)
The Land Before Time III: The Time of the Great Giving (1995)
The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists (1996)
The Land Before Time V: The Mysterious Island (1997)
The Land Before Time VI: The Secret of Saurus Rock (1998)
The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire (2000)
The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze (2001)
The Land Before Time IX: Journey to Big Water (2002)
The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration (2003)
The Land Before Time XI: Invasion of the Tinysauruses (2004)
The Land Before Time XII: The Great Day of the Flyers (2006)
The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends (2007)
Time to teach the kids Roman numerals! Oh, wait...The character sheet is here (work in progress). Awesome Music from the series is here (work in progress).
While the opening narration gets "Before the mammoth and the mastodon" right, that's the extent of accuracy in this regard. While most of the species in the film are from the Late Cretaceous of North America, Littlefoot (an Apatosaurus) and Spike (a Stegosaurus) are both Jurassic. While Littlefoot and family could be Alamosaurus, a sauropod from the proper time and place, there's no excuse for Spike's appearance. Plus, an even older Dimetrodon is encountered halfway through the film. To put in perspective just how out of place a Dimetrodon is, it would be much less inaccurate to put a human in the film, at least if one judges purely by temporal proximity. The last Dimetrodons died out more than 200 million years before the late Cretaceous
While it's still debatable how broad Pteranodon's diet might have been (e.g. just fish, or fish plus other sea critters), there's no question that leaves were not on its menu. Vegetation takes so long to digest, and has to be consumed in such quantities due to its low nutrient content, that an herbivorous Pteranodon would be too loaded down by its food to fly.
Blatant Lies: Cera tells her own version of her encounter with Sharptooth in the underground to the group. A version where she attacked Sharptooth when he was awake and hunting for her. What actually happened, is that she did the triceratops equivalent of poking a dead body. As soon as it turned out he was alive (and awake), she ran off terrified out of her mind like anyone would expect. Her lie was so blatant to Littlefoot, that he disbelieved all of her story, including the part where Sharptooth survived.
Clean Pretty Childbirth: The film has the baby dinosaurs hatching totally clean. Nobody knows for sure about dinosaurs, but modern reptiles and birds are usually wet and have some residue from being in the egg, until they're able to dry off.
Crapsack World: The world outside the great valley is extremely forbidding, stark, lonely and dangerous. At least in the earlier films...
Disney Death: Petrie when it looks like he was crushed under the same boulder used to kill Sharptooth, but survives.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Though a favorite trope of Bluth's, this movie takes it to levels all but unheard of in an animated film! First and foremost, Littlefoot loses his mother and is devastated over her death, which should make him alone a big enough victim of this trope. Both Ducky and Cera, and presumably Petrie as well, are separated from their families in an earthquake, and Spike appears to have been orphaned before he was even born. Later the entire group faces massive bouts of starvation during their journey, and have to avoid the ever looming threat of the Sharptooth, as Littlefoot tries to keep everyone together while trying to find the Great Valley. Fortunately, they do find it, and all of them get their families back, with Spike even ending up Happily Adopted by Ducky's family.
Eldritch Abomination: The Tar Monster that seems like it's going to eat Cera only to be revealed that it's just Littlefoot and the others stuck together with tar.
Eye Awaken: The scene where Cera charges at Sharptooth's face, only to have Sharptooth's menacing eye open and stare at her.
Gory Discretion Shot/Shadow Discretion Shot: The fight between Littlefoot's Mother and Sharptooth has an instance where, after putting him down briefly, she tries to get Littlefoot and Cera to safety. Sharptooth then viciously flings himself through the air at her, and the film cuts to the horrified reactions of the youngsters. In spite of this, the shadows of the struggle can still be seen, showing Sharptooth biting and tearing a huge lump of flesh out of her back (the wound that leads to her death).
Growling Gut: Happens to Ducky just before they meet Petrie.
Happily Married: Littlefoot's parents and grandparents, the latter of whom definitely adore each other after many years of marriage. In all the films, we never see a single argument between them. Ever.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: Want to know if they made it to the great valley or not? Don't watch the sequels, then.
Lost Forever: The eleven minutes of cut footage that are either languishing in a vault somewhere or have been destroyed.
Mad Eye: Littlefoot accidentally injures Sharptooth's right eye—thus, the few times it's open, it looks swollen and has visible veins.
Look closely and you'll see his eye was already shut before being struck in the thorn-bush. It was probably already wounded beforehand.
Oddly, when Cera awakens Sharptooth, his eye is yellow with a cat-like pupil.
Mama Bear: Or rather, Mama Bronto. Littlefoot's mother provides one of the definitive examples in animation, using her massive, whip-like tail in an epic battle with an enraged T. rex, in defense of her son.
Monster Shaped Mountain: "The rock that looks like a Longneck" is one of the landmarks that Littlefoot's mother teaches him to look for on the way to the Great Valley. There is also Three-Horn Rock, a mountain that resembles a Triceratops.
Mood Whiplash: We go from a heartwarming scene of Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike sleeping together at night to Cera waking up the next morning to discover that the Sharptooth is here, leading to the youngsters running for their lives and narrowly escaping through a hole in a canyon wall.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: It's the Sharptooth's breath shooting up from its nose that gives Petrie the added push he needed, so that he can learn to fly. He then becomes instrumental in distracting the Sharptooth so the others can push the boulder down on it.
Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Spike is shown being born in a patch of grass in the middle of the movie, by which time the rest of the main cast has gotten a chance to become kids. Cue an exterior shot of the patch of grass, which Spike comes out of the same age as his friends, twice as big as he was a few seconds ago.
Real Is Brown: The best known animated feature to apply this trope. It is to the point where no two promotional items agreed exactly what Petrie's real color scheme was.
Recycled IN SPACE!: The original film has gotten a reputation of being called "a prehistoric Bambi". (Clearly by people who never watched Bambi or this movie in its entirety.)
Ridiculously Cute Critter: Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie and Spike. If you don't think the five of them are cute you may not have a pulse.
Road Movie: Called "Dinosaur Road Trip to Heaven" by the Nostalgia Chick.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The novel version of the film shows that the reason why Sharptooth is so bent on killing the kids is because, when Littlefoot and Cera tried to escape from him, the thorns cut Sharptooth's eye.
Slasher Smile: Cera grins pretty mischievously when she discovers the Sharptooth's (not quite dead) corpse, when deciding to use him as ramming practice. The way she licks her lips when she catches up to that beetle she was chasing at the beginning also deserves mention.
Shown Their Work: For the time, and remember it was twenty-odd years ago and the complete remains of some of the featured species (especially Tyrannosaurus) hadn't been found yet, this was the most accurate dinosaur movie ever made (ignoring the Talking Animal issue). Even today, the care put into the film is impressive.
Species Surname: A variation, in that the dinosaurs' words for each other are usually derived from their scientific names. For example, Triceratops = Three Horn.
Stock Dinosaurs: An Apatosaurus for the obligatory sauropod (more anatomically accurate than most other movie "brontos" (the non-aquaticness and raised tails!), but still called Brontosaurus in releases), Triceratops, Pteranodon, Stegosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus all play major roles in the film. And then we have the mammal-relative Dimetrodon with a snake-tongue. Parasaurolophus and Diplodocus make brief appearances as well. There are some aversions though: the hadrosaurs belong to the relatively obscure Saurolophus (Parasaurolophus according to the producers); the armoured dinosaur Rooter is an old-fashioned Scolosaurus and not the usual Ankylosaurus; and this is perhaps the first time that the bone-headed Pachycephalosaurus appeared in a notable popular work, portrayed as a vicious pack of racist bullies. The only stock dinosaur from the today Five Man Band which is missing is Velociraptor, but only because the film is older than Jurassic Park (surprisingly, raptors do appear in the first sequel made after Spielberg's film).
Super-Persistent Predator: Sharptooth is actually behaving exactly how a predator behaves in this dire situation. In the lack of significant food sources, a lone predator will often pursue individual targets for several days until he either finds easier food elsewhere, or is injured or killed. And a group of infants without a herd to protect them, in real life, would be an extremely easy meal. Luckily, our protagonists are smarter than their real life counterparts.
True Companions: "There had never been such a herd before." and the original final line "We'll always be together."
Viewers Are Morons: The narrator says some pretty obvious stuff (E.G. "Littlefoot had never seen the Great Valley before"). Though this may be because the original idea was that it would have just a narrator and no dialogue.
The Window or the Stairs: Cera and the other dinosaurs refuse to follow Littlefoot's instructions on where to go to find the Great Valley, instead taking an easier path. Their "easier path" winds up trapping them all in a deadly lava flow.
Yank the Dog's Chain: When Petrie tries to join Littlefoot after the others go with Cera, but is unable to follow solely because of how unstable the surface he's climbing on is. And he can't fly.
In Journey Through the Mists, all the adult dinosaurs are concerned about the health of Littlefoot's grandpa, but none are brave enough to risk personal safety to find the flowers that have the cure. The old one does say "There is safety in numbers", yet doesn't act on it in terms of retrieving the flower.
Possibly lampshaded in The Stone of Cold Fire, when Grandma Longneck states that the children have gone off on their own, and Ducky's mother comments "Of course they did! They saw us all just standing around arguing here..!"
Averted in The Great Valley Adventure, when the adults kick some serious ass fighting off the sharpteeth. In fact, learning to accept that adults are stronger and more experienced is something of a theme in the movie.
Adult Fear: A constant fear that plays in the adult dinosaurs' minds is losing their children and grandchildren. They either worry about them being killed and eaten by predators, dying from natural disasters, and other ways possible.
Also in the second movie. In fact, this actually saved his friends from Ozzy and Strut. They eventually wised up, although by that point they were too late as Chomper's parents were still in the Great Valley.
Breakout Character: Chomper was originally just a guest character brought in for the second film. Then he was brought back for the fifth film, and then he became a main character for the TV series, almost to the point where he became a Spotlight Hog.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Ozzie in II, where he mentions he's a Struthiomimus. First, this breaks the series' tradition of using dinosaur euphisims. Second, he should not even know his scientific name, a it was given by humans ages later, and third, it's a kids' show. No place for hard-to-say names, that is.
Conspicuous CG: From Movie VI on, particularly in X: The Great Longneck Migration, as MarzGurl points out. Most likely because Wang Film Productions had a sister company that specialized in CG (Sony Imageworks did the CG for film VI however).
Continuity Drift: In the original film, Ducky was designated as a Bigmouth. In the sequels, she was instead called a Swimmer.
Swimmer was more of an interchangeable term that wasn't really the species "name". The new term they use is Duckbill, which makes less sense considering the naming schemes of the other species (and the fact they can't know what a duck is) but the name change might have come from "Bigmouth" sounding like an insult? Especially with the sequels seemingly aimed at progressively younger audiences.
"Swimmer" is also a case of Science Marches On as the dinosaur renaissance showed hadrosaurs were not actually well adapted for swimming.
In the first film, Littlefoot's mother refers to Ducky's species as a Swimmer as well (she specifically lists the four species that Littlefoot would later travel with, and says Swimmer instead of Bigmouth).
Convection Schmonvection: The animated series episode "The Canyon of Shiny Stones" is made of this trope (although they do, at least, remember that volcanoes produce choking smoke).
In VII Littlefoot and his friends escape the storm by entering the base of a volcano. What's worse is that they actually SLEEP in said volcano, and then get on a makeshift elevator that gets them to the top when the volcano erupts!
Evil Uncle: Petrie's Uncle Pterano in The Stone of Cold Fire complete with eyebags, long fingers, and an English Accent. Except for the killing bit, but he does kidnap Ducky... and then saves her in the end, so he's not evil. He's got his regrets.
Littlefoot mourns for his mom a good deal of the first film, but only mentions her a grand total of three times during the following twelve sequels, one of which is just a passing reference about not leaving him any siblings. Presumably the writers were uncomfortable about bringing up such a dark topic in a kid's series.
In the song "Always There" from The Land Before Time V, Littlefoot quotes from her.
She also got a big mention in The Great Longneck Migration when Littlefoot met his father, and appears in a flashback.
Genre Shift: Executive Meddling aside the first film was still pretty dark and serious. The sequels are lighter musicals-comedies, particularly so starting with 6.
And in the second movie, Littlefoot gets his foot stuck in a tree trunk.
I Never Told You My Name: How did anybody ever find out Pat's name in The Great Longneck Migration? He never told it to anybody himself.
But this is never actually an issue, just a continuity error. And it could have happened offscreen.
Informed Ability: Red Claw is stated to be the biggest and most dangerous Sharptooth around. Considering his accomplishments so far, including retreating from having fruit thrown at him, as well as the tone of the TV series, that is a status he will never live up to.
Some fans believe Red Claw is the original Sharptooth, somehow survived and given a scar from the boulder and dunking. If that was true, oh how the mighty have fallen. There's also the "biggest, meanest, most ferocious Sharptooth ever" from Secret of Saurus Rock, who showed his big mean ferocity by getting whipped by Doc.
Invited As Dinner: In the fifth film, the main characters are invited to dinner by their friend Chomper, a Sharptooth they befriended back in the second film. Chomper actually did mean the invitation to be a friendly get-together, but the main cast is understandably a little freaked out. A song ensues.
Chomper: Friends for dinner, I'm gonna have friends for dinner...
Lame Pun Reaction: When they arrive at the Great Valley after a long trek, one of the egg-stealing dinos in the second film says that he's just "egg-xausted". His partner kicks him in the face in response.
Large Ham: Pterano, all the way! You can really tell Michael York had a great time voicing him.
Lying Finger Cross: In VI, after Littlefoot leaves with Ali to the Land of Mists, Littlefoot's grandparents warn Cera and the others not to follow. Cera and the others do this gesture while saying that they won't go; Cera and Spike do it with their hind feet, while Ducky and Petrie play it straight.
Music for Courage: After being stranded on an island, the main cast sings 'Always There', a song about their families, for comfort.
Papa Wolf and Mama Bear: The parents of the five main characters, but also Chomper's parents. Notably, they were willing to enter the Great Valley to search for their child (whom Littlefoot and his friends accidentally brought in when trying to rescue another egg that Ozzy and Strut stole), and when they saw Chomper in danger, they made absolute certain that whoever harmed them paid in full, even doing so to members of their own kind.
Playing the Heart Strings: Both "Always There" and "We Will Always Be Your Friends" are moving songs that use string instruments to some degree.
Shown Their Work: Sure they may not be living in the right place or the right time, but the variety (and obscurity) of some of the dinosaurs featured is quite astounding. It may be the most redeeming feature of the sequels.
Rather than sitting on Tricia's egg, Cera's parents incubate it by covering it with grass. It's theorized that this is exactly what certain dinosaurs did in real life (the fermenting vegetation would have warmed the eggs.)
Sickening Sweethearts: Tria and Topps were apparently young and sappy together. Upon reuniting years later, they pick up immediately where they left off. There's giggling involved.
Slice of Life: While it keeps to the natural prehistoric environment of the original film, the sequels are much more of this.
Suddenly Voiced: Spike in an episode of the TV series. Well, it's not so much actual talking as it is us hearing what he's thinking. And it only lasts for the one episode. In an earlier sequel, he yells Ducky's name... then never speaks again.
He shouted "Mama!" (his adopted mother) in the Big Freeze after falling into the ice water.
The Starscream: Pterano's two lackies, Sierra and Rinkus, decide that Pterano has much too high of an opinion of himself and they don't like his more moral goals, so they intend to take the Stone of Cold Fire for themselves.
Villain Song: "Eggs" in the second, "When You're Big" and "Tough" in the third, "Who Needs You?" in the fourth and "Very Important Creature" in the seventh (Though the last one is more about how the villain sees himself as right and not a villain at all).
Vocal Dissonance: Spike finally talks in IV...but he sounds like the Aflac Duck, which, considering his appearence...isn't what you'd expect. Mercifully, he goes back to not talking at all aside from the occasional grunt.
From a more charitable point of view, one could consider his voice to sound raw from disuse.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The episode "The Hidden Canyon" has the kids finding a canyon filled with delicious tree sweets that they scarf down. It's only after they eat a lot of tree sweets that they discover that the smell of them is rancid to Sharpteeth, and their eating the sweets is lessening the potency of the smell, thus making it easier for the Sharpteeth to enter the Great Valley...
That Makes Me Feel Angry: Often, and it rarely goes deeper than sad, mad, or glad. Considering the original movie's handling of boundless joy and crippling grief, this is a little jarring.