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Western Animation / The Good Dinosaur

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The Good Dinosaur is an American 3D computer-animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was released on November 25, 2015 as the studio's sixteenth feature film. Infamous for its Troubled Production, which resulted in the original director, longtime Pixar writer Bob Peterson, leaving the project due to story problems and being replaced with fellow regular Peter Sohn.

Set in an Alternate Universe in which the dinosaurs never went extinct, the film follows Arlo, the youngest of a family of Apatosaurus farmers living in the shadow of the Clawtooth Mountains (Wyoming's Grand Tetons). One day when he's chasing after a "critter" - a human child - who's been eating from the family's food stock, Arlo falls into the river and is swept away by the current. Now Arlo, accompanied by the human boy, whom he names Spot, has to face his fears as he makes his way through the wilderness to come back home.


For the other major Disney film revolving around dinosaurs, which in contrast to this fully CGI film stars CGI animals in real-life backgrounds note , see the page for Dinosaur.

The Good Dinosaur played in theaters along with Pixar short Sanjay's Super Team.

The Good Dinosaur provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Among Forrest Woodbrush's companions are Fury, Destructor, Dreamcrusher, and.... Debbie.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Inverted. The human child acts like a dog, prompting Arlo to name him "Spot". The other wild humans also behave this way, to the point where all they investigate one another by circling and sniffing.
  • Alternate History: The movie is set in a world where non-avian dinosaurs never became extinct and Jurassic dinosaurs like Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus coexist with Cretaceous dinosaurs like Triceratops and Parasaurolophus and even prehistoric mammals like the giant bison Bison latifrons that existed in the ice ages.
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  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The ending theme for the Japanese release is "Best Friend (Mother Earth version)" by Kiroro, a rerecorded version of one of their earlier songs.
  • An Aesop
    • Courage isn't about not being afraid. It's about not letting your fear prevent you from getting things done.
    • Fear, like nature, isn't a force to be triumphed over or mastered, and nothing good can come of trying. It's simply a part of life — something to be worked around, and worked with.
    • We are all related to our parents and nothing can change that, for better or for worse. But we are also our own person despite that. As Arlo's Dad puts it in a nutshell: "You are me and more."
  • Androcles' Lion: Inverted. Arlo gains Spot's loyalty after he spares him when Spot falls into a trap his father set up.
  • Animal Stampede: The herd of longhorn bison go on a stampede after attacked by a pack of Velociraptor cattle rustlers. Arlo and the T. rex family fight the rustlers among the stampeding bison.
  • Arc Symbol: Stones are depicted as obstacles throughout the film.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy:
    • No asteroid belt has asteroids anywhere near that densely packed. They're rarely if ever close enough to be seen from each other.
    • We see the asteroid heat up and start to burn as it enters the Earth's atmosphere, but in the next shot, the wide one, it's suddenly far away from Earth again. Of course, Rule of Funny.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The very existence of humans and bison in a scenario where dinosaurs never became extinct. In fact the very reason why mammals evolved into larger and more diverse forms was to fill the empty niches left by the dinosaurs' extinction, though in the case of the bison it was probably to add non-sapient livestock to deal with the Carnivore Confusion of civilized Tyrannosaurs eating civilized herbivore dinos.
    • While all dinosaurs, and pterosaurs by extensionnote  are portrayed as sapient, it comes off as strange that birds are just unintelligent animals, an odd choice as birds ARE dinosaurs, and in fact the lineage with the most advanced brains.
    • Pterosaurs couldn't grasp things with their feet, and even if they could, they were far too light to be able to lift a juvenile Apatosaurus.
    • The giant beetle dies instantly upon being beheaded by Spot...even though real-life insects lack blood pressure and don't bleed to death, and have accessory brains in their torsos. In fact, beheaded insects are known to live for days or even weeks, only dying since they can't eat and succumb to starvation.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Apatosaurus went extinct before the meteor hit. Even with the Alternate History, Arlo should not exist.
  • Artistic License – Physics: On a realistic trajectory, the asteroid would have flown by in a hyperbolic/parabolic trajectory, due to Earth's gravity altering the trajectory of the asteroid.
  • Ax-Crazy: Thunderclap.
  • Badass Family: The Tyrannosaurus family that Arlo met are highly skilled hunters and fighters.
  • Bait the Dog: Thunderclap and the pterosaurs come off as rather goofy, as does their ramblings about “the storm”, but caring, and seem to be trying to help dinosaurs and critters injured in the storm. Then Thunderclap devours an adorable critter alive and they fight over it’s remains, and it becomes clear that they are very dangerous.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Mostly averted with Forrest Woodbrush; he attempts to lure Spot in as his own, but willingly gives him up when Spot responds to Arlo first. Played lethally serious with Thunderclap and his Cargo Cult of pterosaurs.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Spot the human is a mere 3-feet tall. While Arlo is a juvenile dinosaur, he is still quite large compared to Spot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Papa is gone, as is Spot, but Arlo finds his way home safely, more confident and grown up than he's ever been.
  • Black Comedy Burst: Doesn't get more black than Spot beheading a giant beetle onscreen.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: Arlo and Spot begin to bond when Arlo talks Spot about his family. Spot then reveals he did have a family, but they died. Just like him, Arlo lost his father recently.
  • Bookends: At the beginning and end of the movie there's an Apatosaurus walking, with a shot of its shadow as they're walking, then the back of their head. At the beginning it's Henry and at the end it's Arlo.
  • A Boy and His X: Inverted. The highly civilized "X" (in this case, an Apatosaurus) from a world where humans are wild creatures that behave like dogs adopts a wild human boy. Their growing relationship results in Arlo learning to overcome his fears and become courageous.
  • Butt-Monkey: Arlo gets put through a lot of injuries, frustration, and heartache, and it isn't really Played for Laughs.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Addressed. The Tyrannosaurs avoid eating other dinosaurs by being presented as a family of cattle ranchers. The raptors want to prey on their bison and are presented as rustlers. The pterosaurs pick off small and weak creatures, and are presented as lying bullies who exploit natural disasters in order to find vulnerable prey.
  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: The eggs Arlo and his siblings emerge from are completely hollow and dry inside.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Forrest Woodbrush, the Pet Collector.
  • Cowboy: The Tyrannosaurus family are Working Cowboys, protecting their herds of bison from raptor rustlers.
  • Curse Cut Short: Ramsey almost says bullshit.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Ramsey finds Spot to be "the cutest little thing".
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Forrest's assorted little pets including Fury the lizard, Destructor the fox, Dream-Crusher the tusked gopher and Debbie the cardinal.
  • Disaster Scavengers: The pterosaurs are more literal practitioners of this trope, preferring to sit back and let the storms do the killing for them while they feast on the remains.
  • Disappeared Dad: Arlo loses his father to a flash flood caused by a thunderstorm.
  • Disappointed in You: While Poppa Henry doesn't exactly say it, he is very upset when Arlo lets the critter (Spot) that's been eating their food free and firmly decides to take Arlo to where the critter is and finish the job. However, when Arlo hurts his leg during the chase after the critter, he realizes he Was Too Hard on Him.
  • Dumb Dinos: Averted with Arlo and the other dinosaurs, who are fully sapient. Ironically, the raptors come off as the least intelligent dinosaurs in the film, while Thunderclap and the pterosaurs are superstitious and cruel but not stupid by any means.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In anticipation for the next film Finding Dory, Hank the octopus appears at the bottom of the river when Arlo falls in.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: A universe where the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs never happened.
  • Face of a Thug: Since Tyrannosaurus rex are known for looking and being vicious, carnivorous creatures, Arlo was terrified when he ran into them. Luckily for him, they turn out to be Gentle Giants.
  • Face Your Fears: Arlo can and often does face his, but views himself as cowardly and incompetent, and believes that strength comes from being unafraid of anything. Once Butch informs him that fear is natural, his confidence in himself blooms.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Spot tearing a huge hole in Thunderclap's wing membrane with his teeth. There's no gore or anything, but it's still quite shocking.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The pterodactyls, especially Thunderclap.
  • Feathered Fiend: Bubbha the Velociraptor and his pack of cattle rustlers.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Arlo is first afraid of Spot, then has a hatred of him since he blames him for Poppa's death, but they bond together surviving in the wilderness. Arlo is willing to fend off Pterosaurs and ford flooded rivers to save him.
  • Foreshadowing: Determined to earn his mark, Arlo finally works up his nerve and faces the chickens, asserting that he won't be chased off and will feed them! His efforts to be assertive are interrupted (and even negated) by his brother's prank, but it does give a hint that perhaps Arlo has a potential to be brave.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Forrest Woodbrush aka the Pet Collector.
  • Furry Confusion: In particular is that birds seem to be non-anthropomorphic despite being dinosaurs, as well as the fact mammals can't talk so there are no qualms about hunting and eating them. And then there's also the fact pterosaurs are able to speak despite not being dinosaurs.
    • And then there are the "chickens", which have clawed hands and long tails and look quite rather like an Oviraptor, but are portrayed as non-intelligent.
  • Gentle Giant:
    • Arlo, being a sauropod, is a massive, good-natured herbivore.
    • Poppa Henry, Arlo's father, is a better example.
    • The Tyrannosaurus family that Arlo met are actually pleasant creatures.
  • Giant Equals Invincible: Averted:
    • Arlo may be huge, but the world is far bigger, and natural hazards and obstacles will often make him vulnerable.
    • Sadly, the same goes for his Poppa, who may be a giant, but is killed by an even more giant flood...
    • The Tyrannosaurus family are large dinosaurs bigger than Arlo but when fighting the rustler Velociraptors we see even they are vulnerable when an individual Tyrannosaurus is gang attacked by two or more Velociraptors.
  • Goofy Feathered Dinosaur: The only feathered dinosaurs are the raptors going after the T. rex's herd. Although fearsome, they are depicted as goofy rednecks, with their feathered crests resembling mullets.
  • Herbivores Are Friendly: Played pretty straight. Herbivores are described as being the "farmers" of dinosaur society, and Arlo does indeed come from a family of frontier dinos (subsistence farmers). On the other hand, there's mention of "outlaws" such as the Stegosaurus gang Nash fought off. However, the Tyrannosauruses also turn out to be farmers as well...though they don't farm plants, they farm animals.
  • Humans Are Not the Dominant Species: Humans exist but they're more primal and animalistic than modern-day humans. Dinosaurs survived and have gotten to the point where they have cultures, languages, and agricultural abilities.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Spot manages to outfight many creatures that threaten him and Arlo, in contrast to Arlo's more cowardly nature for most of the film.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Arlo faces one of these while rescuing Spot—an inevitability, given that the river is a main story element.
  • In Spite of a Nail: In real life, the reason mammals (and by extension, humans) that we're most familiar with evolved and diversified the way they did during the Cenozoic is because dinosaurs went extinct, as mammals evolved to take over the now unoccupied ecological niches.
  • Intellectual Animal: In the movie, humans don't have the ability to speak, but the dinosaurs and pterosaurs do. Also, the herbivorous dinosaurs farm plants while the carnivores raise livestock.
  • Interspecies Friendship: The film is mostly about the growing friendship between an Apatosaurus and a young human boy.
  • Ironic Echo: Poppa Henry telling Arlo to "take care of the critter [Spot]".
  • Jump Scare: After Arlo catches Spot in a trap for the first time and hides behind tall grass, Spot suddenly lunges at him through the grass from Arlo's view.
  • Kid Hero: Arlo, the lively 11-year-old Apatosaurus with a big heart.
  • Kids' Wilderness Epic: Follows the mold pretty closely, despite the fact that the characters (other than Spot) aren't human.
  • King of the Dinosaurs: Butch and his two children, Nash and Ramsey, are basically Tyrannosaurus cowboys. Butch in particular is depicted as a hardened, but loving father, and teaches Arlo not to let fear control his life.
  • Large Ham: Thunderclap, especially when he starts ranting about the storm.
  • Living Dinosaurs: In this setting the dinosaurs never went extinct.
  • Location Theme Naming: Arlo's name is the Old English word for "hill". As of the film's re-tooling, however, he no longer has siblings whose names fit the theme.
  • Minimalist Cast: The only real main characters are Arlo and Spot, as all other characters only appear for small sections of the story to drive Arlo's character development.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film begins with the birth of Arlo and his siblings.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter:
    • Forrest Woodbrush is a Styracosaurus with the horn arrangements of a Triceratops.
    • Thunderclap has a Nyctosaurus-like crest alongside toothed jaws and wing claws.
    • Many of the non-descript animals display this. Particularly the viper-lizard hybrid.note 
    • The Dimetrodon from one of the deleted scenes has a skull similar to a gorgonopsid's.
  • Mushroom Samba: Arlo and Spot eat rotten fruit that give them hallucinations.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers make it look like the storm that Arlo and Poppa are caught in causes Arlo to wash down the river away from Poppa. Also, it makes it look like Arlo meets Spot after he is far away from home. However what happens in the film is that Arlo encounters Spot before Poppa's death. Spot was a pest eating the family's crops and Poppa tasked Arlo to trap and kill him, but Arlo couldn't bring himself to do it, which prompted a disappointed Poppa take Arlo out to track down Spot and finish the job, where said storm causes the flash flood which kills Poppa. After that tragedy, Arlo blames Spot for Poppa's death and the two get into a scuffle only for both to end up in the river and washed far away from home.
  • No Antagonist: The producers have stated nature is the film's main antagonist, though Thunderclap and his fellow Pterosaurs seem to come close.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • How exactly did Spot, after being carried off by Thunderclap and his Pterosaurs, manage to avoid disappearing down the gullet of one or another of them? All we know is that they're busy tearing apart his hiding place when Arlo finds them again.
    • We also never find out how Spot got separated from his family in the first place.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Arlo gets this reaction upon witnessing Thunderclap devouring a fox-lemur-thing he just helped rescue. He maintains this expression while beginning to realize how dangerous and menacing Thunderclap is.
    • Thunderclap gets this reaction twice during the climax. First when he hears Arlo roar at him. Then when he sees the hole Spot tears in his wing.
  • Parenthetical Swearing: "All right you cluckers!"
  • Parting Words Regret: The last thing Buck does before Henry takes Arlo on that fateful trip is play a mean prank on Arlo and mocking him for being cowardly. When Arlo returns, Buck is really happy to see him.
  • Partially Civilized Animal: The dinosaurs have a society of sorts - Arlo's family run a farm and build simple structures and implements, the Tyrannosaurus herd cattle - but otherwise act and move like animals.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Thunderclap seems to have inadvertently conflated the concepts of revelation and elevation, calling it "relevation".
  • Predators Are Mean: Subverted by the T. rex family, who farm non-sapient bison livestock and show no interest in eating other, civilized dinosaurs. Played straight, however, with Thunderclap's pterosaur flock and Bubbha's Velociraptor pack.
  • Properly Paranoid: Arlo turns out to have every reason to be afraid when his father decides to take him on a dangerous trip in the middle of a storm so that he can not be cowardly.
  • Protagonist Title: Arlo is the titular good dinosaur.
  • Ptero Soarer: Thunderclap bears resemblance to a Nyctosaurus...except that he has teeth, birdlike talons, and wing claws, which Nyctosaurus did not have in real life (especially the wing claws, as nyctosaurids are distinctive for lacking those). The other pterosaurs appear to be Ludodactylus, Caulkicephalus, and Guidraco, which also have birdlike talons. However, the pterosaurs are quadrupedal like in real life, but they walk on their knuckles.
    • Supplementary material simply calls the pterosaurs "pterodactyls". Thankfully, the merchandise also describe them as flying reptiles and one children's coloring book explicitly states they are not dinosaurs.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Pervis! Shut! Yer mouth!"
  • Raptor Attack: The Velociraptor have a patch of feathers on their heads and spines as well as tufts on their legs and at the end of their tails, but they are otherwise scaly and glaringly lack feathers on their arms (the one place on Velociraptor that's known to be plumed). There's also the fact they're much larger than the real animal, as with many portrayals in media. On the other hand, they have proper long and narrow snouts as opposed to the broad Deinonychus-like skulls perpetrated by Jurassic Park.
  • Scenery Porn: The backgrounds are lush and vibrantly rendered to a photo-realistic degree, which of course contrasts heavily with the simple, cartoony design of the characters. In fact, much of it was created through actual geological data of Wyoming and Idaho landscapes, particularly the Tetons and Yellowstone.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: The film features Ludodactylus, Caulkicephalus, Guidraco, and Bison latifrons. Thunderclap resembles a Nyctosaurus, and there's a four-legged snake similar to Tetrapodophis.note 
  • Shark Fin of Doom: Inverted, literally. The second time the pterosaurs appear, it's with their mouths sticking out of the clouds just like this trope, except upside down.
  • Shoo the Dog: At the end, Arlo encourages Spot to go with a family of cave-people rather than go back to Arlo's family farm.
  • Shout-Out: The first time Arlo meets the Velociraptors, they're lurking in tall grass.
  • Silence Is Golden: When Arlo and Spot (who can't talk) are alone, the movie can go for long stretches without any dialogue.
  • The Smurfette Principle: There are three T. rexes, four Velociraptors, and five pterosaurs, with one female in each group.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: What ordinarily would be a case of Artistic License – Paleontology is subverted by the premise of the film: set in an alternate universe, where the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct. All named dinosaur characters belong to the well-known genera: Arlo and his family are Apatosaurus, Forrest Woodbrush is a Styracosaurus, the cattle rustlers are Velociraptor, and the cattle rancher family are Tyrannosaurus rex. Parasaurolophus make cameo appearances in the opening, and the tie-in toy line features Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Ankylosaurus (which were planned to appear in the movie, but were cut out during the revision). The pterosaurs on the other hand avert this, being based on obscure genera such as Guidraco and Caulkicephalus. Deleted scenes also include the temporally misplaced Non-Dinosaur Dimetrodon, but one possessing mammalian traits like fur and visible ears and serving as the setting's analog to wolves or coyotes.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Thunderclap and his gang definitely qualify. Justified in that the lot of them are Ax-Crazy.
  • This Is My Human: During his travels through the wilderness, Arlo gains an unlikely companion. A small, but feisty orphan human. He's utterly alone in the world. Humans have only started to emerge in the world, they haven't evolved to the point where they're capable of communicating beyond yells, grunts and cries. Arlo ends up adopting the little boy, and names him "Spot".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Your son is Cowardly Lion in that he tries to do his chores but keeps getting scared, due to the hens attacking him. So you think that the best thing to do is to toughen him up by having him kill a pest. Then when that fails, you take him into a treacherous storm to help him conquer his fears. It's no surprise that Papa Henry gets killed.
  • Truth in Television: Henry and Ida are loving parents, but their children appear to have been partially born out of a need for help around the farm; one of the first things they do is show their newborn children the property and explain that they'll all be taking care of it together. It seems a little utilitarian, but this was par the course for homesteaders.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The only female on Arlo's family are the mother and the eldest child.
  • The Western: With dinosaurs!
  • Wham Line: After listening to Butch's story about the time he fought off attacking crocodiles:
    Arlo: You guys would have liked my Poppa. He wasn't scared of anything. I'm done being scared.
    Butch: Who said I'm not scared?
  • Wham Shot: After Arlo helps Thunderclap free a cute raccoon-looking thing that was trapped after the storm, Thunderclap promptly eats the poor thing alive, showing that he's NOT the friendly search-and-rescue guy he claimed to be.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: At one point Spot attempts to bring Arlo random things to eat, one of which is a lizard that's still alive and a giant beetle that's still alive. The lizard looks about as cartoony as everyone else and Spot promptly tosses it away. The beetle looks like an actual photorealistic beetle, and Spot promptly rips its head off. Onscreen.
    • Two more insects are later eaten onscreen, played for laughs. When a big-eyed, fluffy critter resembling a raccoon or a lemur is eaten onscreen, it's played for horror.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: What Arlo ultimately learns in the course of his adventure.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Arlo says this twice to Spot when he is meeting him again until they befriend each other.


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