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Dinosaur is a film with an interesting place in Disney's history. It was Disney's first attempt at a CGI film since Pixar came on the scene with Toy Story. Not only that, it was an blend of live-action scenery and CGI characters, like Walking with Dinosaurs. So, does this animated experiment really work?
To put it simply, Dinosaur is not a spectacularly good film. It is largely average, brought down mainly by the characters. They are simply blandly written. Aladar is basically like every other generic film hero, aside from the whole dinosaur thing; the lemurs are incredibly forgettable, being dwarfed by the dinosaurs; and everyone else is generally one-note and just sort of exists to do things when needed to (although Baylene's response to Aladar's Heroic BSOD moment was a tentative glimpse of what might have been). I do find it interesting, though, that the villain, Kron, is motivated in his leadership of the herd by a sense of social Darwinism. While this was likely used to invoke the nature of prehistoric times, it seems to be kind of heavy stuff for the demographic this film was aimed at.
The plot, similarly, is generic, bare-bones heroes journey stuff. It just sort of happens without being overly engaging, so you get to the end of the film and realise that somehow an hour or so has gone by without much happening within it. There's also the whole Land Before Time ripoff thing levelled at the film, but I haven't seen that in ages, so I won't comment.
So what saves the film from being totally average? Its aesthetics, that's what. The CGI is extremely pretty, even if the uncanny valley rears its head sometimes due to the cartoonish look of some characters clashing badly with the other photorealistic dinosaurs. The blend of animation and live-action also works very well without resorting to puppetry to show closeups. Finally, the score is absolutely wonderful, and I highly recommend you check it out. Tribal music seems to be the default for dinosaurs nowadays, but it just works so well here that I have no problems with it.
Dinosaur is a film that works more as a curiosity than an actual film. Representing Disney's first foray into CGI films, it doesn't capture the same magic as Pixar's films do, thanks to bland writing, but its incredible aesthetics saves it from total extinction.
It's really tough to think of something nice to say about this movie, other than that the visuals and music are unbelievable. Believe me, they are.
When I watched Dinosaur as a kid, I never took too much issue with it. I thought it was exciting, and a good story. But I also always thought it dragged a little and took a bit too long.
Looking back at it as a cynical semi-adult, every mistake it makes becomes so much clearer. There is no originality to the story: it's all been done to death. Done. To. Death.
That wouldn't be an issue if there was anything actually interesting going on. But no, there isn't. Every one of these characters, you've seen before somewhere. The Hero in his blandest and most basic form. The Chick doing nothing useful. The gruff Anti Hero being a Social Darwinist. You ought to be sighing at the thought of sitting through predictable conflict after conflict. To add insult to injury, the script is loaded with words and expressions that were "modern" in 2000 (the time of release), meaning that it all becomes very corny and very dated.
The one thing the movie does do right (apart from again, visuals and music) is the group of Cool Old Ladies. Because they're genuinely cool, and they're the only character you have some semblance of a care for.
In conclusion, go watch this movie - but only for what you see. The meteorite impacting the sea? A Crowning Moment Of Awesome. The moment the characters open their mouths and begin to utter Totally Radical late 90s-early noughties slang? You're guaranteed to cringe. So, if you're going for story, don't waste your time and just watch The Land Before Time again.
This is one of my favorite films as far as Disney is concerned. The animation is gorgeous and the score is great as well. The story may be typical hero's journey fare but it serves its purpose. The characters are voiced nicely. True, there are some lines that are cheesy (mainly from Zini) but they earn a laugh or two. What sells this movie is the visuals and Disney delivers in spades. The visuals in this film could actually rival some of Pixar's best here and there.
I love this movie as both a dinosaur fan and because it is a underappriciated work. I recommend this one as a good one to watch when you crave a Dinosaur fix. :)
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