Monday, December 8, 2014


RELEASE DATE: Friday 19th May, 2000

The '90s was a huge time for animation, and a lot of advancements happened in a very short space of time. Disney's "Renaissance," the magical run of brilliant animated features, went the whole way through the '90s. But a new player on the block soon appeared, which forced Disney to reevaluate how they did business. In 1995 Pixar changed the way the world viewed animation with Toy Story. It was an enormous success, and Pixar's successes would soon rival Disney's, even though they were technically produced by the same people. Dreamworks would later have a huge hit with its Shrek franchise. It soon became apparent that audiences loved computer animation, and it was only a matter of time before Disney got into it.

In 1993 Jurassic Park proved that realistic dinosaurs could be shown, opening up a world of possibilities. For the first time, we didn't have to imagine what real dinosaurs might look like, we could see entirely realistic portrayals right in front of us. In 1999, the BBC created the "Walking With Dinosaurs" T.V. series which was adored by dinosaur lovers for its authentic look at what life might have been like before humans were anywhere near existence.

Then in 2000, a Disney studio called "The Secret Lab" used similar technology, placing animated dinosaurs against real locations, and created a story with them. The result was simply called Dinosaur, and it was a hit.

The opening sequence of the movie, which also served as the theatrical trailer, sees a mother Iguanodon looking after her nest. Unfortunately a Carnotaur attacks and one of the eggs is separated. It gets passed from dinosaur to dinosaur before being picked up by a Pterodactyl and eventually dropped in the jungle.

A family of lemurs find the egg, and when it hatches they decide to keep the baby dinosaur and look after it themselves. They call him Aladar.

Some years later, Aladar watches with interest while the lemurs take part in their mating ritual. His awkward and ugly friend Zini fails to attract a mate, and Aladar begins to feel a bit lonely, being the only dinosaur in the tribe.

All of a sudden asteroids fall from the sky. Aladar grabs his family and attempts to escape the carnage.

With their home destroyed by the asteroid's devastation, Aladar and the lemurs are now refugees. They soon join up with a huge pack of dinosaurs in a similar situation, all heading towards the nesting grounds. The pack is being headed by a team of Iguanadons: the leader Kron, his sister Neera and the second-in-command Bruton. Aladar makes friends with the dinosaurs at the back of the pack, namely Baylene the enormous Brachiosaurus and Eema the Styracosaurus. Both of them are old and have trouble keeping up with the pack's pace.

When they reach the lake where they are promised water, they find it bone dry. As the herd begins to move on again, Aladar discovers - with the help of Baylene's huge feet - that there is some water, but it's hiding beneath the surface.

Neera, who had originally thought that Aladar was a "jerk-a-saurus," begins to like him. The two get closer and become friends, much to the annoyance of her brother.

Unwilling to leave his elderly friends, Aladar is soon left behind with them. They take shelter in a cave and find an injured Bruton. He cannot understand Aladar's loyalty and refusal to accept the "survival of the fittest" reality. Two Carnotaurs come to the cave overnight. In a rare moment of selflessness, Bruton sacrifices himself in order for the others to remain safe in the cave.

The following day, the cave-dwellers realise that if they can break through the back wall of the cave, they will be in the nesting grounds. So the ones who got left behind ended up being the first ones at the destination!

Aladar races back to tell the rest of the pack about the secret entrance. Meanwhile, Kron has led them to the valley wall, but the way is blocked. Aladar tells him to turn the pack around, but he will not listen. The Carnataurs arrive, but Aladar convinces the other dinosaurs to stand their ground and push the monsters back.

Kron dies, and the pack finally arrives at the nesting grounds to live happily ever after... until a much bigger asteroid hits, I suppose... Some time later, Aladar and Neera have a baby... And so the great Circle of Life continu... wait, what...?

IRVYNE: For a company that has always prided itself on storytelling and memorable characters, Dinosaur is hugely disappointing and entirely unsatisfactory. The characters are bland and two-dimensional. Aladar and Neera are absolutely standard heroes, the lemurs serve no real plot purpose at all, and Kron and Bruton are just generic bullies. The only characters I actually feel something for in this movies are the two old ladies, Baylene and Eema.

The story is also generic, taking many plot points directly from The Land Before Time and The Lion King. To be fair, the opening scene is pretty awesome. I can remember watching that trailer over and over again, convinced that Dinosaur was going to be the Next Big Thing. With James Newton Howard's stirring score soaring as the Pterodactyl flies over the herds of dinosaurs, it felt like something that had never been seen before... Then the animals opened their damn mouths.
Apparently in the original treatment, the characters weren't going to talk; it was going to be narrated a la Walking With Dinosaurs. But Michael Eisner insisted that they speak, since he thought it needed to appeal to children.

That in itself is a very interesting thought - who the heck is this movie aimed at? It's way too dark and violent for young children, and yet the plot is not entertaining enough for adults.

As a Disney film, Dinosaur is a mess. Its characters are instantly forgettable, as is the story. The only plot aspect that is remotely clever is the concept of the "left-behind" group being the ones who get to the destination first, thereby disproving the idea of "survival of the fittest." I do like that.

I will give the artists props; they pulled off what they were trying to do. The C.G. characters do blend in well with the real-world backgrounds. And for the most part, the animation is quite realistic and believable.

But with characters who are dinosaurs, it's very difficult to put any substantial character into their design without looking too "cartoony." And since they were going for a very realistic look in this film, they really couldn't go much past "generic Iguanadon design number one."

There's another thing that I loathe about this film's design, and that is its horrid lack of colour! Once the meteor hits, you might as well watch the movie in black and white until they reach the nesting grounds at the end. Again, I understand it was a conscious choice; they wanted to show the desolate landscape that the dinosaurs were travelling through. But when you match a dull story with really dull scenery, it only amplifies the problem.

If you have the Disney Animated iPad App (and if you don't, get it now, it's awesome) one of the coolest features is the "colour maps" page, where you can see the use of colour in every animated movie in the Disney canon. Have a look at all of the colours used in Dinosaur.

Brown, grey, a little bit of blue and green... Really dull, muted colours. Now compare that to, say, Aladdin.

I think I may have made an error earlier when I claimed that The Black Cauldron was the only Disney film without any singing. (Internet, you have FAILED me!) There are NO songs in Dinosaur. Not even over the end credits.

The score was written by James Newton Howard, a Hollywood legend who would go on to write the scores to Atlantis and Treasure Planet after this. The Dinosaur score is quite decent, with the main theme being a memorable melody. It does all sound a bit "Generic Hollywood" in parts, but the soundtrack is probably one of the more redeeming features of this movie.

Not only does Dinosaur fail the test of time, it really wasn't a very good movie to begin with. I can see why it was popular 14 years ago: C.G.I. was still a novelty, as were realistically animated dinosaurs. But none of this excuses the sloppy storytelling, the cardboard characters and the dull and bland visuals. This is NOT what Disney is supposed to be!

PASCAL: DIE, no saur!! This is without a doubt the WORST Disney movie so far. It's so bad, I couldn't even fall asleep while watching it!

WENDY: Wow, that's saying something... At least I think it is...

HAKU: "(The Disney artists) were so preoccupied with whether or not they COULD, that they didn't stop to think if they SHOULD." - Dr. Ian Malcolm
IRVYNE: Ha! That quote is so appropriate for this movie on so many levels!

HAKU: There's nothing interesting about any single character in this entire film!

WENDY: I didn't care about any of them.

HAKU: For this to be right next to The Emperor's New Groove, which is ALL about character, Dinosaur comes across as really boring!

IRVYNE: You're right, you couldn't find two more opposite films!

PASCAL: The story is so slow and so boring!

WENDY: It's almost as boring as the dinosaur segment in Fantasia.

IRVYNE: I'd prefer to watch Rite of Spring over this movie any day! It amazes me how much of the story is ripped straight out of other movies. You've got the Lion King at the end, you've got the discovery of the dinosaur egg where the dialogue is almost straight out of Tarzan: "We can't keep it, it's not our kind." "No, it's my new baby and I'm going to raise it as one of us." And don't even get me started on the whole Land Before Time comparison!

WENDY: I'm a bit upset that the Ankylosaurus is just a pet; essentially a dog... or maybe just a mentally deficient friend.

IRVYNE: Yeah, it's bizarre double-standards that SOME dinosaurs can speak, but the Velociraptors and Carnataurs never say anything. They're just seen as "monsters."

PASCAL: Why are the baddies Carnotaurs? Why not just put in a Tyrannosaurus Rex?

IRVYNE: I suppose they figured that everybody had seen enough Tyrannosaurs in movies.

SHENZI: I don't think the C.G. is very good, actually.

IRVYNE: You do have to cut them a bit of slack; this was Disney's first C.G. movie.

HAKU: It would have been made with a lot of experimentation. You need to have movies like this to pave the way for future projects. This was the stepping stone to where we are now, where C.G. is seamlessly integrated into real-life footage.

PASCAL: So what do you think they were trying to prove technically?

IRVYNE: That they could do it! And to be fair, they succeeded in that regard. Yes, you can make a movie with realistic-looking C.G. dinosaurs. Congratulations.

HAKU: It's just a shame that the film's creators were so absorbed by all the tech stuff, they completely forgot to include a compelling story with interesting characters. 

IRVYNE: So, do we like this one? Put it at the top of the list?

PASCAL: NO! It's at the bottom! Rock bottom of my list!

IRVYNE: We were only about five minutes in when you said, "Can we just turn it off, and SAY that we watched it?"

HAKU: I'd probably put this on par with Swiss Family Robinson for the worst film we've watched this year. But when it comes down to it, I think I had more fun with Swiss Family Robinson, because we laughed a lot at how terrible it was.

IRVYNE: That's right, we laughed the whole way through it because it was so offensively bad. There really isn't anything to laugh at in Dinosaur.

HAKU: I think it would be better if the film ended when the asteroid comes down. "And they all died. The end."

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