51 Days of Disney (Day 39): Dinosaur

Some major changes were starting to happen at Walt Disney Feature Animation, and the first major change came in the form of the second of three films to be released in the year 2000, Dinosaur.

A number of Carnotaurs attack a herd of various herbovoric dinosaurs and the herds flee leaving their eggs unattended. An Oviraptor steals the egg and tries to break it open to get at the tasty insides, but the egg falls into a river when another Oviraptor tries to take it from the first one. A Pteranodon takes the egg to it’s nest on Lemur Island where it is found by a lemur named Yar. Yar doesn’t want to keep the newly hatched Iguanodon, but his daughter Plio keeps him and names him Aladar.

Aladar grows up on Lemur Island with his adoptive brother, Zini, and sister, Suri (voiced by Hayden Penettiere, fresh off her voicing of Dot in a bug’s life), but the family is forced to leave the island when a meteor destroys the island and they are forced to move. They eventually find a herd of dinosaurs led by iguanodons Kron and Bruton. Kron believes with all of his heart the idea of survival of the fittest, only the strong gain his respect and are able to keep up with him while the slowest and oldest are forced to attempt to keep up with his pace, but many do not make it. Kron’s sister Neera attempts to get her brother to stop to let the oldest dinosaurs catch up, but her pleas sometimes fall upon deaf ears. Aladar immediately befriends a Brachiosaurus named Baylene, a Styracosaurus named Eema, and an Ankylosaurus named Earl. The three are relegated to the back of the pack because they are old and slower than the rest of the herd.

After a few days of walking, two Carnotaurs start stalking the herd, but the herd is none the wiser. Eventually, they reach the theoretical lake that they were searching for, but find that the lake as long since dried up. Kron sends Bruton and a scout to check the entire perimeter of the empty lake bed for any sight of water, but decides to have the entire herd just move on to the nesting grounds that may have suffered the same fate as the lake. When Baylene steps on the dry lakebed, she cracks the ground and Aladar hears some water flowing underneath her. He starts digging and finds an underground lake. Kron forces the elderly out of the way as so that he can drink his fill. Meanwhile, Bruton and the scout get attacked by the Carnotaurs, but Bruton survives. The scout was not so lucky. The Carnotaurs eventually find the herd and Kron makes them all move out of the area quickly,  Aladar protests, but Kron will have nothing to do with the young Iguanodon and Aladar decides to stay behind with Baylene, Eema, and Earl.

That night, the group stumbles upon Bruton who was injured when the Carnotaurs attacked. The overly proud Iguanodon initially doesn’t want any help, but ends up following Aladar and his friends as they retreat to the safety of a nearby cave. Later that night, the Carnotaurs find the group and they flee farther into the cave. Will they survive? Will they meet back up with the herd? Will the herd finally get to the nesting grounds?

Dinosaur was the first film made at Walt Disney Feature Animation to be completely made in CG and it looks amazing. You can see each individual scale on all of the dinosaurs and they all move like how their real life counterparts would move, the only problem is the dinosaurs just don’t seem to have the weight that they should when they walk. The earth doesn’t really move that much under their feet unless it is supposed to in the confines of the story. The fact that this doesn’t happen somewhat pulls you out of the experience, life-like dinosaurs or not, if the world around them doesn’t react in a believable way, the dinosaurs are not believable. The backgrounds look amazing, but they were done through filming real life locations and overlaying the animated characters over the footage. The problem with this is that while the backgrounds look as good as the characters, the real life locations are what cause the characters weight to not look right.

The film was originally going to not have the characters speak, and I feel like it would have been better off that way. The choice was made for the characters to not speak in order to differentiate the film from Don Bluth’s Land Before Time, but Michael Eisner decided to change it because he felt like the film would not be “commercially viable”. I’m not saying that the writing or the voice acting is bad per sey, it just feels kind of forced. The first five or so minutes of the film do not have characters interacting with each other in English, just roars and other noises and it is one of the strongest parts of the film. You are able to perceive everything you need to know through their actions and reactions. It’s very much like the first 45 minutes of Wall-e in that regard. The amazing sound design of the film could have been shown off much better if the characters had not spoken. James Newton Howard wrote the music for the film and provided it with a sweeping orchestral score that sets the epic nature of a world inhabited by dinosaurs. The score can be best described as being similar to John Williams’ score for Jurassic Park.

When the Animal Kingdom park was being built, Disney was faced with a predicament in the form of two lands needing to be built, but only enough money to build one. Dinoland USA and Beastly Kingdom were both slated to be part of the park on opening day, but there was only enough money for one to be built. The plan was to build one, and build the other at a later date, but that unfortunately did not happen. Dinoland  USA and it’s flagship attraction, the then titled Countdown to Extinction, were pushed forward in the queue for construction due to the upcoming release date for Dinosaur leaving the land devoted to creatures of fantasy in a realm of fantasy contained on the drawing board.

Countdown to Extinction is the Walt Disney World version of the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction at Disneyland. The two use the same exact ride system and even have the same track layout, but that is a topic for a time after the 51 Days of Disney are over. The ride was renamed Dinosaur in 2000 when the film was released and a number of changes were made to the ride to make it less scary and to make it tie in slightly more to the film.

Dinosaur is okay, just okay. The film would have been better if Eisner had not messed with it to make it theoretically make more money (which it did not do) and it changed one of my favourite rides at Walt Disney World for the worse (but once again, different topic for a different day).

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you for the post, my eight year old wants to see this movie. I have been reading posts and reviews about the movies before I see them since my bad experience with Yogi Bear.

    Zach

    Reply

    • Yeah, checking reviews before watching something is usually a very good idea. Dinosaur isn’t a bad movie and your eight-year-old should enjoy it just as long as he isn’t afraid of dinosaurs.

      Reply

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