Unlike the name of this blog, the 2000s were not a very happy place for the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Only 2 films came out with a profit, but none were very memorable… 2000’s Dinosaur being the most forgotten. It seemed like it was bound for greatness, a CGI dino flick with Disney’s name on the front…what could go wrong? But after a relatively lackluster box office life (especially as the most expensive animated movie at the time), people just forgot. They forgot the incredible score. They forgot the gorgeous animation (which for CGI, stills holds up amazingly well today).
Dinosaur was pretty much extinct.
If you haven’t guessed yet, Dinosaur is one of my favorites. When I tell people this, I get the “is-that-really-a-Disney-movie?” look. The amount of people that have never seen this movie is staggering… something that needs to be changed immediately.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the title (shame on you!), let me give you a brief synopsis. Aladar is a baby dinosaur with a very Tarzan-esque childhood, being brought up by a family of lemurs. After a meteor shower destroys his land and most of his lemur group, he and his family set out to find new land and new creatures. They come across a Dinosaur herd, heading towards the “Nesting Grounds” (which they hope still stands after the catastrophic situation). Aladar becomes friends with a couple of older dinosaurs which are looked upon as “dead meat” by the group’s leader, Kron. After some fights with a Carnotarus, a cave escape mission and a search for water… multiple dinosaurs die, relationships are born, and friends will be made.
I know what you are thinking… it sounds kind of “same old, same old”. And while yes, I will agree that the story sounds a little “eh” on paper — but, trust me, translated on the screen, it becomes glorious. I am not saying that it is Best Picture Oscar-worthy, but it is still a fantastic film and breaks the barrier of what can and cannot be featured in a family film.
Disney has been making films for years where they mix live-action and animation into one seamless shot, but that technique is enhanced in this film. The backgrounds are all live-action shots, taken in various places across the globe. The beginning starts off well with the effect, but 5 minutes in, when a Pterodactyl flies through valleys and waterfalls, the two shots become one.
In a word? Astounding.
Now you are probably thinking “You know what, I have seen that movie! There is that blue green dinosaur! And the scientist! And you go through the toaster!” You are mistaken; close, but still mistaken. After the movie premiered, Disney’s Animal Kingdom renamed its “Countdown to Extinction” attraction to the more “simplified” name, “Dinosaur”. Also included with the rename were some small detail changes in the ride and a statue of Aladar placed out in front of the attraction. They were lucky the two starring dinosaurs of the ride, a Carnotarus and an Iguanadon, were the two main characters in the film!
Not only should you immediately watch the movie for the whole package, but some smaller details are great as well. The score, written by James Newton Howard (he also wrote the scores to the other Disney films Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire) is incredible, a very tribal sound throughout. An instrumental piece in the film titled “The Egg Travels” swells at just the right points, bringing the goosebumps up and your mouth down (get it? jaw dropping…?).
I’m not sure if it is already, but that score should be played in Animal Kingdom. It is just that good. Secondly, the voice cast is pretty spectacular. Della Reese plays my favorite character in the film, Eema. You might recognize her name from her starring role on the CBS hit TV series “Touched by an Angel” (or for her killer guest role on “That’s So Raven”…doo wop doo wop!). Juliana Margulies, Alfre Woodard and Hayden Panettiere also make up some of the wonderful cast. (D.B. Sweeney voiced Aladar, but do you know what his job is now…OFFICIAL VOICEOVER ARTIST FOR THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK! Now THAT is a wide body of work!)
You may have forgotten about Dinosaur, like many, and it may be on your “I need to watch that someday” list, but maybe “someday” should be this weekend. Rent the DVD, grab a bag of popcorn and the entire family and bring them into the living room to watch a Disney film that should be considered a modern classic.
P.S. If they brought Lucky the Dinosaur back to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and made him Aladar… I wouldn’t mind!