- Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton (Leighton’s Directorial Debut)
- May 19, 2000
- Aladar-D. B. Sweeney
- Plio-Alfre Woodard
- Yar-Ossie Davis
- Zini-Max Casella
- Suri-Hayden Panettiere
- Kron-Samuel E. Wright
- Neera-Julianna Margulies
- Bruton-Peter Siragusa
- Baylene-Joan Plowright
- Eema-Della Reese
When a catastrophic event destroys his island home a young iguanodon and his adoptive lemur family must take a perilous journey to safety.
I had not seen Disney’s Dinosaur since shortly after it came out on VHS cassette. I remember being impressed by its visuals as well as finding it thoroughly enjoyable so seeking an animated Disney film to watch I decided to queue this up on Disney+. And I must say it is still as good as I remember.
It follows young iguanodon Aladar as he tries to get his friends and family to safety after a catastrophic event while being pursued by vicious predators. Aladar is an outsider before birth having found himself prior to hatching separated from his species and on a small island populated by lemurs who take him in as one of their own.
This is a simple survival story. But it’s also married with a narrative of working together as well as friendship. After the cosmic impact Aladar and the lemurs stumble upon a large herd of various dinosaurs traveling to the meeting grounds. Am I picking up shades of The Land Before Time in this? And truthfully, in broad strokes, this does feel a lot like The Land Before Time. That’s not a detraction from this movie but does make it a bit derivative.
Dinosaur is a fun adventure film with something to teach below the surface. Or several somethings. One is working together is best and that an authoritarian approach is bad. That and family is where you find it and not necessarily among blood, or even those who look like you. One could also look at Aladar stepping up to the challenge and becoming a leader while also finding his place in the world. Pretty good stuff for what on the surface is a children’s film.
The herd that Aladar and the lemurs hook up with is led by Kron who is a bit of a Darwinist (before Darwin) and has little regard for helping the weak. Whether it’s meant as a message or not, Kron’s pigheadedness and certainty that he is always right leads to his downfall. Rather than learn a lesson and be humbled, he gets killed by the threat of this film. Being that this is a children’s movie I think it would’ve been better if he had been humbled. I took him more as tough and hard but not necessarily evil. He just saw no other way for things to be with his survival of the fittest mentality. I think his disposition was ultimately a bit excessive.
For his part Aladar demonstrates a clear alternative to Kron. He analyses the situation and looks for alternatives. He cares about all and works to ensure the survival of everyone. Kron does not. He lets the weak fall behind and become victims of predators or simply die.
Disney films often have romances that more or less come out of left field. There may be a meet cute but rarely anything gets built up. And this is no different. To make things complicated though she’s the sister of the leader of the herd who has taken an instant disliking to Aladar. Neera initially thinks Aladar is a bit of a jerk but clearly warms up to him by the time her brother croaks. Of note is that Neera is an iguanodon like Aladar while Kron is an altirhinus. They never explain how they are connected though one could assume they stumbled together in a fashion to Aladar and the lemurs.
I wish the Aladar/Neera romance had been built up a little bit better. I’m not talking too complicated since this is for children but maybe more instances than the meet cute and one good scene. Neera as a character is a part of things but her existence does not strongly factor into the narrative of the rivalry.
This is a heavy amount of CGI that looks to be married at points with real world footage. And as CGI goes it has not aged too poorly. Here and there it looks a little flat but overall it’s still pretty good. This clearly took a page from the earlier documentary Walking with Dinosaurs in that which gives a depth of realism to the animation you are watching that would be otherwise missing if it all were fake.
With some stunning visuals and plenty of exciting sequences, this will surely keep the kids entertained. And with its humor and just well-done script that’s focused on story and not fluff the adults will like it too. Everything is focused towards building the narrative to the to the end.
With the CGI that still looks pretty good, Disney’s Dinosaur is a fun and entertaining animated feature that will appeal to children and adults alike. If you are looking for something good on Disney+ this is most certainly one of your better choices.