Disney•Pixar’s THE GOOD DINOSAUR is the story of a boy and his dinosaur, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking. In the Disney tradition, there are layers of story and nuance to give it a broad appeal, from children to adults. For more photos, news, and behind the scenes information on Disney•Pixar’s newest film, click here. Continue reading for more details in our full spoiler-free THE GOOD DINOSAUR review.
Disney•Pixar’s THE GOOD DINOSAUR imagines how life would have been if the asteroid had missed the earth 65 million years ago, allowing all dinosaurs to continue their evolutionary arcs, rather than decimating them before humans came on the scene. Arlo is our hero and we first meet him when he hatches, along with his brother, Buck, and sister, Libby. Each of the baby dinosaurs’ personalities are revealed as they hatch. Libby, the first to hatch, is clever; Buck, the next to hatch, is strong; and Arlo, the last to hatch, is the runt and a “coward,” according to Buck. He’s even afraid of the chickens that he tends for the family farm, while everyone else works the fields.
The story of THE GOOD DINOSAUR is a typical journey/quest tale, following Arlo as he tries to get back to his family after getting lost. Arlo’s physical journey home becomes his quest to lose his fear. Along the way, he finds Spot, a critter who bonds with him and cares for him when he’s in need, bringing him food; fighting off predators; providing companionship, etc. While lost, Arlo runs into several different dinosaur types, from the gentle to the vicious. The creators made clever matches between the types of dinosaurs and their evolved positions in society. My favorite are the T-Rexes (Sam Elliott as Butch was perfect!). Their profession was surprising, at first, but made all kinds of sense when I saw them in action.
The dinosaurs aren’t the only clever characterizations. Spot is delightful. He’s fierce and loyal, the perfect companion. He’s also adorable, all big-eyed and bushy-haired. The scenes between Arlo and Spot are sweet and funny and familiar. They are interactions we can all relate to, despite involving a dinosaur boy and his pet, especially the scenes where one comforts the other.
The real beauty of THE GOOD DINOSAUR is in the scenery against which Arlo’s story takes place. It’s truly breathtaking. It’s so realistic, there were times I wasn’t sure if the animation were superimposed on actual footage of the Great Plains. Arlo, having been taken away from his home, the farm, fights nature as well as himself, from the unfamiliar terrain to the trees and the animals he encounters. Massive thunderstorms, another weapon of nature, seem to be physical manifestations of Arlo’s fear and, therefore, another obstacle for him to overcome both physically and mentally. A counterpoint to the frightening aspects of nature is the beauty, especially the firefly scenes.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR’s main message seems to be “make your mark” by “doing something bigger than you are.” It’s true that Arlo is doing just that throughout his journey, but family is a very strong sub-theme. On this note, there is no final scene after the credits, but there is a sweet tribute that’s worth the wait. Additionally, Arlo faces his fears over and over again, a good lesson for young children – for all of us, really.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR has humor and heart. I was beginning to think this would be the first Pixar movie I didn’t cry in, but they got me and not when I expected it, which made it more touching. The movie goes to a black screen more than once and each time, the children in the audience cried out – not in annoyance or fear, but in ways that showed they were captivated and engaged, responding to what had happened immediately before the black screen. I might have done the same, too, if I weren’t an adult or if I were watching on DVD at home. The end of the movie was strangely abrupt. It felt like something was missing and that a bow was being tied hastily, leaving a loose end flapping around somewhere. The title is a bit of a disconnect for me, too. It seems to imply that most dinosaurs aren’t good and Arlo is THE good dinosaur, but that’s not how dinosaurs are presented in the movie. I’m not sure what I would have called it instead. If you agree with me, after you’ve seen it, leave a comment below with what you think it should be named.
The Pixar Short: SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM
SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM is stunning. A bored little boy’s interaction with his father during a religious ritual leads to the most beautiful animation I’ve seen all year. The colors are vibrant and modern, even retro. The story is an interesting insight on a child’s perspective of religion and boredom. The struggle is all with Sanjay – his father has seemingly boundless patience. Children will be drawn to the images and parents will identify with the theme, so it has appeal for a wide age range. Click here for more on SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM.