Dinosaur is a combination of utter commitment to realism and utter abandonment of it. Itís a strange and curious mix. Why bother with one if youíre going to have the other? I mean if youíre going to have them talking why not have them wearing backward baseball caps and hanging out with Jar Jar Binks?I enjoyed Dinosaur - it was high quality filmmaking and sets new standards in the craft. I didnít hate that they were talking per se and the film looks great.
However there were some strange decisions made in this film - None of which matters if you just want to entertain kids, but Iím going to talk about it anyway because I think the film could have been better.
Itís not that they were talking - it was what they were saying. Saying things like "woah," and, "hey." Did Disney have to do that? The dialogue and the talking isnít that bad since you know itís coming, but there are nevertheless some strange and annoying choices of words and the type of voices used.
Then there were the skin tones. Skin colouring for dinosaurs is pure guesswork. There is reasonable evidence of skin shape and texture, but colouration is anyoneís guess and is up to the artist to make the decision. In Jurassic Park they went for basic black/grey for the tyrannosaurus rex and the Ďraptors. The colour was just right because it made them look so *mean*. In Walking With Dinosaurs there was a bit more adventurousness with subtle shadings and even stripes - A reasonable assumption; Todayís reptiles are multi-coloured and it looked convincing.
In Dinosaur, Disney uses pastel shadings and tones on the iguanodons.
Whose idea was that!?
Itís an example of the mixing up cuteness for entertainmentís sake with realism. Itís rather befuddling.
During Dinosaurís scenes set in darkness the pastels were turned down and here the film is much more effective.
Disney is at its best when itís trying to scare the nappies off the kids. In both the original and new versions of Fantasia the scary bits are the highlights. Most notably the nightmarish sorcererís apprentice sequence where that lazy bum of a rodent sets upon an out of control broom with an axe.
So in Dinosaur itís the scary bits that are best. Mostly set in darkness or low light when the dinosaurs donít look quite so cute and they set upon trying to eat each other. I heard one kid say, "Is that dinosaur going to wake up Mummy?" To which I wanted to reply, "NO. Itís DEAD and it's going to HELL!"
Kids love being scared - or more to the point, kids like surviving scary things. Why else is R.L. Stine so popular? At the time of the scary bit they donít like it, but afterwards they get a kick out still being alive and want to do it again.
Disney prided itself in the effort it went to in creating realistic grass. Fantastic. 10 out of 10 for effort. The grass helped the sense of oasis-ness for the destination of the dinosaurs. Only thing is there was no grass during the Cretaceous period. None. Zip.
According to Walking With Dinosaur there is no fossil record of grass to well after the dinosaursí extinction. So why did Disney put in grass? Lack of research or for dramatic effect? If itís the former it is sloppy. If itís the latter then again I ask why bother? Itís just not necessary and just adds to the crazy mix of realism and abandonment of realism that seems to go further than just getting them to talk.
Deserts? There are deserts in the film as well - didnít the whole planet have a tropical/sub tropical feel to it during that time?
So was all this reality twisting with the talking and other things really necessary? Was it needed to tell a story?
In Walking With Dinosaurs there was plenty of story telling and drama going on in each episode. There was some liberty taken in setting up those stories (which the program has been criticised), but there wasnít a complete neglect of a sense of realism. Walking With Dinosaurs showed that there did not have to be a complete disregard for realism to successfully tell a story.
So Dinosaurís reality twisting wasnít really necessary.This abandonment of realism did not have to be done to still have the film achieve its primary goal: to be entertaining for children (and adults) while achieving photo-realism. If the twisting wasnít done it would have been an even better film. Thereís nothing wrong with wanting something to be better, and Dinosaur definitely could have been better.