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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.66%
Worth A Look: 24.05%
Pretty Bad: 2.53%
Total Crap: 7.59%

7 reviews, 37 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Simple Story Can't Take Away from Extraordinary Visual Achievement"
4 stars

Dinosaur is one the greatest visual achievements in the history of cinema. Not a single frame is wasted in the combination of state-of-the-art computer animation and digitally enhanced live-action backgrounds, adding another dimension in the era of Jurassic Park. The moment in that film when we first see the Brachiosaurus picking off leaves still remains as one of the greatest singular moments I have ever witnessed on film. Stretch that moment into 84 minutes and you begin to understand the beauty of Dinosaur, an amazing movie with only a simple story that prevents it from becoming the true classic it deserves to be.

The story begins when the last surviving egg of a Carnotaur attack is picked up and transported, in glorious fashion, to the nesting ground of a family of Lemurs. In true Lion King and Tarzan fashion, little Aladar (voiced by D.B. Sweeney) is taken in, after some brief doubts by the father figure, Yar (Ossie Davis). Progressing instantly from cute baby to giant friend, Aladar never questions why he is different than the gaggle of Lemurs he finds himself amongst. Only after an amazing and beautiful scene of mass courtship between the young does our dinosaur express any regret whatsoever. But who’s got time for regret when giant meteors pierce the night sky and crash into the Earth’s surface, ravaging the landscape and diminishing the water supply.

Aladar and family set out only to join another herd, led by the Darwinian Iguanodon, Kron (Samuel E. Wright). His plan to keep everyone moving, no matter what the cost, doesn’t bode well for the older creatures bringing up the rear. Aladar forms a friendship with Brachiosaur Baylene (Joan Plowright) and Styrachosaur Eema (Della Reese), helping them make it through the struggle, much to the dismay of their leader. Kron’s sister, Neera (Julianna Margulies), takes a liking to Aladar based on his gentle nature and willingness to help the weak. With a pack of Raptors and trailing Carnotaurs en route, the journey is against time itself to find a new nesting ground.

The storyline is strikingly similar to 1988’s The Land Before Time, where different species of dinosaurs are forced to migrate to find The Great Valley. In that film, the presiding theme was one of racism where species are told at a young age not to associate with others. Here its more about the task of working together as opposed to the belief that the survival of the fittest are the ones that deserve to go on. Never a bad message to preach to children, but the adults may crave a little more meat in the tale. The thought of individuals being sacrificed for the greater sake of the herd is not an uncommon fact in the animal kingdom. Suspension of disbelief in in full effect as one must flow with the idea that life could go on happily ever after even after Armageddon is reigned upon them. But this is a Disney production after all, and they decide to play it safe to the bank rather than sorry for potentially upsetting children. Audiences learned more about dinosaurs from Steven Spielberg than they will take away from Disney’s version. The writers here almost seem to be counting on that fact as few breeds are specifically identified and many will likely confuse the savage Carnotaurs with the more popular Tyrannosaurus Rex. The villainous Raptors do get some welcome screen time, including an exciting early attack on our heroes, but just as they are involved in the hunt for the great herd, they are scared off by the Carnotaurs, never to be seen again, in what was becoming a wonderful representation of the food chain in progress.

But story or no story, this is a film to be looked at. With a reported budget of over $200 million, the money is clearly well spent on the animators who helped bring this project to life. Like Disney’s earlier effort this year, Dinosaur is a film that begs to be shown on the giant IMAX screens, boasting enough beautiful images for a dozen future installments of Fantasia. From the sweeping epic scope of the egg delivery over vast countrysides and herds of numerous grazing species to the swinging vines of joy that the Lemurs parade around during their courtship to the destruction of the beauty we’ve reveled in up to this point, the first half hour of Dinosaur is nearly perfect. James Newton Howard’s majestic score whisks us through every high and treacherous low, adding to the glorious spectacle and is assured an Oscar nomination next February. In fact, it is a film that could be watched on mute with only the film’s music to accompany it on CD, and its enjoyment would not be the lesser.

Dinosaur is a film that required 3.2 million processing hours occupying the equivalent of 70,000 CD-ROMs worth of information with 100 million individual files. New software had to be specifically created to render each and every aspect of the world we see here. It is a film that should be observed more than once to appreciate the tiny details within the big picture. Look at the tiny droplets of water trickling down the scaly skin. Observe the reflections and shadows the dinosaurs create. Watch how every inch of every creature is alive in their movement, in their attacks, in their collapses, and in their roars. Gaze and delight in the magnificent splendor of a time and place inhabited by animals that you can only see through the miracle of moviemaking.

Disney’s Dinosaur is indeed that, a miracle. It has excitement and sharp-toothed wit, only lacking the courage of storytelling to deliver a film that denies us the emotional depth and payoff of The Land Before Time or Tarzan and one that shouldn’t have a happy ending in the first place. That being said, it’s a film that will leave audiences of all ages awestruck, not just for the grand images on display, but for the recreation of prehistoric times as a stepping stone to usher in the future of animation.

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originally posted: 05/19/00 08:29:33
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User Comments

3/23/12 Quigley Painfully unfunny and a very tired story. The visuals and animation are incredible, though. 3 stars
8/30/09 CTT Too close to "The Land Before Time," but still good stuff 4 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner My daughter loves this movie! 5 stars
8/10/06 Dragon The Artist Yet another mushfest, moral laced Disney flick,but Iliked it as a child. 3 stars
7/12/06 Matthew Sutton Hey Joe you suck, Dinosaur is the greatest 5 stars
6/28/06 joe koski BOO you stink!!! 1 stars
11/11/05 Mark Radburn I love Disney Dinosaur better than Finding Nemo. 5 stars
8/17/05 ES Good, the whole 'Dinosaurs as humanitarians' thing was a stretch but the kids love it 4 stars
7/05/05 Ben Farmillo Extremely Well-made movie. A masterpiece 5 stars
2/27/05 Dr. Lecter rescued by its wondrous JNH music 3 stars
1/09/05 Luke Blackadder Dinosaur is more, more more fun than Boring Ice Age 5 stars
11/27/04 Steven Brady Totally Awesome one of Disney's Greatest 5 stars
11/01/04 Mark This is The World's Greatest Disney Movie ever 5 stars
10/25/04 DM Boring, overwrought and preachy - some good bits, though 2 stars
4/25/04 Alex A normal film 3 stars
2/03/03 Turtle Don't gimme that crap about the CGI. See it for what it is: A big pile of dino droppings. 1 stars
1/01/02 Andrew Carden Boring and Badly Worked Cartoon. 1 stars
10/16/01 Connoisseur pathetically boring and uninvolving! perhaps the flattest characters ever in a movie! 1 stars
4/09/01 Gary Looks real, but I have to agree that Disney is dead. Very boring. 3 stars
2/08/01 Mario Rodgers Anybody who grades this higher than Land Before Time needs his brain retooled. 3 stars
12/28/00 Turtle Disney is dead. 1 stars
9/09/00 Jed Over-simplistic storyline is a tiny complaint. A great movie for this year. 5 stars
7/05/00 Mic "JP" meets "TLK" meets "Tarzan". Ordinary, formulaic plot, but awesome animation! 3 stars
6/25/00 Purple Monster "Jurassic Park" meets "The Lion King" !!!! 3 stars
6/05/00 Jed So it has a simple story. SO WHAT! THIS MOVIE IS GREAT! 5 stars
5/27/00 PhilmPhreak See it for the animation - NOT the story! 4 stars
5/26/00 Maclay01 They shouldn't have stared talking - Walt would've done it that way 3 stars
5/24/00 grunter "Land Before Time" done on an eMac - at least they didn't sing this time 3 stars
5/23/00 ladislau masterpiece! dreamworks should hide for a while... 5 stars
5/22/00 k.tomkowski Dumb plot, too naive and predictable even for kids! A wasted chance. 4 stars
5/22/00 The Bomb 69 visuals were the best ever, writing was simplistic 4 stars
5/21/00 Cinesuerte Land Before Time 2000 if only there was a version with no talking that would be a HIT 4 stars
5/21/00 Captain Highcrime I hear in the sequel, the dinosaurs on going to appear on "Millioniare." 4 stars
5/21/00 Blackbird Great CG, but couldn't balance realism with family fare. Gave me mixed feelings 3 stars
5/19/00 John The best movie ever 1 stars
5/17/00 The Rock Mesa thinks the Love Monkey was Jar-Jar Binks II 2 stars
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  19-May-2000 (PG)


  15-Jun-2000 (PG)

Directed by
  Eric Leighton
  Ralph Zondag

Written by

  D.B. Sweeney
  Kiefer Sutherland
  Joan Plowright
  Alfre Woodard
  Samuel E. Wright
  Juliana Maguiles

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