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Dinosaur (2000) Film Review

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Written by Jambareeqi

Posted 13th August 2017

In Disney’s first ever fully CGI feature film “Dinosaur”, an Iguanodon called Aladar and his adoptive lemur family end up losing their island home to a meteor shower. While trying to survive, the unconventional family find themselves following a huge heard of Dinosaurs, who are being led by the stubborn cranky Kron. While Kron just wants to get going, Aladar believes that the heard should slow down to help the older dinosaurs keep up. Where are they going though? Well, apparently there’s a beautiful safe land called the nesting grounds, and it’ll be a perfect new home for these herbivores.

When this movie first came out, I was completely crazy about it as a kid, and even bought the McDonald’s happy meal toys. However, it soon faded from my conciseness, and I never really thought it about it when it came up in Disney discussions. I remembered the toys, recalled owning the VHS tape, but could barely stitch together memories of the film itself. It never became that special to me after it’s duties as a babysitter, and it also lost relevance in the animation society in general.

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To be honest, after re-watching it as an adult, I can see why “Dinosaur” is one of the less remembered Disney animated films. There’s very little about this movie that’s uniquely it’s own, with it’s premise being eerily similar to Don Bluth’s “The Land Before Time”, and many storytelling beats mirroring Disney’s previous feature film entry “Tarzan” (an orphaned character is adopted by another species, he grows up to meet his own kind, and has to deal with a grumpy stubborn leader). Not to mention, the visual style of computer animated dinosaurs being imposed on live action backgrounds, loudly screams “Walking with dinosaurs”.

Of course, I don’t expect every film to be 100% original, but there’s just way too little here to make “Dinosaur” stand out from the Disney library. Apparently, the movie was going to be a silent stop motion dark drama, which would have at least made the movie have it’s own thing going for it. Unfortunately, Disney suits saw the success of “Toy Story”, abandoned any desires to take risks, and recognised computer animation as a goldmine. It’s a real shame, indicating what money hungry cowards the Disney chairmen can really be.

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Although, despite the lack of fresh ideas or unique identity, Dinosaur is still a decent film to watch. The heart of the movie Aladar himself, who may not be the most charismatic of Disney heroes, but he’s certainly one of the most likeable! A true gentleman, Aladar goes to amazingly extreme lengths to look out for the injured or feeble, and it’s a very endearing trait for his character. You can tell that it all comes from the way his kind hearted adoptive lemur mother raised him, as she too can be just as considerate for others.

Aladar’s strong concern for others, clashes with the brutish Kron, and this makes for some really interesting political drama. Is it possible to help a whole society survive? Or must sacrifices be made? While the movie rightfully leans more towards Aladar’s approach, it’s still really exciting stuff seeing these opposing political sides go up against one another. I did find myself very invested in this debate of high ethics versus survival of the strongest, it leads to some very tense drama.

Image result for Dinosaur 2000 Kron Aladar

Excitement also comes from the intimidating presence of the wild Carnotaurus, beastly dinosaurs who have no dialogue, and just have the relentless desire to feed on prey. There’s a couple of gripping shots where these predators are framed in effectively scary ways, and they do pose as serious threats.

Although, the filmmakers actually heavily exaggerated what a real Carnotaurus looks like, and went to extra lengths to shape them into the more marketable species of Tyrannosaurus Rex. This desperation to make the villains more generically recognisable, stops them from being any different from any other T-Rex threats we’ve seen before. I’m sorry, but the harder the film tries to appeal to the masses, the less vibrantly unique it becomes.

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The misfit group of left behinds gathered by Aladar have their charms, from Aladar’s oddball family members to the elderly dinosaurs who can’t keep up. I did like spending time with them, because they become their own special kind of weird heard. Of course, I know I’ll forget all their faces and names all over again soon, but it’s still a likeable part of the movie. If I am going to be stuck with some generic forgettable Disney characters, I’m fine with it being this lot haha.

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Aladar also gets his own romance with a fellow Iguanodon called Neera, it’s a pretty predictable love story, and just in the film because it’s a Disney tradition. You can see a little chemistry there, but it’s nothing heart melting or noteworthy. It’s just another aspect of the movie that doesn’t feel exceptional enough to make it stand out.

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However, it does add some tension to the relationship between Aladar and Kron, because Neera is Kron’s sister! You can tell that Kron doesn’t like his liberal leadership rival getting intimate with his close relative, it’s effective build up towards their inevitable showdown between the two. Plus the fact that Neera is under her brother’s claw, does make for decent character development on her part, as Aladar’s values open up her more empathetic side.

I’ll admit that the film’s computer animation has slightly dated, it has a couple decent shots here and there, but you can tell it’s Disney first CGI feature at a first glance. Sure, I bet audiences at the time saw it as photo-realistic in their standards, but we’ve come a long way since the year 2000. It’s not awful work, it just doesn’t hold up today. I also felt as if that the compositions of the CGI characters onto live action footage didn’t work, you can tell that they’re not really there, and I just can’t buy the illusion I’m afraid.

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To Conclude, “Dinosaur” is understandably forgettable, because it has nothing extraordinary to offer, and it’s way too generic to stick out from the dozens of Disney animated features out there. Even the title seems to lack any kind personality, “Dinosaur” is such a bland name for a movie about dinosaurs.

I’ll say that it’s somewhat engaging at times, the characters do show a lot of heart, and competent effort has been put into certain executions; but the overall experience of watching it isn’t anything memorable. It’s simply good watchable entertainment, with a nice role model lead and some interesting political ethics. Give it a shot if you’re a Disney completionist, but don’t expect a phenomenal classic when going in.

3 Strawberries

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  1. One thing I do not understand about this movie is why we’re supposed to hate Kron. Yeah, he’s a bit of a douche and says mean things, but the movie wants us to loathe him for making the decisions of pressing on the journey because of the bone-dry lake and the Carnotaurs. What else do the other characters want him to do!? Leave them to thirst to death or serve them as bait for the predators? Sure, Aladar wants to help the elder dinosaurs, but there’s no point in risking the lives of all the others just to help two herd members who aren’t strong enough to make it anyway! Better to leave a fraction of the herd than the whole clan! Sorry, but this nonsense baffles me! It’s all just an excuse to force tension into the story.

  2. While I get where you’re coming from, at the end of the day, the film leans towards Aladar’s approach, because it wants to encourage empathy and compassion for those in need, and those are important values to teach kids. While Kron represents apathy and tyranny, traits that the film wants to discourage kids from developing as they grow up. Should it really abandon an uplifting sentiment about caring for others in favor of telling kids that elderly sacrifice is sometimes for the best? Especially when children will see their own grandmothers in these old lady characters. I get your points though, and the politics are biased in a way. My only idea for how this story could have been less one sided, is if the leader of the clan was conflicted by compassion and what’s best for the majority of the clan, but then that’d make Aladar redundant as a character. I’ll admit that Disney wrote themselves into a corner with this one

    • Okay, so the second decision is kind of debatable, but how do you explain the first one where Kron starts to keep the pack going after realising that the lake is empty and Bruton and Neera are frowning at him for it? You can’t stay and hope for something to happen that would help the elders – that would not work. It’s only until Aladar finds water beneath the ground, but that was purely by luck and his incredible genius. If that didn’t happen, the herd would have no choice whatsoever but to press on. And you can’t aid the weaker ones in this case because there’s no bloody hydration! Call me Angelica Pickles, but I honestly have to side with Kron on this one.

      • Kron isn’t thinking compassionately, he literally says “We only save the ones who deserve to live”, our heroes are scowling at him because he’s giving up so easily on the more vulnerable members of the clan. Is he being realistic? Sure, but he’s going about his decision with a sense of cruel insensitive apathy, and that is what the film is shaming. Are our heroes being unrealistic? Yes, but they’re also showcasing hope and empathy, the only things you can do when you’re watching two old people dying beside you. Again, it’s a bit much to expect a children’s film to show our heroes abandoning two dying elders and acting agreeable when their leader insists that the weak deserve to die, not exactly the most constructive lesson to teach kids.

  3. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand your point about supporting the weak and elderly, and yes, Kron’s words were badly chosen, but if you and I were stuck on an island for two weeks with nothing to eat but a bunch of raw eggs, would you shame me for insisting on eating the eggs to keep us going? Think about it.

  4. Much like Aladar & Kron’s scenario, that is a complex situation you’re proposing, and I can actually imagine someone reacting with shame or understanding, both would be reasonable responses. Why? Because on the one hand, I couldn’t sit there and watch you eat raw eggs, but on the other hand, I couldn’t see you going hungry.

    That’s the thing, everyone will respond differently under pressure, especially when their decisions are limited and the atmosphere is tense. At the end of the day, Kron and Aladar have their own reasons for their decisions. However, I personally side with Aladar more, because there’s something endearing about his willingness to look out for the vulnerable. Does he look foolish at points? Sure, but sometimes thinking with your heart makes you do stupid things. In all honesty, I find it easier to connect to an empathetic fool than a cold hearted tyrant, as practical thinking as the latter may be.

    Again, I’d personally prefer a Disney film to encourage compassion and discourage apathy to kids, than show children two old people dying while our hero walks off, nodding at the villain when he says “Only the strongest survive”. It’s important to keep the audience in mind, or we’ll end up with a movie that’s too cold and mean spirited for a family film.

  5. Your arguments have left me with a better understanding of what the film is going for. While I would prefer to press on and make the best of the journey rather than stand there and watch all of my people die, I get the fact that it encourages kids to be more careful towards others and not give up hope on their living souls. I’m more objective and analytical; I go for the facts, but at the same time, even I wouldn’t prefer to watch a movie about the death of innocence due to cynical self-indulgence. The situation is still kind of flawed to me, but I do get your points completely.

    Putting that aside, I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of Dinosaur. The writing is very corny and consists of many awful lines, most of the characters are very forgettable and sometimes a pain in the ass (especially Zini), and the romance between our two main characters has very little meat to it, especially considering how little interaction the film shows us. Worst of all, it’s disappointing. The opening sequence hints at something truly amazing, which is apparently what the film was originally going for, until we have to hear these dinosaurs talk because cash-hungry Michael Eisner said so. I swear, this movie could have been one of the best things to come out of Disney, and this coming from someone who loves Tarzan, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. However, I do still admire the awesome visuals, the cool action scenes and the FANTASTIC music score. It’s just too bad the material they’re working with isn’t good enough.

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