Ranking the Disney Canon – 44: Dinosaur

“We can only hope that in some small way our time here will be remembered.” – Pilo

Dinosaur is a really weird film when it comes to The Disney Canon. It was released in 2000, which featured 3 Disney animated film releases that were in the canon (well, 2 if you consider Fantasia 2000 released in 1999). Of these films, Dinosaur was certainly the most low profile release, and most likely one of the most forgotten films in the entire canon. In fact, it wasn’t even a part of the canon for 8 years, only living through an attraction at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom that is very loosely based on the film. It officially became a part of the list in 2008, most likely so that the honor of the 50th film would go to the high-profile release Tangled, rather than the lower profile Winnie the Pooh.

The film begins after a series of events causes an Iguanodon egg to fall into an island inhabited by Lemurs, who adopt the child and name him Aladar. Aladar grows up with the family, and they remain on the island until an asteroid strikes the planet, forcing Aladar and his immediate family to flee by swimming to the mainland. After struggling with a group of velociraptor, Aladar comes across a herd of all kinds of dinosaur, lead by a fellow Iguanodon Kron, who are heading toward The Nesting Grounds in hopes of finding water and shelter. Aladar begins to take his lessons from the island in helping to lead the group, clashing with Kron’s survival of the fittest style. The threat of a Carnotaur attack finally breaks up the group, but Aladar returns when he knows the larger group is in danger.

STRENGTHS

The first thing I need to mention is the beauty of the animation and the scenery. Dinosaur is very unique, in that the backgrounds are mostly live action, and the animation is fit into the real world. This could have caused an absolute disaster, but Dinosaur is able to pull off this mix extremely well. A credit to the character designs, which are mostly realistic, but have just that tinge of cartoonishness that makes them appealing. The live action scenery works its magic to be absolutely stunning at point, and the characters work off of this really well, and are stunning in their own way.

I enjoy Aladar as our protagonist. He is very likable character, and written well enough where he has the potential to connect to the audience. I think his naive nature, his kindness, and his observant mind combine to make Aladar a character that the audience will want to invest in and follow for the course of the film, while also making his journey towards being the leader believable

I also love the contrast that the film has between Aladar and Kron. The “No One Gets Left Behind” attitude and the “Survival of the Fittest” attitude create a great clash, and the characters help to make that clash interesting, at times. Kron is an effective antagonist, and a classic “misunderstood” type of one. The ways that the push Kron’s obsession with protecting the herd is brilliantly done, and actually creates sympathy for the character.

Finally, I have to give my commendation to the film’s 7 minute opening, which, in my opinion, is nearly perfect. It is beautifully shot and full of action. The Asteroid sequence near the beginning is also wonderfully put together. The Carnotaur attacks, especially the climatic one, are also good scenes. One of the best decisions the film made was to not give the Carnotaurs (or the Velociraptors) voices, which make their roles as a dangerous entity much more effective.

WEAKNESSES

I mention good moments at the beginning and the end of the film, but none in the middle. The in-between is certainly the weakest, and it would be an absolute bore if it weren’t for the pieces of conflict between Aladar and Kron. The film certainly needed to slow down after three straight high energy sequences, but it slows down too much, moving as slow as the herd. It really needed another sequence, possibly with the velociraptors, to help pick up the pace and to even further the conflict between Aladar and Kron.

Another thing that would have helped is having more conflict between Aladar and the style of living the dinosaurs have. Aladar has been living away from this group for years. I’m glad that they gave him some sense of his identity from the start, and don’t have him thinking he is a monkey, but I feel that his reaction to seeing his own kind for the first time is extremely underplayed, and it hurts his arc. He should struggle with coming into Dinosaur society for the first time, in comparison to the way he was raised on the island. It is a great conflict and contrast, and it works great when on-screen, but it needed to be on-screen much more, and it could have really helped the second act.

The lemur family ultimately gets lose in the shuffle of Aladar’s journey, which is a real shame since three of the four of them were set up to be great supporting characters. Their relationship with Aladar is built up very well at the beginning, really showing the family aspect of their relationship. As the film progresses, and Aladar’s conflict with Kron and the Carnotaurs, and his relationship with the female Iguanodon Neera grows, the lemur storyline is ultimately forced to be lost. They actually get forgotten about, in my eyes, throughout the second half of the film. This makes them weak as characters, which, again, is a shame since they are the first characters introduced to us, and that they have so much potential as support for Aladar.

Finally, while the film needs comedy, I feel the comedy is misplaced. The comedy relief is a young lemur named Zini, who sees himself as a ladies man. He has a much more modern feel to him, and is the only character to feel out of place in the film. The comedy should have come from Aladar’s own misfortunes in connecting with the herd, and should have happened alongside the lemurs rather than only through them.

BEST MOMENT AND SONG

Dinosaur is not a musical, so no best song declaration. The Score is decent enough, and has its moments.

The best scene in the film is most certainly the 7 minute opening sequence, which is beautifully shot, beautifully animated, and beautifully put together. If you watch the film for anything, watch it for these opening minutes.

CLOSING COMMENTS

I’m actually rather surprised how much I enjoyed Dinosaur. It’s a fun little film that gets lost due to status as a non major film especially considering it was not a part of this historic canon for almost a decade after its original release. It’s hard to describe what exactly this film does to deserve this spot, as the film does a lot of thing right. The best way I can describe it is that I feel it is stronger than the films below it, but weaker than the films above it. That may seem obvious, but that’s the best way I can describe a feeling that’s almost intangible. It has good characters, good conflict, a strong first act, and a good third act, and good action and excitement, but it also just isn’t as good as other films, and is weakened by an almost boring second act, underplayed themes, and disappearance of potentially strong characters. Dinosaur just places at 44 because it does. That’s all I can say.

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3 thoughts on “Ranking the Disney Canon – 44: Dinosaur

  1. This is one of the few animated features I haven’t seen completely yet, and your review gives me some hope that I may like some things about it. I had pretty low expectations before, but I like dinosaurs and the animation style of the movie, so I might give it a go.

    • I had low expectations going into it as well, and I was pleasantly surprised. Enough to move it up a couple spots from it’s previewing rankings. I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy. I have in every single one of the films (except the Black Cauldron, but even there I found one thing.)

      Glad I could be of assistance, and thanks for checking out The Blog!

  2. To think Disney turned down the idea of making a “Dinotopia” movie just to create a film simply titled “Dinosaur”, but even so, if it really weren’t for this film a lot of things would not have happen (Such as how enjoyable the Dinosaur attraction at Animal Kingdom would turn out). Regardless of the film’s flaws, it still remains an enjoyable film with memorable characters, a fairly decent plot structure, and some stunning visualization from the film. Regardless if this film was ever amongst the list of Disney Theatrically Released features or not, with so many great moments involved with the film (Even if some of it is historically inaccurate) there’s always something or another to take in from such an experience. With that being said, if certain characters were given a greater chance to be strongly developed (What with all their potential and all) and as such if certain themes within the film were further explored to provide it’s audience with a greater understanding I’m certain it could’ve been a far better film than given credit for. Even though it may not be the most realistic Dinosaur film amongst others, in my opinion “realism” is overrated and it’s strong storytelling that truly sets the bar on what makes a true work of art in motion picture.

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