What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely, and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? That is the question posed in the promotions for The Good Dinosaur, by Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, which is being released in 3D on November 25.
The question is an intriguing idea, but had less to do with the movie than I expected. That said, at a media preview on Monday, my family enjoyed The Good Dinosaur, and it provides a great way for families to discuss fear. In my opinion, forget about the premise, and just sit back and enjoy the show.
The opening scene shows a family of dinosaurs (aptosauruses) farming. They grow corn and raise chickens. Apparently this is what would’ve happened if they had not gone extinct. Their silo is being ransacked by a “critter,” who turns out to be an early human. This human walks on all fours and acts a lot like a dog. Aside from allowing dinosaurs and humans to co-exist, and establishing the dinosaurs as having typically human characteristics and the cave boy as having animal characteristics, the idea of the asteroid missing Earth plays a very small role in the movie.
Instead, the movie is primarily about young Arlo the dinosaur learning to face his fears. From the very moment he cracked open his egg, he has been a fearful dino, unlike his more adventurous siblings. His father has faith that he will eventually overcome these fears to (literally) make his mark — as the rest of the family has done by putting a muddy footprint onto the silo after a major accomplishment.
Without spoiling things, Arlo becomes separated from his family and faces many adventures on his way back, accompanied by Spot the human, who is referred to as a “critter.” During the adventures, they meet a T-Rex family and the elder dino (Sam Elliot) gives him the sage advice that the key to conquering fears is to feel the fear and do what you have to anyway.
I thoroughly enjoyed the role reversal with Arlo and the other dinosaurs having more human characteristics and the Spot in the role of a devoted animal companion.
The 3D effects in this movie are intriguing, because on the one hand the scenery looks amazingly realistic, but the dinosaurs and other critters are very cartoonish. The animators clearly put a lot of skill and effort into the details of pine trees, mountains, and water. It is clear it was a stylistic decision to make the dinosaurs look less realistic, perhaps to be more enticing to younger audiences.
My kids enjoyed The Good Dinosaur and I think as long as people don’t get too hung up on the promotional premise, others will too. There are a few dinosaur fight scenes, some scary storm scenes, and yes, death — so you will have to decide if your children will be okay with those scenes.
For me, what was great was the conversation in the car afterwards about coping with fear and anxiety. We also talked about how though we may be born with certain traits (Arlo’s sister is tricky, his brother is physically strong), that we can change certain aspects of ourselves (i.e. become less fearful.)
Also worth noting, prior to the movie is a short, “Sanjay’s Super Heroes.” Make sure you are settled into your seats in time to see it. The short depicts a Hindu father practicing his prayers while his young son tries to watch a superhero tv show a few feet away, much to his father’s chagrin. It turns into a delightful tale about priorities and heroes.
The Good Dinosaur opens just before Thanksgiving and you can find trailers on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PixarTheGoodDinosaur and on the web site at http://movies.disney.com/the-good-dinosaur.
Disclosure: The movie’s PR team graciously provided my family with three tickets to the media preview event. This did not influence my review of the movie.