Dinosaur came out early in the year 2000. I was nine-years-old so I was most definitely the movie’s target audience. I mean, what nine-year-old doesn’t like dinosaurs. So, as you might expect, I loved it. Since then I had not watched it. I might have come across the last scenes while channel surfing, but I never did watch it whole. Now, years later, as an adult, and having read about the mixed reception the movie got, the troubled production, and once again watching the movie, I gotta say that I still love it. Now, it is not one of the studio’s greats as it has some big flaws. But it is a really good, extremely entertaining film, as well as the oddest one in the cannon.
There are two reasons for this. One is that it didn’t become part of the Disney animation cannon until years after its release. In fact, in Europe it is not cannon, The Wild is. Also, it feels unlike any other Disney film. The fact that it is the first CG movie is part of that, especially since they went for photorealism with the characters and used real backgrounds. But also, I don’t know, it feels too rough, too violent for a latter day Disney. But it is also part why it is so good.
The other reasons are mostly technical. The animation looks great for being early CG. Hell, newer releases like Hoodwink 2 and Alpha and Omega look primitive when compared to this. But then again, they invested a ton of money developing the software to make it. James Newton Howard provides a thrilling, epic, and oddly Williams-esque score that makes the movie feel more epic. Speaking of epic, the action scenes and set pieces are so good that they put most of Michel Bay’s filmography to shame (they wouldn’t be if he held his camera steady, but not I’m going off topic). And the voice performances are kind of great.
This brings me to the main reason why it is not among the great Disney features. Originally, Dinosaur was being developed as a silent feature so that it could stand apart from Don Bluth’s The Land Before time as they do have similar plots. However, the suits didn’t think that people would go see it that way, and so they brought brand new writers on board to add dialogue.
Now, the first series of scenes are completely dialogue-free, and they were kind of great. I think that the rest of the movie could have been indeed silent and it would have been just as entertainment. It would have also been hailed as a brave achievement. But it was not meant to be. Just watch the movie and you’ll see that most of the scenes would have worked without dialogue and with some title cards between scenes.
Another thing that keeps it down in the all-too-familiar story, but the filmmaking keeps the movie from sinking lower for this.
Dinosaur is one of my favorite Disney films. It is not as great as it could have been, but it is still quite a ride.