For the life of me, I can’t understand why this movie isn’t considered a classic.
Before I started writing this article, I watched the movie again to make sure my opinion of it wasn’t based in childhood nostalgia. Yes, I was a child when it was released (9 years old), yes I loved dinosaurs as a child, and yes I loved this movie as a child. But, watching it again as an adult, I actually respected it more.
It was released during a time when Windows 2000 was the latest operating system for home computers. Take that into considering, and then look again at the computer-generated imagery. It’s astonishing realistic. Sure, you can still tell it’s not real, but for its time, animation of that quality was damn near impossible. The flesh on the dinosaurs shifts like there’s real fat in their bodies, and their movements are as if they have real weight. Honestly, even now the only part that looks outright fake is when the asteroid strikes. Somehow skin texture was easier to animate than explosions.
Then, there’s the plot. It’s straightforward (no pun intended), and leaves plenty of room for character development and for danger. There are two antagonists in the film: the lack of resources, and the Carnotaurs. One could even say that Kron is a third antagonist because of his destructive philosophy.
Disney took considerable care into making the dinosaurs themselves accurate. As one example, the velociraptors weren’t the overblown mythological creature that Jurassic Park made them out to be, and were instead the tiny, scrawny chicken-like jokes those creatures were in real life. The movie even included two different species of Iguanodon (notice the physiological differences between Aladar and Bruton), which most people aren’t educated enough to understand. (Most dinosaurs are only known by their genus names, but often included a whole list of species within that genus. Did I lose you just now? Figured.) Really the only unrealistic dinosaurs were the Carnotaurs, but the only fabricated thing about them was their exaggerated size; that’s it.
And can I just take a moment to praise Disney (did I really just say that???) for giving each dinosaur its own unique roar? You can identify nearly every dinosaur in the movie simply by hearing the sound they make. Disney didn’t resort to stock audio from Jurassic Park or something, like Avatar did, they actually took the time to give each creature its own sound.
Dinosaur is a tale about fighting even when everything seems hopeless. Keep walking with the group even if you’re too slow to keep up; keep looking for a way through even when the path is blocked; keep moving forward even if there are unstoppable threats right behind you.
This movie got crap for making the dinosaurs talk. Honestly, I can’t see how the movie would have made sense, or could have even been watchable, if there wasn’t any dialogue. You’d get annoyed just hearing roars and grunts for 80 minutes straight, and you’d have no clue if the dinosaurs know where they’re going or not. There’s nothing wrong with creating characters in a movie with no humans in it. It wasn’t meant to be a dinosaur documentary (there are MORE than enough of those), it was meant to be enjoyable escapism, while still having a deeper meaning. It was also meant to be enjoyed by all ages, including the youngest of children. I think the makers did a magnificent job having the movie be for all ages.
I’d give Dinosaur a 9.5 out of 10. Likeable characters, perfect amount of humor and perfect timing with the humor, good message, believable conflicts, a hero we can learn from…. Yeah, I agree with my past self: this was a great movie. True art, not just a product.