the good dinosaur-large

Full transcript with additional information on the film:

This Thanksgiving weekend, Pixar brings us THE GOOD DINOSAUR.  Their June 19th release INSIDE OUT has already had a huge amount of success.  Will THE GOOD DINOSAUR follow suit?

In this world, the meteor that caused an extinction event bypassed the planet, and dinosaurs are the ones that have advanced to developing speech, using tools, and building shelters. The humans are the wild ones. So it is that when Arlo, the youngest of his family, falls into and is swept away in the river by their homestead, he forms an unlikely friendship with a boy he names “Spot”.  What follows is a sort of Pixar version of THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY or THE LAND BEFORE TIME, with an added Western theme. Arlo searches for the way home to his family, with Spot at his side and aiding him as good pets do, teaching him with his fearlessness and confidence. Much of the time is spent watching their friendship grow as they discover new things together, interspersed with strange encounters and experiences that beg the question whether someone routinely spiked the drinking water over at Pixar during production.

What rises the entertainment quality of THE GOOD DINOSAUR above what is unquestionably derivative are those encounters, and the environments in which they experience them.  It is hard to believe theirs is a landscape created inside a computer.  For anyone following advancements in computer animation, this movie’s technical achievements are undeniable. Beautifully lit and richly complex, water and clouds have never looked so real.  Visual designer Sharon Calahan, who was the director of photography for FINDING NEMO, RATATOUILLE, and A BUG’S LIFE, is from the Pacific Northwest, and it’s her knowledge of the landscape and aesthetic as a landscape painter that imbues THE GOOD DINOSAUR with its natural beauty and majesty.  She and the crew of artists, computer wizards, and animators all took whitewater rafting trips which greatly informed what they brought to the river sequences in the film.  They also built a brand new library of clouds that they could light from multiple angles to make them seem at once hyper-realistic and a unique invention of the world they created for the film.  Lighting plays an important part in connecting audiences to this movie’s environment, which in turn allows connection to the adventures Arlo and Spot experience together.

As for the characters in the story, when the supporting cast shares screen time with Arlo and Spot, they add significantly to the proceedings.  Butch, the cattle-wrangling T-rex voiced by Sam Elliott is a stand-out.  Butch, along with his kids Nash and Ramsey, (voiced by  AJ Buckley and Anna Paquin) were based on a family the Pixar artists connected with in their research, the McKays, who live on and work the land in Oregon.

there’s also an antagonistic group of creatures that call to mind a religious cult leader and his blind followers. A Buddha-like Styracosaurus called Pet Collector that appears far too briefly to give Arlo advice as well as several other memorable Pixar inventions make their scenes seem comparable to that of the Tulgey Woods in Disney’s 1951 classic, ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

It is unfortunate, however, that THE GOOD DINOSAUR’s story relays its message of self reliance and teamwork so overtly, as if the audience needs repeatedly to be told.  It that respect it is the antithesis of Pixar’s last release INSIDE OUT, and the reason THE GOOD DINOSAUR is a lesser film.


What is NOT lesser, is the short that precedes the THE GOOD DINOSAUR, SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM. Timely, poignant, sweet, and exciting, SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM, created by Pixar artist Sanjay Patel, is about the clash of pop culture and tradition, and involves childhood daydreams, superheroes and Hindu gods. It’s on the short list for an animated short Oscar nomination, and deservedly so. With what has been happening in the world lately, SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM is a perfect reminder that all faiths, all beliefs and perspectives, can be dynamic and fascinating.

Good Dinosaur.  Great short.