by Walt Disney
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
What this year's animated Disney film lacks in plot, it more than makes up for in style. “Dinosaur” tells the story of Aladar, an iguanodon whose egg was snatched and dropped on a remote island. When Aladar hatched, he was taken in by a band of lemurs who raised him as their own (reminiscent of Pumbaa and Timon deciding to help save Simba in “The Lion King.”) Aladar grows to adolescence among the lemurs and forms a friendship akin to kinship with them before he and his family are forced to leave their island for the mainland.
Once on the mainland, Aladar and the lemurs hook up with a herd of various types of dinosaurs, led by Kron, an iguanodon with respect for the traditions and a keen sense of survival of the fittest. Within the group, Aladar befriends the older dinosaurs at the rear of the herd, the ones who are most likely to be left behind to fend for themselves as the group tries to reach their nesting grounds where they hope to find succor amidst a land devastated by drought.
Many of the traditional Disney themes are included in “Dinosaur.” Aladar is different from the group which raised him, yet has managed to learn positive behavior. He places duty to others above his own well-being and sees worth in everyone. The antagonists in the film are the self-centered Kron and his allies as well as the animalistic carnotaurs, dinosaurs who allow their predatory instincts to guide them rather than using any intelligence.
The animation in “Dinosaur” is incredible. The animals were created using computer animation and demonstrate how far the state of the art has come. Throughout the film, the landscapes and dinosaurs look real enough that the viewer wonders where Disney managed to find actual dinosaurs to act in the film. The only thing to break the illusion of actual dinosaurs is the fact that they almost all speak in English. Although normally, I would not recommend a film based on its special effects, I would recommend “Dinosaur” even if it did not have a plot to support the effects.
That said, the film ends leaving the viewer a little dissatisfied. The plot is simple and straightforward, leaving many areas where the writers could have added depth or multiple storylines to the tale. While a claim could be made that this would alienate some of Disney’s core youth audience, many of their successful animated films have subtle nuances which are either lacking or only hinted at in “Dinosaur.”
Like many Disney films, “Dinosaur” does have some scenes which might be a little too intense for some viewers (young and otherwise). Near the beginning of the film, the disastrous meteor shower which forces Aladar and the lemurs from their island may scare some viewers. Similarly some of the scenes with the carnotaurs might be a little too intense. Despite the violence and the realistic look to the feel, there is little overt gore in the film.
While “Dinosaur” is not in the same league as the best of the Disney animated films, it has a look and a subject which will appeal the a broad range of viewers. There is enough of a plot to maintain interest while the computer graphics are enough to fill in when the plot tends to falter. “Dinosaur” is a beautiful film which deserves to be seen and enjoyed for the technical spectacle it presents.