by D.W. Lundberg

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Dinosaur (2000)

The Plot: When a meteor collides with Earth, an Iguanodon raised by Lemurs makes the treacherous journey to the "Nesting Grounds" - a mysterious valley believed to be untouched by the devastation.

The Songs: None

A Little History: Originally conceived as a live- action feature for director Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop, Starship Troopers), with stop-motion effects by Phil Tippett. These plans were scrapped, however, following the success of Jurassic Park, which showcased computer-generated dinosaurs. (Initial script drafts by Walon Green didn't include any spoken dialogue at all - an idea nixed by Disney chairman Michael Eisner because it wasn't "commercially viable.") The final film contains over 1,300 individual effects shots - a combination of CG and superimposed photographs of actual locations, including Hawaii, Tahiti, Australia and Venezuela. The Tyrannosaurus Rex was originally planned as the villain until The Lost World: Jurassic Park's depiction of the same creatures as motherly, parental figures (Spielberg again!) caused the filmmakers to switch to the Carnotaurus instead (in reality, Carnotaurs are smaller than Iguanodons). James Newton Howard was hired to compose the music score for the film, after Harry Gregson-Williams had to decline due to prior commitments; pop star Kate Bush wrote a song for the soundtrack but declined to participate once Disney asked for a re-write. The Countdown To Extinction attraction at Walt Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park was built to coincide with Dinosaur's theatrical release (both Aladar and the Carnotaurus make appearances); it was later renamed when the film was delayed by almost 18 months. Dinosaur opened on May 19, 2000, in 3,257 theaters. It cost $127,500,000 to produce, and grossed over $350 million worldwide.

How It Broke New Ground: The first computer-animated Disney Classic. In Sweden, The Wild takes Dinosaur's place as part of Walt Disney's official canon. The reasons for this are unclear.

How It Holds Up Today: Cutting-edge technology versus Formula Storytelling 101. That's true of a lot of Disney pictures, but never more so than Dinosaur, mixing lush live-action backgrounds and magnificently-rendered CGI characters with a plot you can't care much about, because you've seen it thousands of times before. Visually it's a stunner, with a soaring, swooping six-minute opening sequence (set to James Newton Howard's equally soaring, swooping musical score) that certainly raises the bar for all CG-animated wonders to come. Once those adorable prehistoric beasties open their mouths to speak, however, it becomes just another generic action spectacle, like a reptilian remake of Disney's Tarzan crossed with The Land Before Time sprinkled with a little bit of Howard Hawks' Red River to boot. (Or, if you prefer, Walking With Jive-Talking Dinosaurs.) There's still plenty to entertain the kiddies - a cuddly pet Ankylosaurus, for one, plus a bevy of furry wisecracking lemurs. But it's an insult to think that anyone under 20 would be lost without all the insipid dialogue and hackneyed Hollywood situations to carry them along. (Paul Verhoeven's wordless, visuals-as-narrative- only version, as controversial as that might have been, would be infinitely more entertaining than this.)

Grade: B-


Hang on, Disney fans – there's more to come. Need to play catch up? Click on the following for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun And Fancy Free, Melody Time, The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred And One Dalmatians, The Sword In The Stone, The Jungle Book, The AristoCats, Robin Hood, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, The Rescuers, The Fox And The Hound, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company, The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down UnderBeauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, PocahontasThe Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, and Fantasia/2000. Please comment!

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