There are a lot of “firsts” for Disney–Pixar‘s “The Good Dinosaur“. Not only is it the first Pixar film to be helmed by Korean-American animator Peter Sohn, but also the first non-summer movie to be released since 2004’s “The Incredibles“.
Not to mention, it marks the first time that Pixar has released 2 movies in the same year, with the first one being “Inside Out“.
Similar to every other Pixar film, “The Good Dinosaur” starts with a simple “What if?” premise. It asks: “What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?“
That question can lead to endless possibilities, but Pixar decided to create a world where dinosaurs have simply evolved into creatures with superior intelligence. In other words, Pixar doesn’t really care about scientific accuracy or even try to go deep into thinking what might really happen if dinosaurs still exist.
In this alternate world, we are introduced to Henry (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) and Ida (voiced by Frances McDormand), a pair of apatosaurs who operate a farm like humans and live in a log cabin. They have 3 adorable kids together: Libby (voiced by Maleah Padilla), Buck (voiced by Marcus Scribner), and Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa).
Arlo is the smallest and the last to hatch among his siblings. But unlike Libby and Buck, he is so easily terrified by everything that it stops him from carrying out his tasks. His timid nature also prevents him from making his mark on a corn silo that signifies his contribution to the family.
As Arlo’s father, Henry never gives up on him and encourages him to overcome his fears by putting him in charge of catching the pests that have been raiding their silo. But in the process of doing so, Arlo becomes lost and stranded in a place far away from home.
In order to reunite with his family, Arlo is forced to travel through a harsh and mysterious landscape with his unlikely human friend Spot while learning to confront his fears.
But as you expect, Arlo manages to overcome his fears, which is why there are a lot of things about “The Good Dinosaur” that threw me off.
At first glance, it looks like a very simple film that has nothing much to offer, even by Pixar standards. The storyline doesn’t make as much as impact on us and I can’t help but wonder if that’s because it’s basically a “coming-of-age” movie for children. After all, this film has a slightly cliché plot about overcoming your fears. The story is also inspired by the classic “a boy and his dog” story, only this time the boy is an apatosaurus named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) and his dog is a human child named Spot (voiced by Jack Bright).
Sure, it’s the first time that a movie depicts an alternate world where dinosaurs never became extinct, but much of its content seems oddly familiar. The portrayal of Arlo’s relationship with his father Poppa/Henry seems to have taken a page from Simba’s relationship with his father Mufasa in Disney’s “The Lion King”. In certain scenes, the film gave us major “The Land Before Time” and “Dumbo” feels, but that’s not entirely revolutionary for Pixar.
That’s not to say “The Good Dinosaur” is the worst film in Pixar history because this film succeeded in capturing our hearts with a few key moments as well.
The voice performances in this movie aren’t particularly outstanding, but the interactions between Arlo and Spot are absolutely pleasing and heartwarming. Their relationship is the emotional core of the film and audiences may develop emotional attachments to both characters.
There’s also a very trippy scene where Spot and Arlo suffered from bizarre hallucinations after accidentally eating some fermented fruit. The scene was both horrifying and funny at the same time. Parents might have a lot of explanation to do when their children walk out of the theatre and question the meaning behind that particular scene.
What I also enjoyed most about this movie is its hyper-realistic environments that left me open-mouthed. The whole film looks like it was shot in live action because the effects are staggeringly detailed.
The filmmakers and effects team apparently created the river sequences based on their rafting trips down the Snake River in Wyoming and the American River. Having experienced how powerful the water felt, the effects team was able to create those river sequences that will allow audiences to experience the kind of rapids Arlo encounters.
All in all, “The Good Dinosaur” is a pretty enjoyable family film with outstanding visuals and fun characters. The film didn’t hit us right in the feels as much as its Pixar predecessor, “Inside Out”, did, but it’s still worth checking out.
Spot will surely rise as the most popular character of the film due to his brave and innocent nature.
“The Good Dinosaur” is slated to hit theatres on 26th November 2015. Don’t forget to check out some of its fun facts here ;)