Over their thirty years being involved with cinematic films and shorts, Pixar has covered a lot of ground as far as their subject matter. The studio which went from being a vision which seemed virtually impossible to achieve to a juggernaut in the film industry which has reshaped the way animation is done and paved the way for computer animation to become the norm. However with their past few releases I’ve found that initially I didn’t quite feel the magic that I had felt with other Pixar releases, at least based on the trailers. Inside Out I only saw theatrically because my daughter wanted to see it and I found that to my surprise, it was really a great film. The Good Dinosaur though my daughter had no interest in based on the trailers and even when given the opportunity to see it, she decided she wanted to see a different film instead but perhaps the home video might prove that it was a mistake to overlook the film.
As most know just based on the previews, the concept behind The Good Dinosaur is an alternate world where the asteroid believed to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs millions of years ago missed earth completely and dinosaurs have evolved since then. The film pick up a few million years after what you have been an apocalyptic event where we find that dinosaurs have evolved in some ways like humans. They can speak, they have developed agriculture as well as some architecture although on a very limited scale. Henry (Jeffrey Wright) and Ida (Frances McDormand) have just had three new hatchlings, Libby, Buck, and Arlo who is the smallest of the three.
Years have passed and the family continues to work at their homestead, raising corn as well as chickens (or some primitive form of them) in preparation for the long winter months. Arlo being the runt of the three has the most difficult time trying to do chores and it’s important to him to earn his mark, a family tradition where each member puts a footprint on the storage silo they have made for the corn which also serves as a means to keep animals out. Henry comes up with a plan for Arlo to finally accomplish his goal. One of the critters in the area has been eating the corn and he simply wants him to catch and kill it but when the creature is finally caught, Arlo ends up letting it go. He and his father try and track it into the canyon but on the way home a flashflood kills Arlo’s father. Eventually the creature returns and Arlo attempts to catch it only for the pair to be swept away in the river current. Arlo awakens far from home and discovers that the creature that he wanted to kill, a young human boy whom he eventually names Spot, isn’t so bad and in fact is trying to help him get back to his family which leads the two to embark on a rather unexpected journey.
I think that many might assume that since the film is about dinosaurs that Pixar would take the film in a direction where it has a prehistoric feel to it and while that’s true to a certain extent, The Good Dinosaur in reality is actually a Western which uses dinosaurs as the main characters. There’s no attempt to hide it or make it some revelation which comes about later. It’s very obvious when we first see Henry and Ida’s homestead and the film soundtrack often has the same feeling as many Westerns. The one thing which might disappoint fans of the genre is that The Good Dinosaur isn’t a Spaghetti Western, something that would be a very cool approach but ultimately would prove to be a little too violent for children.
As with many Pixar films we get a tragedy early on, that being the death of Arlo’s father, and it’s something which happens in a very brief moment, but this of course leads to what will ultimately be the plot of the movie which is the bond between the Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) and his new friend, Spot (Jack Bright) but initially helping each other isn’t what is on Arlo’s mind at all. Aside from trying to find his way home, he’s still determined to kill the critter whom he blames for the death of his father. Spot however doesn’t have any malicious intention and genuinely wants to help Arlo in any way that he can. Eventually Arlo sees that his “enemy” is truly his friend and the pair form a very unlikely bond as they try and work their way back towards where their home is, meeting other dinosaurs along the way including deranged pterodactyls and a group of tyrannosaurus’s who have taken to trying to heard prehistoric cattle.
If nothing else though what The Good Dinosaur is trying to convey is a few different messages. The main one I feel is that regardless of how different individuals might be, they are very much the same. Arlo tries to convey to Spot details about his family and although the two might not speak the same language, Spot understands. Just like Arlo he has also lost his family, both parents, and has bene living alone since that time. Even though Spot was viewed as being a pest Arlo decides as the two grow closer that it might be best if he came and lived with his family. This brings another valuable lesson into the film towards the end which is that there are times in life that you have to know when it is best to let go.
If Pixar ever produces a computer animated feature which looks horrible on blu-ray, I’ll be absolutely shocked. Just like with all of their other releases The Good Dinosaur comes to high definition with a stunning presentation. I’ve often felt that the studio focuses on a few different things with each animated film and in this case it’s improvements on what they’ve done in the past with rushing water as well as the depth and intricacy found within the world of The Good Dinosaur. There are many scenes which have a picturesque beauty to them and these come across perfectly on blu-ray.
The blu-ray includes a commentary track featuring Peter Sohn, Kelsey Mann, Mike Venturini, Sharon Calahan and Sanjay Bakshi. The short Sanjay’s Super Team is also included and it uses some different animation techniques and styles not seen in other Pixar releases, none that I can recall at least. Most of the features included with this release are a bit on the short side though. These cover things such as finding inspiration for various scenes, the team at Pixar holding a contest to create dinosaurs out of recycled goods, a few different asides with the characters from the film and the different between the dinosaurs in the film and those in the real world. The blu-ray also includes a DVD copy as well as a Digital HD code.
The Good Dinosaur I don’t feel is one of Pixar’s strongest offerings in their library but it’s not as bad as some others. For me personally, I still rank films such as Cars 2 and WALL-E as being among some of their worst, but that’s merely my opinion. I assumed that with my daughter being interested in dinosaurs to some degree that this would keep her attention but halfway through the film she was off watching other things on her tablet, a testament in our home that The Good Dinosaur isn’t so good but rather a mediocre film.
Mike is the resident reviewer for Couponing to Disney and his own site Underland Online. He has a toddler daughter and is obsessed with Haunted Mansion and all things Disney. You can read Mike’s complete bio here.