When I first heard word of the fact Disney Pixar were going to salvage the old mess that once was ‘The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs’ and make its cinematic release the same year as Inside Out, I was skeptical. Granted I was never the most excited person on the planet about the concept in the first place, but I was equally as unexcited to see two movies being released in the same year – competition in the same company is a tricky business, especially when it comes to advertising two for Christmas and that one will clearly be regarded as weaker. When Inside Out came out this summer, I fell in love and we know everyone else did as well as it’s firmly one of our favourite Pixar films ever, so how well was The Good Dinosaur received in comparison?
To put it simply, The Good Dinosaur is okay. It’s nothing revolutionary when it comes to storytelling (more on that in a moment), but it is certainly something when it comes to the absolutely stunning animation and score that accompanies it. I was actually lucky enough to get myself down to a panel with director Peter Sohn and producer Denise Ream at the Apple Store in Covent Garden on Monday evening where they shared clips of the film and an explanation of how the film came together; they spoke about the creative process behind the animation which was what intrigued me the most. They talked about how they played around with making the entire film look as realistic as they possibly could and it just didn’t work; they worked around with making the dinosaurs much more comic-book-style like they are in the final movie but with an entirely adult cast (including people like Neil Patrick Harris) and that just didn’t work either. Finally, they came to the decision of making the caricatured characters younger and on a very realistic looking background which is what we see in the final movie and a combination that works so well and would only work so well with a film like this. The film is a Western in its truest form and with the opportunity to display such vast and picturesque backgrounds behind what is mostly only ever two characters throughout the film, it works very well. There are opening shots to scenes with rain falling on leaves and other similar things that I hear took animators three months to create (that’s pretty much a month dedicated to just a second in the movie) and the end result is beautiful. This paired with the absolutely stunning score by Mychael and Jeff Danna is a gorgeous blend of something incredibly cinematic and vast, as well as something that can be very intimate and touching at other moments. The music isn’t as beautiful and memorable as the music from Inside Out is in my eyes, but it is still a gorgeous score that works fantastically with the movie.
Now onto what I consider to be the weakest part of the movie: the story. I went into the movie actually having no idea as to what the story was going to be about and I was dissatisfied to see that the film exclusively follows one story throughout. With a lack of a subplot, I started to feel a little bit bored and I soon realised that this is a fantastic film for much younger children, but something that is perhaps too simple to analyse with an adult movie-going taste. Spoilers ahead!… The film is set millions of years after the asteriod doesn’t collide with Earth and kill the dinosaurs (something that is, if you ignore the fact a human is in this film, 100% irrelevant). We are introduced to Arlo’s parents and watch him and his siblings hatch from eggs and start life together on the farm that they run. One day, the children are introduced to the idea of ‘leaving their mark’ on the family’s food storage system with a muddy footprint and Arlo’s two siblings manage to succeed in earning their right to put their stamps on the rockery. Arlo is asked by his parents to stop fearing other creatures in order to earn his mark, but he fails and his father tries to ‘punish him’ by taking him up the local mountain in true Brother Bear-style with the music and the intensity. A series of extremely Lion King-esque events occur and Arlo’s father ends up drowning and days later, after spotting a small human stealing from their food supply and chasing him, Arlo falls into the same river as his father and the same thing happens to him… but Arlo manages to survive? Alongside the only human in the film (reminding anyone of The Jungle Book here?) and a series of male dinosaurs and characters bar one woman (once again, anyone thinking The Jungle Book here?), Arlo and Spot try to get back home. Unfortunately though, when the story comes to an end, we say goodbye to one of the leading characters in a way that is, funnily, very reminiscent of… The Jungle Book! Hmm…
I like The Jungle Book a lot, don’t get me wrong, but this film seriously exudes a story that is a perfect blend of Brother Bear, The Lion King and The Jungle Book that it almost makes me wonder why they even thought it was the best idea to salvage this story. Sure it’s beautifully made and the message of overcoming bravery (that seems a bit lost by the end of the film if you ask me) is very nice to see and it makes for a good Pixar film, but I just couldn’t help feeling like I was watching the same thing for the millionth time that is instead being targeted exclusively at an age group much younger than mine. Pixar’s worst? Not at all because Cars 2 takes that slot (!), but it is unfortunately in no way the next Finding Nemo… wait, that film has the same concept as this movie, too!?