Director(s): Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton
Writer(s): John Harrison and Robert Nelson Jacobs
Cast: D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Samuel E. Wright, Joan Plowright, Della Reese, Peter Siragusa and Hayden Panettiere
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)May 19, 2000 - Wide
Walt Disney Pictures’ Dinosaur is the first film produced by Disney’s new in-house computer animation group named The Secret Lab.
Well, it’s no secret that this is a great looking film. Notice the word “looking” nestled between the words “great” and “film”. As eye candy the film is tasty and filling, but the story could do with a few more servings of characterization and plot. Perhaps that’s just an expectation caused by all of the high technology used to create the film. After all, this is a Disney summer film aimed at young children, so perhaps those of us who went to marvel at the computer animation should take our hopes down a notch or two.
The plot of Dinosaur is fairly straightforward. 65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, a baby Iguanodon named Aladar gets separated from his own kind and ends up on an island being raised by a family of lemurs. When a meteor shower devastates the island, Aladar and some of his new lemur family end up back on the mainland. They join a group of migrating dinosaurs that are looking for new nesting grounds. The trek is tough, with water and food in scarce supply, and the fear of becoming a Carnotaur’s dinner is great. Aladar and his friends help the slower, older members of the group and that sets off the films main conflict between Aladar and the herd’s leader, another Igaunodon named Kron.
It’s a very simple plot with children’s menu portions of moral lessons tossed on. The visuals on the other hand are amazing and if you’re an animation fan then they alone are worth the price of admission. Disney’s computer animation team mixes the incredibly life-like dinosaurs with enhanced live action footage, so most of the forest and desert backgrounds you see are real. The computer animation goes to new heights for the realism of the skin textures and the appearance and movement of fur. Again, if you’re into animation, this film should definitely be seen on the big screen to get the full effect.
One of Disney’s strong points has always been in the casting of voice animation and they have a pretty good team here. D.B. Sweeney is the voice of the idealistic Aladar, while Samuel E. Wright, who voiced Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, performs the stubborn Kron. Alfre Woodard plays the matriarch of the lemur family, Plio. Ossie Davis (Evening Shade) is the eldest lemur, Yar, while Max Casella (Vinnie from Doogie Howser]) plays Zini, the crazy lemur who is Aladar’s best friend. Other dinosaur voices include Julianna Margulies as the voice of Neera, Aladar’s love interest and Joan Plowright and Della Reese as Baylene and Eema, two elderly dinosaurs who show Aladar the power of one’s spirit and dreams.
Surprisingly, for a Disney animation, there is not one song in the film, but the score by James Newton Howard captures the power of the sweeping landscapes and the dinosaurs that inhabit them.