Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Disney Blog Entry

Sometimes, Disney gives us breathtaking, groundbreaking cinema. Sometimes Disney gives us mediocre cinema. And sometimes Disney gives us something totally forgettable. I had absolutely no memory of 2000's Dinosaur. I didn't remember seeing it, I don't even remember seeing promotional material, commercials, or trailers. It seems impossible that I completely missed a film in the Disney animated canon, the first to follow the Renaissance, so I wracked my brain. And then a name floated to the surface: D.B. Sweeney. "Is D.B. Sweeney in this movie?" I checked. Yes. With this recollection I expected other memories to come flooding in but none did. It may be Disney's most forgotten film except if there's another one I totally don't remember even now it would obviously have rights to the title. I think the first half of Fun and Fancy Free, with Bongo the Bear, has a solid claim, too. Dinosaur, though, is remarkable in the number of qualities that have rendered it irrelevant--the chief points being its plot similarities to Land Before Time, its unimaginative title, and its extraordinarily bad cgi.

At best it looks like a Syfy channel original movie, at worst it looks like Tim and Eric's Awesome Show. And it came out six years after Jurassic Park after eleven years in development. Incredibly, Wikipedia quotes several glowing reviews of the film's computer imagery. I guess it's sort of like cellophane. When cellophane first came out in the mid 20th century, it was so new and strange that people marvelled at it, as evidenced in the lyrics to Cole Porter's "You're the Top":

You're the top
You're Mahatma Gandhi
You're the top
You're Napoleon Brandy
You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary
You're cellophane

Overconfidence in cgi is a problem that continues to plague studios. Contemporaneous reviews were less impressed by the film's story about dinosaurs travelling to a valley that has remained miraculously green after the devastating meteors fell to earth. The similarity to Don Bluth's Land Before Time is unmistakable. Bluth was a former Disney animator who left the studio acrimoniously in the '80s to start his own animation studio. Bluth's American Tail outgrossed the Disney film released the same year though subsequent Bluth films were consistently outgrossed by his Disney competitors. There's no reason for Disney to want revenge in 2000 but they got it anyway--the forgettable, cheap looking Dinosaur brought in more than triple the box office of Land Before Time, a solid victory even adjusting for inflation. On the other hand, everyone remembers Land Before Time.

Dinosaur is also kind of reminiscent of Disney's Tarzan--it starts with a foundling, an Iguanodon in this case (D.B. Sweeney), being raised by primates, lemurs in his case. I suspect Disney was trying to make up for the questionable choice to exclude black actors from Tarzan because both of the Iguanodon's surrogate parents are African American (Ossie Davis and Alfre Woodard) and Della Reese plays a Styracosaurus. Her performance and Joan Plowright as her Brachiosaurus friend are two of the most effective in the film. Their characters are older, slower dinosaurs who are always in danger of getting left behind due to the herd's leader, Kron (Samuel E. Wright), insisting that the weak shouldn't dictate the pace of the whole group.

Kron is an annoying, superfluous villain. The struggle against hunger and fatigue and the gloom inherent in the devastated landscape provide enough dramatic conflict. Kron set up as a maniac who despises the weak who comes in conflict with D.B. Sweeney--who insists that any less than everyone reaching the nesting grounds is unacceptable--seems like the writers trying to use the principle of survival of the fittest to argue against the idea of a social class system. It's a fundamentally stupid idea that misunderstands the nature of both concepts and the stupidity plays out when events improbably arrange themselves to make D.B. Sweeney's arguments right and make Kron look like a bloodthirsty monster.

By coincidence, last night I'd been watching King Dinosaur on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, a movie set on an alien planet of dinosaurs that also features a lemur. I wondered if at some point in development Dinosaur was going to be a remake of King Dinosaur.

Dinosaur is available on Disney+.


This is part of a series of posts I'm writing on the Disney animated canon.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros
Make Mine Music
Fun and Fancy Free
Melody Time
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
Lady and the Tramp
Sleeping Beauty
101 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 Under
Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Fantasia 2000
Tags: dinosaur, disney, movies

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