Unlike my family, I was moved but not crushed while watching UP. I was touched with Brave and I got a little lump in my throat while watching Inside Out. But The Good Dinosaur? That flick messed me up.
The Good Dinosaur is really one of the more unique Disney/Pixar films. It’s a western that features dinosaurs with creatures that eat other creatures and there isn’t a single frilly princess. It deals with themes that include the importance of family, facing your fears, and making your mark in this world. That doesn’t sound like the making of an emotional film, but then again, neither did story about a house elevated by balloons.
Some families will take issue that the story begins with Darwin-like principles. For those that do, try to take solace in the fact that it is just a story without any agenda attached. Instead, it illustrates real-life scenarios in a make-believe world.
The premise is that the supposed asteroid that wiped out all of the dinosaurs on the planet, missed the earth entirely. Dinosaurs supposedly grew to build homes, till soil and grow plants all on their own. Arlo is the youngest of three children to grow up on the farm with Momma and Poppa who encourage their children to do something great to make their mark in the world. Although all three kids work hard, brother Buck and sister Libby make their marks fairly early on by mastering their daily chores. Arlo’s job is to feed the chicken-like creatures whom he is terribly afraid of. Poppa wants nothing more than to get Arlo to not only face his fears, but to conquer them. He helps Arlo to set up a trap to capture the creature that is stealing corn from the family. As it turns out, the “creature” is actually a little human boy. Feeling sorry for the boy, Arlo lets him escape. When Poppa finds out that the boy has been let go, he takes Arlo on a dangerous journey to get the kid.
Being that this is a Disney film, a life-altering event happens – actually twice – which leads Arlo on a journey that will change his life. Arlo finds himself lost and in need of getting back to his family and who shows up? The kid.
The two start out as adversaries at first, but in time, Arlo and they boy learn to rely on each other. The boy acts more like a dog and soon Arlo adopts him as a pet and names him Spot – of course. The two learn how they are more alike than they are different and face many trials together meeting a variety of strange dinosaurs both friend and foe.
Arlo gets his best training away from home from Butch a T-Rex voiced by Sam Elliott. He and his two children, Ramsey and Nash herd cattle and teach Arlo to do the same. Later that night the four dinos and the boy sit around the fire and tell tall tales on how they each got into danger and received their scars. Ramsey tell how she once bit the tip of her tail off to escape some danger. Her brother responds with “Who does that?” It is here that Arlo learns that being afraid is neither good nor bad – it just is.
As silly as it sounds, this film share many emotional scenarios that brought me to my knees. The film speaks truth, healing and encouragement for all who see it. Just as any Pixar/Disney film is appropriate for both boys and girls, this one will probably appeal more to boys and is an excellent film for fathers to enjoy with their sons. Just bring some Kleenex.
The Good Dinosaur is also one of the most beautiful animated movies out there. You will swear that some scenes are actually photography, but there not. How the animator were able to create the realistic-looking water in the river and leaves on the trees will forever be a mystery. It is just amazing.
Accompanying The Good Dinosaur is the new Pixar short, Sanjay’s Super Team, which is not only directed by artist Sanjay Patel but it is also based on his relationship with is relationship with his father. This short will shock some Christians as it explores religious matters of Hinduism. Disney and/or Pixar usually shy away from anything sounding religious and this is a very personal project of Patel’s, so it will be interesting who well the public reacts to it.
The story features Sanjay wanting to watch his superhero TV show rather than join his father for meditation and prayer. Sanjay starts to imagine that the gods his father is praying to are like superheroes fighting for him. This may alarm some parents, but the short is not “preachy” and I doubt that it will pull our children from their Christian roots. There is a lot in this short that I did not understand, but the story is more about a father’s disappointment when he wants to share his faith with his child and the child wants nothing to do with it. This is something that many fathers, of all religions, can relate to. At the very least, it is a lot better than last year’s short, Lava about a lonely volcano.